Josef Dieter Maier, known as Sepp, was born on February 28, 1944 in Bavaria. He is a former German legendary football goalkeeper.
Declared by many as the best German goalkeeper of all time, he was part of Bayern Munich’s golden generation which featured Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Müller and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. A World Champion with West Germany in 1974, he collected 95 caps for his country and is the record holder among goalkeepers even today.
The makings of a goalkeeper
Maier actually started his career as an attacker at the local club of TSV Haar at the age of 8 years old. But after a “you’re the laziest, you’re the fattest – you go in goal” speech from his coach he switched positions and became a goalkeeper. And a legendary career was born.
In 1958, his family moved to Munich and Maier was tansferred to Bayern where, it turned out, he would spend his entire career and become one of the key players of the best generation in the history of Bayern.
He signed his first professional deal with the senior squad four years later.
At the start of the 1963/64 season, he replaced Fritz Kosar as the first team goalkeeper. With him as the goalkeeper, Bayern began their rise and were promoted to the Bundesliga in 1965.
Success with Bayern earned him a call up to the national team as he was selected as a back-up to Hans Tilkowski at the 1966 World Cup in England.
Maier finally became the goalkeeper of the national team at the World Cup in 1970, which took place in Mexico. After making several key saves and helping his country reach the semi-finals he was unable to stop the Italians in the legendary 4-3 defeat. He didn’t take part in the match for third place as Germany defeated Uruguay 1-0. Theyended up taking home the bronze medal.
Sepp’s rise to the top
The 1972 European Championship marked the start of the best years of Maier’s career. West Germany took their first ever European title after a convincing 3-0 win over the Soviet Union. It was the first and only European crown in Maier’s career, he also finished runner-up four years later as the defending champions West Germany lost on penalties to Czechoslovakia.
Two years later the Germans became the highlight of Maier’s career. West Germany hosted the World Cup and won their first title in 20 years with Maier playing one of the key roles in the success.
Maier’s international success was followed both by individual and club awards as well. Bayern won three straight European Cups (1974, 1975, 1976) in what was arguably the most successful decade in the club’s history. On a individual level, he was named European footballer of the Year three timesand was on paar with Italian Dino Zoff and Englishman Gordon Banks as the best goalkeeper in the World.
Often an entertainer on the field as well as a competitor, after his team was awarded a penalty in a match against Bochum, he celebrated by chasing a duck which inadvertently made it to the field. His agility and athleticism earned him the nickname “Die Katze von Anzing” which stands for “the Cat from Anzing”.
From a player to a coach
Initially he planned to play until the age of 40, but his career came to an abrupt end at the age of 35. In 1979, he was involved in a car accident in which he suffered several career-ending injuries. Prior to his injury he often joked he would “play with Franz [Beckenbaur] and Gerd [Müller] as long as they can push him on the pitch in a wheelchair” but the accident changed his plans for good. After he recovered from his injuries, he went on to become a Goalkeeper Coach both at Bayern and the German national team. He is also active as the ambassador for the German Jose Carreras Leukemia Foundation.
Maier’s football legacy was completed after he was named “German Goalkeeper of the Century” by the IFFHS.
He will forever be remembered for wearing his over-sized gloves as well as the silverware he collected during his almost 20 year career. He has made 536 appearances for Bayern Munich, as well as 442 consecutive
Images from fifa.com