The legend that is Ottmar Hitzfeld has promised that he will retire from the beautiful game after his Swiss team is eliminated from the 2014 World Cup. He’s also stated that he doesn’t feel his team’s game with Argentina will be the last of his illustrious career.
Here’s what you need to know about one of the greatest tacticians in the history of the game:
1. His Brother Died the Night Before Switzerland Play Argentina
As Hitzfeld prepares his team to face Lionel Messi and co., he received news from home that his brother Winfried, had died at the age of 82. His elder brother, Winfried, was being treated in hospital recently. Sources in Switzerland indicate that Hitzfeld’s emotions have been “mixed” as he thinks about his brother and tries to focus on Argentina.
2. Hitzfeld Called the Argentina Game the ‘Highlight’ of his Career
While he seeks to delay his retirement, Hitzfeld has said that he doesn’t think Switzerland’s Round of 16 game with Argentina will be his last. The game kicks off at 12:00 p.m. in the Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo. The wily old Hitzfeld has also encouraged local Brazilians to come out and cheer for the Swiss, due to the Argentina/Brazil rivalry. In his media briefing the day before the game, Hitzfeld said:
I always prepare on the basis of there being a next match and we know we can continue here. This will be a huge sporting challenge. It will deinitely be a highlight of my career. We have fulfilled a little dream getting to his stage. We want to go on fulfilling these dreams.
3. Hitzfeld Is One of the Most Successful Coaches of all Time
Over the course of his 30-year coaching career, Hitzfeld won seven German championships and two European Cups (with Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund). He began his coaching career in Switzerland, Hitzfeld was born in Germany, with smaller teams Zug and Aarau. He moved on to the giants of the Swiss game, Grasshoppers, in 1988, where he won two national champsionships. From there, he moved to Borussia Dortmund in Germany. The team were considered an underachiever in the German game but that all changed under Hitzfeld. He won two national championships with the team and historically won the European Cup with the team in 1997. In that final, Dortmund defeated Italian club Juventus 3-1.
After disagreements at board level with the Dormtund management, Hitzfeld left the team in 1997. A year later, he was hired by their hated rival, Bayern Munich. His success continued with the Bavarians as he won the German championship four times during his first spell with the team and the European Cup in 2001. In doing so, he became only the second soccer coach to win the European Cup with two different teams. He left the team in 2004 and didn’t coach anyone until he rejoined Munich in February 2007 when the team were in trouble. Hitzfeld was able to steady the ship and even led the club to another German championship in 2008. After leaving Munich, Hitzfeld admitted that he was “depressed.”
4. He’s Been Coach of Switzerland Since July 2008
In what is proving to be his final coaching job, Hitzfeld took the job as coach of Swiss national team in July 2008. His career starting with a bang as he took a team without any stars to the World Cup in South Africa. In further shocking the world, his team beat eventual 2010 World Cup champions 1-0 in their opening game. But that was the highlight as the team were eliminated in the group stages. The Swiss then failed to qualify for Euro 2012 but qualified top of their group for this World Cup. Hitzfeld has also led the team to the lofty heights of sixth in the world in the FIFA rankings.
5. His Uncle Was a Nazi General in WWII
Hitzfeld’s uncle, is German General Otto Hitzfeld. Otto served in both World War I and II. During WWII, he participated in the Battle of France as the commander of the 593rd Infantry Regiment. In 1941, Otto was transferred to the Eastern front, fighting in the Battle of Crimea. During the war, he received the highest military honor the Nazi government gave out, the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross. He was arrested by American forces in 1945 but released in 1947, he died in Germany in December 1990.