The A-Z of forgotten football heroes: A - The Allofs brothers

In the modern era where players seem to be known as much by their pass completion statistics, alleged transfer fees and usefulness on FIFA, it is easy to forget that football is a game played by human beings.

And, as David Bowie might agree, each and every one of these human beings has the potential to be a hero - even just for one day - for a multitude of reasons.

Being spectacularly good at football, being the face of a city or region, being the personality we see in ourselves or wish we did, even being spectacularly bad at football; the ways in which footballers can establish themselves as heroes make a list longer than the 26-letter alphabet.

The thing is, football creates so many of these heroic figures that over time, they can be lost. With each great player and great team gradually replaced by the newest generation, there are scores of great players and great people whose names are in danger of being lost.

Let's put a stop to that, shall we? Over the next 26 weeks, VAVEL UK will be running through a list of players, managers, and icons whose stories are deserving of being retold today. Starting at A, and a pair of German brothers who stamped their initials on goalposts up and down the country, but on one city more than any other.

A brotherhood forged in Düsseldorf

Born three years apart in Düsseldorf, Klaus and younger brother Thomas Allofs grew up together and shared their footballing education at local outfit TuS Gerresheim, a club which continues to ply its trade in the Kreisliga A, the seventh rung on the German footballing ladder.

By the late 1970s, both players - who both played in attack - had been snapped up by their city's biggest club Fortuna Düsseldorf, with Klaus making his debut in 1975 and Thomas following three years later once more.

Klaus notched himself a respectable 17 goals in his first three seasons as he waited for his brother to come of age, but the first year of their partnership on the pitch, in 1978/79, was one of considerable success for Fortuna.

Their final league position of seventh in may have been a slight regression on the previous year’s effort of fifth, but they went one better than their status as losing finalists in the DFB-Pokal.

With Klaus leading the line with 22 goals and seven assists and debutant Thomas chipping in with seven strikes of his own, Fortuna finished just two points and two places outside of the UEFA Cup qualifying places – but their exploits in the cup meant they didn’t miss out on European competition altogether.

Cup glory with Fortuna

Beaten in the final by Köln in 1978, Fortuna travelled to the neutral venue of Hanover’s Niedersachsenstadion the following year with redemption on their minds. Hertha Berlin were their new opponents, and they proved to be stubborn ones.

116 goalless minutes passed before Fortuna had the goal they needed to claim their first ever German Cup. Thomas, starting on the left, had been withdrawn with 20 minutes of normal time to play, but Klaus was on the pitch to witness first-hand Wolfgang Seel’s winner, as the striker lashed a rebound in from the tightest of angles.

Fortuna’s glory almost hit the European stage in the same season; though defeated in the previous year’s German Cup final, winners Köln qualified for the European Cup as league champions, so it was the Düsseldorfers who went through to the European Cup Winners’ Cup.

Wolfgang Seel wins Fortuna Düsseldorf their first DFB-Pokal | Photo: F95/Horstmüller
Wolfgang Seel wins Fortuna Düsseldorf their first DFB-Pokal | Photo:üller

The Allofs' in Europe

It was quite an adventure. A 5-4 aggregate win over Romania’s FC Universitatea Craiova in the first round was followed by a fraught 3-2 win over Aberdeen in the second, with the Germans’ first-leg 3-0 advantage left hanging by a thread in the final stages.

Things were just as close in the quarter-finals as Servette FC of Geneva were knocked out on away goals only with a one-all draw in Switzerland before three Allofs goals – two from Klaus, one from Thomas – helped Fortuna on their way to a 4-3 victory in the semi-finals against Czechs Baník Ostrava.

By all accounts, the final in Basel was an epic. Barcelona stood as formidable opposition and it was they who stuck early on through José Sánchez. Allofs Jr. equalised before the ten-minute mark and Seel, soon to be hero of the domestic cup final, scored twice but it was not enough as legendary Austrian forward Hans Krankl’s dramatic late winner clinched the trophy for the Catalans, 4-3 in extra time.

The following year’s European expedition wasn’t quite as exciting, with a 2-1 defeat to Rangers in the first round proving the end of the road, but Fortuna did at least retain their domestic silverware.

Back-to-back cup wins

Perhaps as a result of their cup exploits, their league form dropped again – down to 11th, just three points clear of relegation despite the Allofs’ combined total of 26 league goals.

Nonetheless, they found their way to the DFB-Pokal final for the third successive year; Köln awaited once more, this time in Schalke’s Parkstadion.

Bernhard Cullmann’s first-half goal saw the Billy Goats lead at half time but Rüdiger Wenzel equalised on the hour mark. Klaus Allofs, the elder and more prolific of the brothers, shook the bar with a fizzing first-time effort from the edge of the area, but it was Thomas who would take the glory on this occasion as he poked in the winner with 25 minutes to play.

Thomas Allofs clutches his and Fortuna's second DFB-Pokal | Photo:üller
Thomas Allofs clutches his and Fortuna's second DFB-Pokal | Photo:üller

Away from Düsseldorf

By 1982, both Allofs’ had left Düsseldorf for pastures new, with over 100 league goals for their hometown club between them and a lifetime’s worth of footballing memories packed into just a few seasons.

Klaus moved to Köln and continued where he had left off in scoring terms, with 104 goals in a six-year stay on the Rhine leaving him just outside the top five of the club’s all-time leading scorers. Thomas left home a year later, first moving south to Kaiserslautern before following his elder brother to Köln.

Both brothers eventually decided to pack their boots for France, with Klaus making waves at Marseille and Bordeaux and Thomas spending a more muted year in Strasbourg, but both eventually returned to Düsseldorf in different capacities.

While Klaus brought his playing career to an end at Werder Bremen, Thomas spent the final two seasons of his back home, attempting to catch up to his older brother on the club’s all-time top scorers list.

A further 23 league strikes in his final two years was a respectable effort, but his final tally of 69 leaves him sixth on the list, with his big brother looking down from second on the list. Peter Meyer sits on the top of the tree with 93, but Klaus’ 84 strikes mean he is unlikely to be knocked off the podium any time soon.

A top-tier legacy

The Allofs name’s place in German football history is indisputable. Klaus remains eighth on the all-time Bundesliga top scorers list, while Thomas was only pushed out of the top 15 in the closing stages of the 2016/17 season by Robert Lewandowski.

Their combined total of 325 would still only place them second on the list – a man by the also-quite-famous name of Müller notched 40 more – but their combined achievements make for one truly compelling story.

An unfortunate footnote came at the end of the millennium, as Klaus Allofs returned to a Fortuna Düsseldorf by then languishing in the 2. Bundesliga and in severe danger of relegation. At long last, the Allofs name ran out of luck as Fortuna finished bottom of the second division and Klaus brought his nascent managerial career to a swift conclusion, with differing roles behind the scenes at Werder Bremen and Wolfsburg to follow.

The end of the Allofs story may not have been the fairytale promised by the first few years, but heroes cannot maintain their aura forever – just ask Wayne Rooney. On the trendy streets of Düsseldorf, though, it is a name which will always be spoken with some reverence.