LEGENDARY Australian football pioneer Manfred Schaefer has passed away aged 80.
Tributes have poured in for the former defender who helped create history when Australia qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 1974.
Two years earlier he played for the Aussies against Santos, coming up against Brazil legend Pele.
And when he went to help the fouled striker Pele reportedly recognised him immediately and said: “I know your name, you’re Mr. B*****d.”
In 2003 Schaefer revealed he views Pele as his best mate, having also bumped into him at the 1974 World Cup.
He said: “When I ran into him again in West Germany during the 1974 World Cup he greeted me with another ‘Mr B*****d’.
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“We had a cup of coffee and a chat. Later on in 2003 I even appeared with him on a television show for former World Cup players.
“It was good, really nice. I see him as my best mate, believe it or not.”
Tributes have been made to Schaefer who won 49 caps for Australia.
Football Federation Australia Chairman Chris Nikou said: “Manfred loved all levels of Australian football and would regularly be found supporting the sport, whether at grassroots, NPL, Australia Cup or national team level, where his presence will now be sorely missed but always felt.”
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Former Manchester United and Australia goalkeeper Mark Bosnich said: “RIP Manfred Schaefer…wonderful servant to the local game.”
A fan wrote: “Sad to hear the passing of ex-Socceroos Manfred Schaefer. My deepest condolences to his daughter Kim Schaefer, family & friends. You represented your country and clubs with pride.”
Another added: “Manfred Schaefer’s passing will sadden many people who had the privilege of knowing him or pleasure of watching him play. One of the heroes of 1974 … a true Socceroos legend.”
And a third said: “I’m gutted Utterly gutted Manfred Schaefer was my first sports hero, my first Socceroos legend. That Manfred has passed is sad news but he has been an icon so let’s celebrate his achievements.”
Schaefer’s contribution to Australian football was recognised in 1999 when he was inducted into the Football Federation Australia Hall of Fame.
Source: Soccer - thesun.co.uk