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Sports

At 80, Uwe Seeler is still one of the greats

Uwe Seeler celebrated his 80th birthday on Saturday. Asked by a reporter what he wished for, Seeler said good health, but his hopes for a draw for former club Hamburg against Dortmund were denied.

Even at the age of 80, Uwe Seeler remains one of Germany's most beloved sports figures, as much for his humble personality as his feats on the soccer field.

Seeler, who was born in Hamburg and has lived there all of his life, also spent his entire career with just one football club (barring one game for Ireland's Cork Celtic!).

Having joined SV Hamburg's youth program, Seeler graduated to the first team in 1953. After almost a decade playing for Hamburg in what was then the top flight, the Oberliga-Nord, he moved with Hamburg to the newly formed Bundesliga in 1963, scoring 30 goals to become the new national league's first top scorer. By the end of his Hamburg career in 1972, he had scored 404 goals in 476 league games.

HSV Stadion Uwe Seeler Fuß Statue (imago/McPhoto)

Uwe Seeler's foot in bronze in front of Hamburg's stadium

Seeler won many awards during his career, including being named West Germany's player of the year in 1960, 1964 and 1979. However, Hamburg only managed to win two titles with him in the lineup; the German championship in 1960, and the German Cup in 1963.

It wasn't due to a lack of offers that Seeler remained true to his hometown club. In 1961, Inter Milan reportedly bid more than a million deutschmarks, one of the highest transfer fees offered at the time, in an effort to lure him from the Elbe to northern Italy. Obviously, Seeler elected to stay put.

West Germany

Seeler also had a long career with the West German national team, competing in four World Cups between 1958 and 1970. One of the best-remembered images is of him walking off the Wembley pitch with head bowed in defeat after England beat West Germany after a disputed goal in the 1966 final.

What was arguably his most famous goal came against England four years later, when he used the back of his head to score West Germany's second goal, the equalizer, which put their quarterfinal match into extra time. England goalkeeper Peter Bonetti, who was called into action at short notice after Gordon Banks had taken ill, appeared completely surprised by the header, which just looped down under the bar. West Germany went on to win the match 3-2 in extra time.

After his playing career was over, Seeler worked as a representative for sporting goods manufacturer Adidas and for a short time, owned his own line of sporting attire, as well as owning and operating a filling station. For three years, from 1995 to 1998, he also served as president of his beloved Hamburg.

However he stepped down to take responsibility for a financial scandal surrounding the club, which by all accounts was not of his making.

Through it all, the son of a laborer at Hamburg's port, who has been married to his wife Ilka for 57 years, has kept his feet planted firmly on the ground.

"We are completely normal and that is wonderful," he once said, rejecting any allures of stardom, despite his fame.