One man, 48 years, 55 jobs

Being a manager of a football team can be a wonderful thing if you get it right. Just ask José Mourinho – arguably the best manager in world football at present. However, sometimes it’s not all about silverware. Sometimes, when looking back at their career, managers can feel a sense of pride that they’ve had a lasting effect on the game, even if their name isn’t etched onto any trophies. One man who can do this over and over, is Rudi Gutendorf.

Photo: Erik Hartberg via Flickr

Born in the West German city of Koblenz in 1926, Gutendorf’s playing career was ordinary. He spent 10 years at his home-town club, TuS Neuendorf (now TuS Koblenz), where he played as a right winger. But, as seems to be the case with a lot of managerial masterminds nowadays – Mourinho, Wenger, Busby, to name just three – you don’t necessarily need to have had a glittering playing career to have success as a manager, and like the three men just listed, Gutendorf’s calling was evidently off the pitch.

However, dissimilar to the likes of Mourinho, Wenger and Busby, Gutendorf’s managerial career never took him to the pinnacle of world football. Instead, he forged a career managing developing national teams – for which he holds the world record, with no less than 19 appointments on the international stage.

In order, they are: Chile, Bolivia, Venezuela, Trinidad & Tobago, Grenada, Antigua & Barbuda, Botswana, Australia, New Caledonia, Nepal, Tonga, Tanzania, Ghana, Nepal (again), Fiji, Zimbabwe, Mauritius, Rwanda and Samoa – a list that began taking shape in 1972 with Chile, and which ended in 2003, when he left his post as manager of the Samoan national side. And if these weren’t enough, he also took change of the Iranian and Chinese Olympic squads in 1988 and 1992 respectively.

Amazingly, though, during Gutendorf’s 48-year managerial career, which began in 1955 when he was just 29 years old with Swiss outfit Blue Stars Zurich, the longest time he spent in one place, and by some distance, was in his second ever job, as manager of another Swiss side – FC Luzern, where he spent six years. Even more amazingly, though, is the fact that only a handful of Gutendorf’s 55 jobs in football lasted over a year.

In 1976 alone, he managed no less than five teams: After leaving German side SC Fortuna Köln at the beginning of the year, he had a spell in the Caribbean as manager of Trinidad & Tobago, Grenada then Antigua & Barbuda, before finishing the year in Africa with the Botswanan national side.

Whilst in charge of Ghana in 1985, Gutendorf gave a first cap to a little-known 19-year-old called Anthony Yeboah, who later, under the shorted name of Tony, would go on to have a brief, yet successful spell in the English Premier League with Leeds United, where he would earn cult status after scoring some crackers, like this one against Wimbledon in the 1995/96 season.

Gutendorf’s career might not have brought reams of silverware, and he might not have had the opportunity to coach some of the world’s greatest players, but the German certainly had one of the most colourful managerial lives in football history.

When Gutendorf was once asked why he had so many managerial appointments, he replied, “One cannot conserve excitement.”

And that, readers, is what football is all about.

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One Comment to “One man, 48 years, 55 jobs”

  1. Greatly written article. I enjoyed reading it very much and I´m sure my father will aswell.
    I will print it out for him.
    Thanky you and kind regards from Germany.

    Fabian Gutendorf

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