With seven world titles and 91 Grand Prix wins, Michael Schumacher has gone down as arguably the greatest driver in Formula 1 history.
As is often the case with sporting greats, he could turn his hand to other disciplines and he was a handy footballer during the height of his F1 fame. Having moved from Monaco to Switzerland with his family in the 1990s in pursuit of a more private life away from the track, Schumacher started playing football locally, regularly turning out for FC Echichens after being given permission by his boss at Ferrari, Jean Todt.
The FC Cologne fan’s love of the game started as he was growing up in the 1970s when the West German national side were real a powerhouse of world football, winning the Euros in 1972 and the World Cup on home soil in 1974.
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“Most likely it can be traced back to Toni Schumacher and Pierre Littbarski, two former German internationals,” he said when asked about his love of football during his F1 career. “When I was a boy they were the two most outstanding players for me.
“They were both with FC Cologne, the club that I supported. And like every other young boy I played myself as well. I was not as good as I would have liked to be, but I enjoyed playing all the same.”
Michael is not related to Toni, although, according to the biography, The Edge of Greatness, written by James Allen, Michael used to pretend he was Toni’s nephew to impress his friends at school. Toni Schumacher boasts a rather infamous reputation having been guilty of arguably the worst foul in World Cup history during West Germany’s 1982 semi-final against France.
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As French player, Patrick Battiston threatened his goal, Toni flew off his line and sickeningly collided with Battiston, who was knocked unconscious, left with damaged vertebrae and missing several teeth. Teammate Michael Platini later said he thought Battiston was dead. Incredibly, the referee didn’t even give a foul, let alone send Toni off, although the German stopper did later apologise to Battiston in person.
Michael, an energetic midfielder, was modest about his footballing ability. He insisted he got more nervous about stepping onto the pitch than into an F1 car capable of more than 200mph.
“I also had to concentrate harder if I wanted to control a ball well than when I was approaching a corner, even if I was going very quickly,” he said. “It’s funny: in Formula 1 I always had spare capacity in my head. When I play football I think I hardly have any freedom to look at what’s around me, take it in and build a move well.”
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