Borussia Dortmund are mourning Hans Tilkowski, who died on Sunday lunchtime following a long illness at the age of 84. The son of a miner, Tilkowski was born in Dortmund-Husen on 12 July 1935, and established himself as one of the best shot-stoppers in the world in the 1950s and 1960s. His name later became synonymous with the legendary goal he conceded during the 1966 World Cup final against England at Wembley. The incident led to his friend, the journalist Hans Ost, naming his biography "Und ewig fällt das Wembley-Tor" ("The Wembley goal that echoes in eternity").
The impeccable athlete spent his early teenage years as a right-winger for SV Husen (1946-49), but was put between the sticks one day when the usual goalkeeper was unavailable. He impressed so much in the role that he was handed the gloves permanently. He then gained a reputation at SuS Kaiserau (1949-55) as a safe pair of hands with excellent positional play, which drew interest from Westfalia Herne. A move to the Oberliga West – then the top flight – seemed the logical and correct decision for the trained steel fitter, who had also completed an apprenticeship as a technical salesman. It was during this period (1955-63) that he helped his team win the West German Championship ahead of a whole host of prominent clubs like Borussia Dortmund, Schalke 04 and 1. FC Cologne. By that point, Sepp Herberger, the coach of the German national team, had already begun to take notice and handed him his international debut in a match against the Netherlands in Amsterdam on 3 April 1957 – a 2-1 victory sealed by an Aki Schmidt winner.
The charismatic custodian was the face of a youthful team at Schloß Strünkede in Herne. Usually decked out all in black, the goalkeeper oozed stoic calm and composure. Indeed, it was in large part down to him that Westfalia managed to emerge from the shadows of the larger clubs in western Germany, conceding only 23 goals in 30 league fixtures in 1958/59. In the 13 final-round appearances he made for his former club in the years 1959 and 1960, he unsurprisingly began to attract interest from other clubs. And in 1963, having made 219 competitive appearances for Westfalia, he moved to Borussia Dortmund – where he would celebrate his greatest successes – ahead of the first-ever Bundesliga season.
Tilkowski, who was not infrequently compared to Paul Newman on account of his appearance, became the first keeper to save a penalty in the new division when he caught Alfons Stemmer's powerful spot-kick in a 3-3 draw against TSV 1860 Munich at the Rote Erde Stadium on 31 August 1963. Perhaps one of his most legendary appearances came against Benfica in the old European Cup on 6 November 1963. The Black & Yellows did go on to lose 2-1, but he made a string of wonderful saves to deny the great Eusebio and had the Portuguese fans pulling their hair out.
In 1965, Hans Tilkowski became the first goalkeeper to win Germany's "Footballer of the Year" award, having helped BVB lift the DFB Cup earlier that year thanks to a 2-0 victory over Alemannia Aachen in Hanover on 22 May. The following year, he was part of the Borussia side that won the European Cup Winners' Cup against Liverpool after extra-time at Glasgow's Hampden Park. The World Cup which followed in the homeland of football that July should have been a moment of crowning glory for the goalie, but he was denied a winner's medal when Geoff Hurst's goal at Wembley was incorrectly allowed to stand by the Swiss referee Dienst, who had consulted his Azeri linesman Bahramov.
The Westphalian, who made a total of 39 international appearances, left Borussia Dortmund in 1967 due to his strained relationship with coach Heinz Murach. Having played 81 Bundesliga matches for club, he joined Eintracht Frankfurt and made 40 appearances for the Eagles. Tilkowski then hung up his boots in 1970 and began to study for a career in management. Having received the top grade (1) in his year group at the Sports University of Cologne, he spent the 12 years between 1970 and 1982 coaching Werder Bremen (twice), TSV 1860 Munich, 1. FC Nuremberg, 1. FC Saarbrücken and AEK Athens.
But the "Star of Rio" – as he was nicknamed following a world-class international performance in front of 145,000 fans at the famous Maracana in Rio on 5 June 1965, which led to Pele congratulating him personally for his incredible display – was a man of action off the pitch as well. The father of three – he had two sons (Ralf and Uwe) and a daughter (Susanne) with his wife Louis, who hails from the footballing village of Alsenborn in Rhineland-Palatinate – dedicated himself to social organisations such as UNICEF; German Leukaemia Research Aid; the Dortmund-based Parent Support Group for Children with Leukaemia and Tumours; Oberhausen Peace Village; and the aid organisation International Peace Village, for whom he served as the first voluntary ambassador.
A recipient of the Silver Laurel Leaf, he was also awarded the Federal Cross of Merit on Ribbon in 1991, the Order of Merit of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia in 2000 and the Federal Cross of Merit First Class in 2008. On 14 October 2008, the secondary school on Neustraße in his hometown of Hern was renamed Hans-Tilkowski-Schule.
Borussia Dortmund will always have fond memories of their honorary member.
"In Hans Tilkowski, German football has lost a sportsman who was highly regarded internationally," declared president Dr. Reinhard Rauball. "At Borussia Dortmund, he made football history when BVB beat Liverpool in the 1966 final to become the first German club to win a European trophy. Tilkowski made a decisive contribution with his saves in the final and in the preceding rounds. Even after hanging up his boots, he was always concerned with the well-being of others and was engaged in social causes until shortly before his death. The BVB family are mourning a wonderful person and would like to express our condolences to his family."