One of the highlights – and there were many – of ex-Borussia Dortmund captain Willi Burgsmüller's career came when he lifted the Bundesliga shield aloft on 29 June 1963 following a 3-1 final victory over 1. FC Köln at the Neckstadion in Stuttgart. The iconic image of the turban-clad sportsman, who had played on despite sustaining a head wound, was splashed across the pages of newspapers all over the country.
The lovable Westphalian, who turns 85 today, until recently stood alongside former team-mate Helmut Bracht as one of only two Black and Yellows to have lifted three league titles with BVB, having also been part of the legendary cohort that won two successive championships with the same starting XI in 1956 and 1957.
It was 1950 when the uncompromising and lightning-quick full-back made the switch from Westfalia Huckarde to Dortmund, where he was initially left out in a bid to mature him for first-team action. But he soon became an irreplaceable figure at right-back in what was as an outstanding football community. A community, because it featured 11 friends playing alongside each other. They did a lot together with their girlfriends and soon-to-be wives, and developed into a tight-knit team.
The transition from the generation of Michallek, Preißler, Sandmann & Co to Konietzka, Schütz, Kurrat and all the others was seamless for "Willi", who in addition to the aforementioned final of '63 featured in the '61 showdown (a 3-0 loss to Nürnberg) and the '63 DFB Cup final (a 3-0 defeat to Hamburg), as well as the legendary European Cup victories over Czechoslovak side Dukla Prague (4-0) and Portuguese outfit Benfica (5-0). "It's the kind of thing you never forget," the former public utilities worker still declares today.
The fame never went to his head, though. He lives together with wife Brunhilde, whom he married in 1954, in an elegant apartment in Dortmund-Wickede and enjoys watching today's team in action at home. On such occasions, Willi and those of the old guard who are still alive today are always welcome guests together with their "better halves" in Signal Iduna Park. And long let it remain so. In this spirit, dear Willi, we wish you many happy returns on your birthday!