Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Klaus in town - on a ship and not on a sleigh

The Diamond Princess leaving Hobart yesterday for New Zealand

Photos (Top to Bottom): Ken Morton and Otto Klaus in North Hobart yesterday; Olympia begin their warm-up at South Hobart after their centre-circle routine to pay tribute to their fans - Nick Cook is with the ball and the goalkeeper is Mark Johnston, who is now one of Australia's leading war historians and still coaches school teams in Melbourne; Otto Klaus, the Olympia coach, shakes hands with a Rapid official after a game at South Hobart. [The linesman is Tom Kelly, father of current Knights coach, Eamonn Kelly, and Mark Johnston is the goalkeeper trooping off the field]; Olympia-WPL coach, Otto Klaus, with players John Paplos, Paul Kaproulias, Marco the Hill Street Grocer, and Peter Sherman; An article about Nick Cook in the Saturday Evening Mercury; Nick Cook in his Rapid days.

Otto Klaus was in Hobart yesterday.

Klaus was, of course, the man who took Ulverstone to the state-wide Ampol Cup title back in 1982.

On 2 October of that year, they beat Juventus 3-2, with Kent and Lapolla scoring for Juventus and Rob Smith, Sugden and L Jones netting for Ulverstone.

Ulverstone had a marvellous team while Klaus was at the helm and it included Joe McGrory, Liam Monagle, Rod Sanders and three fly-ins from Sydney each weekend - Badih Hammoud, Jim Meerbani and Peter Hassan.

The Sydney trio had their own manager in Hassan Amed, and Ulverstone were a feared team in Tasmania.

And, boy, could those three boys play!

Ulverstone won back-to-back Northern titles and lost to Morton’s Olympia in the State final over two legs in the early 1980s.

The Sydney fly-ins eventually joined Croatia Glenorchy, where their technical skills made them a delight to watch.

A typical Ulverstone line-up (before the introduction of the fly-ins) of the time was: Rob Smith, Ron Smith, Jones, Koch, Shegog, Foote, Sugden, Sallese, Compagne, Monagle, Di Felice, Fisher, R Koch, Howe, Sanders.

Klaus was known as a disciplinarian and his training sessions involved a lot of unusual (for Tasmania) physical work.

This included players being put in a special harness and towing tyres around.

Mind you, I have seen Brazil’s squad doing this even recently. Then again, Dunga is their coach.

Rod Sanders even now jokes that he’s still recovering from Klaus’s sessions!

Klaus then moved south, where he coached Olympia-WPL, Rapid and Hobart City.

Klaus, a German who had come to Tasmania from Sydney, at one time had a promising young German coach from Hamburg, Heinz-Willy Gerdsen, here for a few months as his assistant.

Gerdsen coached in the amateur leagues in Germany and, after returning to Europe, eventually moved to New Zealand, where he still lives and coaches in Auckland.

Klaus also brought over a talented German player for Juventus (I think his name was something like Kantenwein), but the move did not work out and the player hardly made any appearances here before leaving.

Klaus and his wife were on the cruise liner “Diamond Princess”, which arrived in Hobart yesterday morning and left for New Zealand in the evening.

I spent an enjoyable day with him and he managed to catch up with Ken Morton in North Hobart, and former Hobart City president George Marino and City player Robbie Marino at Robbie’s Harbour Lights restaurant.

Klaus and Morton were fierce rivals in the 1980s, of course, but the last time the two had met was a few years ago when Morton took his Vietnamese club side to Queensland on a pre-season training camp and tour.

Klaus, who is 77, still coaches and is looking extremely fit.

He is the coach of the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, where he has a team made up of the foreign students studying at the university.

He also coaches a local under-12 side.

He was one of Tasmania’s most colourful, outspoken and controversial coaches in the 1980s and early 1990s.

When he coached Olympia-WPL, he made the team run out for their games and form a circle around the centre-circle, with the goalkeeper in the middle, and wave to the crowd.

The players were awfully self-conscious and uncomfortable with this routine at first, but eventually got used to it.

It was a forerunner of today’s common sight around the world, where the teams walk out together, line up, and then shake hands.

It was always a source of humour to seek out tempestuous player Nick Cook’s views of the routine.

