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No goalkeeper ever had more anxiety at the penalty kick, or anywhere else, than Bert Trautmann, the German PoW who stayed on in Britain after the second world war, played for Manchester City from 1949 to 1964, and in the victorious 1956 FA Cup final became a legend for playing to the final whistle with a broken neck.
Initially, the very presence of this former Wehrmacht soldier caused outrage in Manchester, particularly among its Jewish community. But Trautmann’s sincere disgust at Nazi war crimes, his decency, humility, marriage to a British woman – and his great performances on the pitch – won the city over. What proved decisive was a remarkable open letter to the press from Manchester’s communal rabbi, Alexander Altmann, asking for Trautmann to be given a chance.
This forthright and heartfelt Anglo-German production gives a small role to Altmann, and it might have made rather more of his part in the story. (Yet another, more ironically-minded film might have made facetious comments about where Trautmann learned that fiercely dedicated team spirit.)
This is a straightforward historical romance, from German director Marcus H Rosenmüller and co-writers Robert Marciniak and Nicholas Schofield. It is well played by David Kross as Trautmann and Freya Mavor as Margaret, the woman with whom he fell in love. John Henshaw gives a typically excellent performance as Margaret’s plain-speaking dad, and also has a script credit, evidently ensuring that the English dialogue of the German-speaking screenwriters sounds properly Lancashire.
It’s a really watchable film, more substantial than most sports movies and many postwar dramas, although Trautmann’s own romantic life might have been a bit more complicated than this film suggests: he in fact had a child with another woman before Margaret. This is a muscular and sympathetic story.
Source: The Guardian
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