Restless Rudi, football’s superman, who coached 55 teams and 32 countries, dies

By Robson Sharuko
Rudi Gutendorf , whose turbulent reign as Warriors coach was spent battling to escape the shadow of the immortal Reinhard Fabisch and concerns over his advanced age, died on Sunday.

He was 93.

The German coach still found a way to force his way into the Guinness World Record after he became the first man to coach 55 teams, in 32 countries, in five continents.

By the time he retired, he had coached 18 national teams, including the Warriors, in a career in the trenches that span for more 50 years. His first job in coaching came with Swiss side Blue Stars Zurich in the ’50s and his last one was when he guided the Samoa national football team in 2003.

And, along the way, he coached in Chile, Bolivia, Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Antigua, Botswana, Australia, New Caledonia, Nepal, Tonga, Tanzania, Ghana, Fiji, Mauritius and Rwanda.

He also took charge of the Iran and China Olympic football teams.

Known as “Restless Rudi,” because he just could not give up his love for coaching, he developed a love affair with African football and arrived in Zimbabwe to take charge of the Warriors still yearning for the good old days under his countryman, Fabisch.

With Fabisch being the energetic coach, who had charmed the nation with his emotions and Dream Team, which came within ’90 minutes of reaching the World Cup finals before falling 1-3 to Cameroon in Yaounde, Gutendorf’s laid-back approach didn’t appeal to many football fans.

He was dismissed as too old for the job, when he arrived in 1995 at the age of 70, and he was also caught up in a domestic football turf war as others preferred Gibson Homela to be given the role to try and guide the national team.

Results on the pitch didn’t help his case with either and the more the Warriors struggled, to reach the heights which they had scaled under Fabisch, the more the fans turned against Gutendorf during his year in charge of the team.

A 0-1 AFCON defeat in Cameroon, just months after the Indomitable Lions had been hammered 4-1 at the National Sports Stadium, with Vitalis Takawira scoring a hattrick before Gutendorf’s arrival, did not help matches either.

The German gaffer, though, was quite a colourful man. And, at the turn of the millennium, he was sent by German authorities to take charge of Rwanda at a time the country was still reeling from the civil war in which tens of thousands of people were killed.

“The German government told me, ‘Rudi, we don’t care if you win 1-0, 2-0, the most important thing is the social aspect; that you try to get together the two tribes’,” Gutendorf later told the BBC’s World Football programme.

“Such hate, you cannot believe. I was able to unite these two tribes to play football, and good football.

“After every training in the evening, we made a camp fire. We were sitting around and I made half Hutu, half Tutsi. I explained that revenge leads to nothing and to forgive each other. It was not easy because they saw how they killed each other. I said it makes no sense, you’re now a footballer. I came here so we can work together, and that made a big impression.”

There was also a dark side to Gutendorf’s career as he revealed he turned down a US$500 000, from an Arabian sheikh to throw a match in the Asian Games, during his time in charge of Nepal, only for him to bribe a referee with a bottle of whisky for the match official not to abandon their match against India.

Gutendorf wanted the match to be played until the end and, at half-time, it appeared certain the referee would abandon it after a monsoon had hit.

But, the coach, decided to persuade the referee to play on, with the gift of a whisky bottle, and Nepal went on to win that game.

“We lose in him someone who has enriched us through his big heart and positivity every day,” his family said while German FA vice-president, Rainer Koch, described him as “outstanding ambassador of German football”.

Teams Coached By Gutendorf

1955 – Blue Stars Zürich

1955-1961 – FC Lucern

1961 – US Monastir

1963-1964 – Duisburg

1965-1966 – Stuttgart

1968 – St Louis Stars

1968 – Bermuda

1968-1970 – Schalke

1970-1971 – Kickers Offenbach

1971 – Sporting Cristal

1972-1973 – Chile

1974 – Bolivia

1974 – Venezuela

1974 – 1860 Munich

1975 – Real Valladolid

1975-1976 – Fortuna Cologne

1976 – Trinidad & Tobago

1976 – Grenada

1976 – Antigua & Barbuda

1976 – Botswana

1977 – Hamburg

1979-1981 – Australia

1981 – New Caledonia

1981 – Nepal

1981 – Tonga

1981 – Tanzania

1983 – Fiji

1984 – Hertha Berlin

1984 – Sao Tome & Príncipe

1984-1985 – Yomiuri SC

1985-1986 – Ghana

1986 – Nepal

1987 – Fiji

1988 – China

1988 – Iran U-23

1991-1992 – China

1993 – Mauritius

1995-1996 – Zimbabwe

1997 – Mauritius

1999 – Rwanda

2003 – Samoa

Source :

The Herald

Check Also

Zifa Mourn Former Mighty Warriors Coach

By Grace Chingoma Former Mighty Warriors coach, Vernon Bowers, who died this week, has been …

This function has been disabled for Zimbabwe Today.