Helmut Rahn was born in 1929 in the industrial city of Essen, famed as the home of the Krupp armaments empire. In his years of success in the 1950s, Helmut Rahn was often known as “the Cannon from Essen”. He joined Rot-Weiss Essen in 1951 and soon got a reputation as a talented striker, but also as an inconsistent player who had a wayward personality and was often unfit.
Helmut Rahn had success with Rot-Weiss, winning the cup (DFB Pokal) in 1953 and the league championship in 1955. But his greatest achievements came with the West Germany national team. His winning goal in Bern in 1954 was an outstanding moment of fame, but Helmut also played well in 1958, when West Germany reached the World Cup semi-final. In 40 internationals, Helmut scored 21 goals. Admiring fans called him ‘Der Boss’.
After leaving Rot-Weiss Essen in 1959, Helmut Rahn’s career faded, partly because of a persistent knee injury. He scored goals with Enschede in the Dutch league and was one of the few heroes of 1954 who played in the new Bundesliga (for Duisburg) from 1963. He retired as a player in 1965, to start a business selling second-hand cars. He did not find fame easy to live with. He was a heavy drinker (and was sent to jail for drunk driving). Helmut Rahn died in August 2003. His funeral was shown live on state television.
Some footballers are remembered for one magic moment. For Helmut Rahn, it was scoring the winning goal in the “Miracle of Bern”, when West Germany came back from two goals down to defeat Hungary’s Golden Team in the 1954 World Cup final. In his home city of Essen, a statue of him was unveiled in Helmut Rahn Platz on the 50th anniversary of that match. Around the same time, the director of DAS WUNDER VON BERN dedicated his film to Helmut Rahn (who had died in 2003). It’s hard to be more famous than that, yet Helmut was a flawed character with an up and down life.
Educators could look at the life story of Helmut Rahn and work with young people to consider these questions:
- What does the life story of Helmut Rahn tell us about community, identity, and the way players and fans feel about the game?.
- What can be learned from Helmut’s life story about the impact of football on the young men it makes famous?
Helmut Rahn memorial in Essen, Germany (Photo: Baschti23, Wikimedia Commons).
LIFE STORIES To discover now
Do you wanna know more?
HISTORY CAN BE EXPLORED THROUGH THE LIVES OF INDIVIDUALS
Browse our collection of stories about football history and inclusion. With the history of football being made up of millions of stories, of individuals and communities, of movements and processes, we offer stories that can inspire our cultural conversations today.
Get to know untold stories where individuals are making history with football. When faced with insurmountable challenges, individuals past and present can use football as a cultural force to foster positive change in society. We honour these individuals and tell their ‘untold’ stories in short videos.
Explore our innovative educational resources that use football’s history, heritage and legacy to engage young people. The resources include ready-made lesson plans and historical source collections for school history education as well as toolkit with activities for non-formal settings.
In the wake of the 2015 migration peak, activists and volunteers across Europe have been involved in supporting refugees, sometimes with the simple act of offering space and friendship to participate in football through grassroots clubs to help newcomers integrate.
BBC Sport’s Football Focus visits Bundesliga side FC Union Berlin, a “rebellious” football club from East Berlin with a special set of fans, playing their first season in Germany’s top flight 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
LATEST POST You may also be interested in
Prayer days on stadiums, faith rooms and inclusive chants: here is how English football is adapting to a changing world.
Engage young people through Football Makes History’s own Guidebook and Toolkit for promoting social inclusion in formal education or Non-formal settings
Telling the history of a city through football stories: a celebration of Amsterdam.
Angel City FC, the brand new women-majority owned and run club in Los Angeles
Get to know these colour videos of Jewish footballers in 1936 and 1944. Incredible primary sources of football in tragic times.