Cook, who was the ‘stormy petrel’ of Tasmanian soccer at the time and who played for Rapid and Olympia during Klaus’s tenure, was able to imitate his German coach to a tee (behind his back, of course), and used to have his team-mates in fits.

He had a habit of calling his coach ‘Santa’ Klaus.

Klaus was the instigator of some of the first junior coaching clinics in southern Tasmania and he would bring former Socceroos coach Rale Rasic here to conduct the clinics.

Klaus was in charge of Hobart City when they had their famous walk-off at KGV Park against Caledonians in 1987.

The club were expelled and Klaus and George Marino fined. Klaus was banned for two seasons but the sanctions were eventually over-turned in the courts.

“The Mercury” devoted a huge amount of space to the matter in the coming months, but the articles were written by their Australian Rules chief reporter, David Stockdale, as Klaus and Marino apparently felt I was biased against the club and so believed that I wouldn’t write balanced accounts.

I ended up reporting on the matters from an overall football perspective, while David interviewed the City personnel and expressed their views.

We have all resolved our differences since, of course, and are all firm friends. I try and catch up with Klaus whenever I am in Queensland.

Klaus said he would try and seek out Gerdsen while his ship is in Auckland.

The local scene seems very quiet nowadays compared with when Klaus coached here.


Anonymous said...

Hi Walter

Thanks for this story. Certainly brings back some great memories. I experienced many of Otto's innovative training exercises - including pulling tyres around Knights Road and running with backpacks filled with sand. Unusual for us at the time but very beneficial. Otto's teams played on a foundation of fitness, discipline and passion for the club. Otto often used to say with his great passion "Winning is not everything, it is the ONLY thing! I can hear him saying that now. I am priveliged to have known him and am pleased to hear that he is fit and doing well.

David Mitchell

ginger said...

i also remember Otto very clearly from his days as a coach of the central region in the junior carnivals. He was a very successful coach in this area also, training many junior players who went on to greater things.
i'll never forget that red tracksuit!

smithers ol man said...

you would probably know if this was the era of jo rader playing for rapid .
He was another fine gentleman of soccer i had the fortune of knowing and if otto was cut from same mould he would have been good to watch but alas i never got involved with football till around 1989 with juniors and then seniors.

Walter said...

irate1, I know Jo Rader well. He was a star and State representative in the 1950s and 1960s, which was well before Otto came to Tasmania. We kids used to idolise Jo, not only because he was a superb player, but also because he looked just like Elvis Presley. He was very popular.

Jo came from Austria, while Otto is a German. They may have played in the same era but in different countries. Their coaching careers never intertwined as far as I know because Jo wasn't involved in the game at senior level here when Otto was. They may have encountered each other as junior coaches.

Walter said...

Hi David

Good to hear from you.

You may be able to fill in a few dates for me. I think Wolfgang Steutzel coached Ulverstone and Otto took over from him in about 1981 or 1982. When did Otto leave Ulverstone and which years did he coach you?


smithers ol man said...

thanks walter i knew a bit of joes history he coached new norfolk juniors for a while before being replaced by his daughter lisa (another fine ambassador for football and our state). i knew he was austrian and started the rapid club in australia with another one of his friends but wasnt sure if himself and otto were in same time zone. not many i give ultimate respect too in tasmanian football but these two are worthy of any ones respect

Anonymous said...

Hi again Walter

My memory on such things is a little challenged by time so I've had to refer your query to my more senior counterpart - Michael Foote. Michael is going to check club records and will respond on here soon.
We were talking just then about Otto's time at the club - many great stories that bring warm feelings.
I'll leave it to Michael to provide the statistics.

Kind regards

David Mitchell

(Really appreciate your work).

Anonymous said...

otto used to coach cabramatta in a sydney comp i used to play as a ring in. bit of a madman, though he used to compliment me as a player, so that would make him a good coach I suppose. lol

Anonymous said...

Great article and I have many fond memories when Otto was Tasmania, especially when he brought across those 3 Lebanese players from Sydney. They had great skill that attracted big crowds to come and watch them and one memorable left foot strike from near half way that shook the crossbar by Peter Hassan was world class. Shame we could not afford to keep them for a longer period but still great memories.