Toni Schumacher will forever be known for the controversy at the 1982 World Cup that shockingly ended with attempts made to kidnap his children.
The Germany goalkeeper was involved in a horror collision with France defender Patrick Battison in the semi-final, as he was running onto a Michel Platini through ball.
Schumacher came hurtling out of his goal and collided with Battison.
“As I stormed towards him, it quickly dawned on me that he’d get to the ball first,” Schumacher told FourFourTwo.
“It was bouncing, and I knew he’d try to lift it over me into the empty net. I had to do anything I could to prevent him from scoring.
“I threw myself at the ball. My intention was simply to try to make myself as big as possible, in the hope of getting something on it or putting the player off. He nudged the ball past me with his toe and I realised I was now hurtling directly towards him. To protect myself, I turned my body to absorb the impact and felt my hip hit him. To my relief, as I looked back towards my goal, the ball had gone just wide.
“I could immediately sense a change in the atmosphere. Something bad had happened. Patrick Battiston, the Frenchman I’d collided with, was lying unconscious on the floor. Platini rushed over to help him – he later said he thought Battiston was dead when he reached him.”
The collision saw Battison knocked unconscious and later slipped into a coma, as well as cracking three ribs and losing two teeth.
The referee did not send Schumacher off and did not even award a foul, with the match restarting instead from a goal kick.
Germany went on to win the match and proceed to the final, losing out to Italy.
Schumacher continued: “In hindsight, 40 years on, I wonder if a red card might have saved me lots of trouble, if the backlash over my challenge might have been less severe. Of course, I didn’t think about any of that at the time. I thought I deserved to remain on the pitch. I had a game to focus on.
“After Patrick was taken off on a stretcher, the second half resumed, along with the wrath of the French players. They repeatedly insulted me and the crowd were baying for my blood for the rest of the match, which ended 1-1 after 90 minutes.”
The German goalkeeper did go to the hospital to apologise to Battison, who later said he felt it was insincere.
There was plenty of fallout from the incident with receiving plenty of vitriol from the French public, as well as shocking threats made to his family.
“After returning from Spain [the World Cup hosts], I was bombarded with hate mail and death threats from all over the world. Naturally, the French were the most upset. They hung effigies of me in the streets and compared me to a Nazi concentration camp commandant.
“A French newspaper later ran a poll to determine the least popular person in the history of their nation. Adolf Hitler came second… guess who beat him.
“I also received threats from Germans, against my family as well as me directly. On two separate occasions, attempts were made to kidnap my children from school, but thankfully their teachers were smart enough to recognise that those collecting them weren’t family members and called the police.”
The two countries played against each other again at the 1986 World Cup, in the semi-final, and Battison said by that stage he had forgiven Schumacher.