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Ernst Kuzorra (16 October 1905 in Gelsenkirchenmarker – 1 January 1990 in Gelsenkirchen) was a Germanmarker footballer of the pre-war era. During his entire career, he played for Schalke 04, whom he led to six national championships and one national cup. He is commonly regarded as the greatest Schalke player of all time.

Life

Ernst Kuzorra was born as the son of Karl Kuzorra from East Prussia and his wife Bertha in the industrial town of Gelsenkirchenmarker where his father worked as a coal miner. Ernst joined the club in 1924 at the age of 14, allegedly playing his first match in his confirmation shoes after being asked to join the team while watching from the sidelines. Three years later, he advanced to the first team, where he soon became one of the starting players. During the years 1930–31, he and thirteen teammates were banned for a relatively minor infraction of the strict amateur statutes, having received ten instead of the allowed five Reichsmark as compensation for playing in an away game.

In the following years, Kuzorra along with his brother-in-law Fritz Szepan led Schalke to become the dominant team in German soccer, winning six national championships from 1934 to 1942. He was one of the main axes of what became known as the Schalker Kreisel, a system that used quick, short passes to confuse and overwhelm the opponent.

Even though he may have been the best German player on his position at the time, he only had 12 appearances for the national team, a fact that is widely attributed to his bad relation with national coach Otto Nerz. Nevertheless, because of his success and his athletic prowess, national socialist propaganda soon took an interest in him. Great efforts were made to show that Kuzorra, despite his Slavic sounding name and mixed origin, was in fact of purely Germanic stock. The success of these efforts was limited, however, as Kuzorra remained politically uninterested and due to his taciturn character a poor instrument for public campaigns.

After the war, Kuzorra remained playing for a few years, mainly for material reasons - at the time, soccer players were often reimbursed in otherwise scarce foodstuff. In 1950 he retired, and from then on earned his livelihood as proprietor of a tobacco and lottery store. Over time, he became a living legend, especially among the supporters of Schalke 04. In 1985, he finally received the honorary citizenship of his home town, Gelsenkirchen. Ernst Kuzorra died on New Year's Day in 1990 at the age of 84.

Miscellanea

  • Ernst Kuzorra briefly worked as coach of Schalke's archrival Borussia Dortmund in 1935–36. It should be noted, though, that at the time the rivalry hadn't yet been established.
  • He and fellow Schalke star Fritz Szepan married sisters and thus became brothers-in-law.
  • When former Bundespräsident Johannes Rau was asked an opinion on what he thought about naming at least one Bundesliga stadium after a female German notability (since German football stadiums, if named after individuals, are exclusively named after male football legends), he returned jokingly: "Und wie soll das denn dann heißen: 'Dem Ernst-Kuzorra-seine-Frau-ihr-Stadion'? (a highly Ruhrpottdeutsch vernacular version of "And what name would that be: 'Ernst-Kuzorra's wife's stadium'?")
  • According to an anecdote, Kuzorra explained the geographical location of Gelsenkirchen (the town of which Schalke is a district) to the king of Swedenmarker with the words "Bei Schalke, Euer Majestät" ("Near Schalke, Your Majesty!"). So when the king asked where Schalke was, Kuzorra boldly returned "Anne Grenzstrasse, Euer Majestät" ("At Grenz (Border) Road, Your Majesty!"). The factual accuracy of this quote is questionable, but gives a nice illustration of the common perception of Schalke 04 and its players in Germany.
  • Kuzorra explained his decisive 2-1 goal in the 1934 finals (which earned Schalke their first championship trophy) with the words: "Ich wusste nicht, wohin mit dem Ball, da hab' ich 'n einfach reingewichst" ("I didn't know where to put the ball, so I simply wanked it in[to the net]!")


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