Meet 'The Crazy German' Andre Kruger
There are many Australian football fans that have travelled to Germany that would argue they are the biggest supporter of the Socceroos. But they would be hard pressed to be bigger than Andre Kruger.
There are many Australian football fans that have travelled to Germany that would argue they are the biggest supporter of the Socceroos. They might be, but it-s hard to imagine them being any bigger than Andre Kruger, a self-confessed Australia football nut, who is more commonly known as ‘The Crazy German-.
An interest in the Australian team in the lead up to the 1974 World Cup has now become an obsession for the 46-year old, who hails from Hannover in Germany. Pretty much all of the 1974 team that played in the finals, in the then West Germany, he counts as close friends and whenever he comes to Australia he receives as much attention from the media, as the current players do.
So it was no surprise that when Australia qualified for the 2006 World Cup finals that Andre-s passion would attract a lot of interest from the local German organisers and in particular the towns folk of Ohringen, the central town, where the Socceroos will be based during the first phase of the competition.
Andre-s passion has become a centrepiece exhibition in Ohringen-s biggest bank and was officially opened last night, with a host of pictures, memorabilia and newspaper clippings from his large collection on display.
And he has a lot, with this exhibition being only a small representation of what he got stored back in Hannover.
It has to be one of the most unusual sporting obsessions in the world and Andre believes it might have been a simple soft toy that started it all for him.
“I am in love with Australia since when I was a baby maybe, because one of my first pets (soft toy) was a koala bear, maybe that-s the reason.”
But his fascination with Australia and its football team really started when the 1974 World Cup qualifiers were on, some 33 years ago as a 13-year-old.
“It started 33 years ago when I was a kid and I heard for the first time that Australia has a football team, so I supported Australia since then. As kids we played on the street; football everyday and we made our own Australian shirts, so we used to have Australia playing Germany, England, it didn-t matter.
“Australia was a kind of underdog and I love the stories when I read them for the first time,” he goes on. “There was a milkman, there was a coal miner, a painter and other things like this and you know it was so different to the other teams, all professionals, highly paid players, totally different to today. They lost jobs, they lost their wives, sometimes just playing for Australia, and it was just fascinating for me.”
He tells us afterwards that he remembers when Australia was playing South Korea for a place in the finals and how he waited at his bedroom window, for his Dad to arrive home from work with the newspaper (which was always about two days behind for news from the Asia region) and when he arrived home, his dad has the biggest smile and put his thumbs up to say they had qualified. He understandably jumped around his bedroom with joy.
Since then he has followed the up-s and mostly down-s of the Australian team like the rest of us, but its fair to say that most of his passion is for the 1974 team, and in particular captain Peter Wilson, which bears the number on the back of his original Australian shirt that he made up. Kruger is one of the very few people that gets to speak with Wilson these days, who after falling out with football administrators, turned his back on the sport and refuses to attend any official functions involving the -74 team.
“I met some of the -74 team back then and I am still in contact with most of them. I have developed some close friendships over the years, so that-s how it really started.”
So how does his family and friends cope with his passion for the Australia football team?
“It started very slowly and over the years it became more and more. I have a lot of friends in Germany and they think its fantastic, because Australia-s a different country in football to Germany.
“Over the years the Socceroos have become more successful and when I go back to Australia because I have been invited to games; spend my holidays with players. My friends say its unbelievable how a hobby and a sport can do something for different nations. I say to them, if the Socceroos play Greece or Croatia in Australia, the Greeks and Croatians would have 20,000 fans in the stands and they are Australian born, so it-s good that there is one crazy man on the other side of the world, who is German, but he is supporting Australia.”
And how does his wife cope with the obsession?
“This is my eighth wife,” Andre laughs jokingly. “She has given me over the years a lot of help.
“If there is something in Australia and I get an invitation for a game or something else and I am saying maybe not this time, my wife she is the saying go, it-s just once in your life and so she is very helpful, so I am also crazy for her also.”
And as arguably Australia-s biggest fan, Andre was not going to miss any of the matches with the World Cup on his own back door.
“I am happy that I got my voice back today, because I was there at the game (against Japan in Kaiserslautern) of course,” referring that after singing and chanting his voice was somewhat lost after the match.
“They played well and you can see the sign of this fantastic coach. I think he maybe 50% of everything because he knows what to do.
“I must say after 82-83 minutes I thought that-s it, very unlucky because of this goal (Japan-s controversial opening goal), but they played continued to put pressure and the Japanese looked finished, because I think it was 38 degrees on the ground.
“When they scored I went crazy. I thought keep this, it-s better than to lose, but the team played on and on. As you know they scored two other goals and it was unbelievable and I think very good for the game in Australia, because if people watch this game they can say its not a boring game.
“It was fantastic yesterday.”
And we couldn-t go without asking the hypothetical question of who he would barrack for, if his homeland of Germany and his obsession with Australia would meet in the final at Berlin on July 9.
“Of course, I support my country, which is the ‘Green & Gold-,” he said unequivocally. “I was at the Confederations Cup last year when they played and I was supporting Australia.
“Germany has won the World Cup three times, so that-s enough if they are to play against one another. I am an Aussie at heart and would like Australia to win.”
Now that-s support for your team!!!
The exhibition is open in Ohringen until the end of the World Cup on July 9 and you can visit Andre-s own website dedicated to the Socceroos at www.ak-tsc.de