Berlin – Hertha BSC ended the 1969/70 Bundesliga season with a 3-1 home win against Werder Bremen (3/5/70). The ‘Old Lady’ finished third in the table, behind newly crowned champions Borussia Mönchengladbach and FC Bayern Munich. The ninth FIFA World Cup began just 28 days later in Mexico – but the Herthaner weren’t able to start their summer break so soon.
Apart from World Cup participant Bernd Patzkeen, head coach Helmut ‘Fiffi’ Kronsbein’s whole squad made the trip to the US, to play four friendlies alongside six games in the ‘International Cup’. These fixtures also counted for the competing teams’ North American Soccer League (NASL) campaign.
Different countries, different customs
Alongside the capital city club, Coventry City (England), Hapoel Petah Tikva (Israel) and Varzim SC (Portugal) also took part in the ‘International Cup’. The other opponents from America were the Rochester Lancers, Kansas City Spurs and Dallas Tornado from the Northern Division, while the Washington Darts, the Atlanta Chiefs and St. Louis Stars from the Southern Division also participated. Political and economical interests also played an important role in football at this time. Hapoel Petah Tikva ended up only playing five games, as the owner of the Dallas Tornado, Lamar Hunt, thought that playing an Isreali team would have a negative impact on his oil business with the Arab countries.
After Hertha won their first game 2-0 against the Darts thanks to a Franz Brungs brace (8/5/70), they then defeated the Rochester Lancers 3-1 four days later in the Aquinas Stadium, Brungs again scoring twice, with Wolfgang Gayer adding a third. Football in the States was still in its infancy at this time, with a prime example being the slightly peculiar points system in the NASL. Teams earned six points for a win, three for a draw and up to three bonus points for goals in a defeat – meaning that the Lancers still picked up a point for losing 3-1 to BSC. Ultimately, the Lancers ended up winning the championship after defeating the Washington Darts in a two-legged final.
Germany vs. England & Mexico in ‘friendlies’
The Blue-Whites played two very physical friendlies with Coventry City inside three days. After losing 1-0 in Chicago, Hertha defeated the side that finished sixth in the English first division 2-0 thanks to goals from Franz Brungs and Arno Steffenhagen in Detroit. The Herthaner then won their third match in the ‘International Cup’ against the St. Louis Stars 4-2, Brungs again scoring twice and Wolfgang Gayer also adding two goals. After this, the Berlin side travelled to California to face the Mexican champions CD Guadelajara twice in 72 hours. The Blue-Whites won the first meeting 2-0 through goals from Jürgen Weber and Lorenz Horr, and then defeated the Mexicans again, 2-1, with Brungs and Horr getting the goals on that occasion.
The Hertha group then left California to head to Texas, where they faced the Dallas Tornado. Hermann Bredenfeld (2), Franz Brungs and Bernd Laube ensured a 4-2 win for the Herthaner. Hertha then returned to Missouri two days later to face Kansas City Spurs – a game which saw them pick up their eight win (2-1) thanks to goals from Lorenz Horr and Jürgen Weber. Their tenth and final game on May 31st, 1970 ended in a 2-2 draw against the Atlanta Chiefs. Lorenz Horr and Franz Brungs had given the side a 2-0 lead, before they went on to concede an equaliser. While the team were in Atlanta, the general secretary of the NASL, Phil Woosmann, spontaneously crowned Hertha as the ‘Champions of North America’ and praised them for their excellent performances. The side then moved on to New York City, where the Blue-White delegation began the multi-day journey via the Atlantic back to Germany.
Unforgettable experiences in North America
Those involved travelled around 15,000 kilometers from the east to the west coast, stayed in a number of hotels and tried a number of different cuisines. The squad played ten games in front of 50,000 fans in total – on pitches owned by baseball clubs, some of which were on ash, some on grass pitches. They also enjoyed a number of social activities, such as a visit to Disneyland in Los Angeles, or the Empire State Building in New York City – the trip was unforgettable for all those who went.
Kronsbein began reminiscing on the trip home. "This is a thank you to my team. We've been going full-steam ahead since February, and yet we have done an outstanding job here in America." He told the Hertha fans: "You can address me again the day we return to training on 14th July. Until then: relax. Anyone who mentions football to me during the next few weeks will be shot!"