Snapshot: The Guy with the Red Shoes

The 1970’s were truly one amazing period for Bayern München. Back then the team were fighting for the German championship on a regular basis, only being given a fight by Borussia Mönchengladbach (and 1. FC Köln in the 77/78 season). Even more impressive, the team went on to win the European Cup three times in a row between 1974 and 1976. However, this impressive run was almost stopped by a Swede wearing red boots in the first round of the 1973/74 European Cup.

Back then Bayern had been drawn against a little known team from Sweden by the name of Åtvidabergs FF. These days Åtvidaberg can boast a population of roughly 7,000 people, which shows you why the bosses at the Säbener Strasse weren’t necessarily too worried about the opposition they were facing. The first leg went to plan, with Bayern winning the tie comfortably 3-1

Nervy Return Leg

In Sweden, Bayern were wrong-footed by a right winger nobody had heard about in Germany. At first he gave the home team the lead after just 7 minutes, before his teammate Veine Wallinder brought the score to 2-0 after 15 minutes.

The man playing on the right wing had a tremendous day at the office, bugging the Bayern defense all day. In the 72nd minute he got his second goal of the match, bringing the score to an incredible 3-0 for the Swedish underdogs.

But, as many Bundesliga fans know about Bayern, they do tend to come back when it matters the most. Only six minutes later Uli Hoeness knocked the ball in from six yards to secure the Bavarians extra-time.

Those last 30 minutes of the match didn’t produce any more goals, meaning that Bayern were facing their first ever penalty shoot out in a European competition. Sepp Maier was famously bad at saving penalties, but against the Swedes he managed to save one and another penalty was misplaced. In the end Bayern just about scraped through against a bunch of Swedes from a tiny village.

Bayern sign Åtvidasbergs FF’s Best Player

After the match Bayern’s president Wilhelm Neudecker breathed a heavy sigh of relief. Afterwards, legend has it, he turned to business manager Robert Schwan, saying:

“I want the guy with the red shoes.”

The man in question was 24-year-old Conny Torstensson, who never in a million years had dreamed about becoming a professional footballer. About his humble beginnings in Sweden Torstensson would later say:

“In 1968 I was recruited to join Åtvidabergs FF. The team had just been promoted to the Allsvenskan (editor’s note: Sweden’s highest league). I became a first team player in 1972 and three months later I played a qualification match for the national team against Malta before competing in the 1974 World Cup. In Åtvidaberg most players had a job besides the football, but we trained regularly and hard. After work one went directly to the training pitch.”

Signing Torstensson was a bit tricky as it turned out. The Swede would later tell the story of how Bayern managed to reach out to him:

“Back then there were no agents, besides a Hungarian restaurant owner who worked a bit as a player consultant. Bayern called him and he in turn called Benno Magnusson (one of Torstensson’s teammates) who came knocking on my door on an away trip to Malmö. Some days later we met and I signed a contract on a notepad.”

Mr. Europacup – Better than Zlatan

Upon joining Bayern Torstensson found it hard to gain regular playing time. In his four seasons at the club Torstensson was often placed on the bench, watching Bayern’s star players shine in the Bundesliga. At the end of his career at Bayern Torstensson had been on the pitch in the Bundesliga a total of 81 times, scoring 11 goals and providing 3 assists.

However, despite irregular playing time Torstensson is still fondly remembered in Munich to this day. The reason for that might be the fact that the Swede turned out to be a superb performer whenever the team was playing in the European Cup. After Åtvidabergs FF was eliminated Torstensson went on to score four more goals in the same European Cup campaign for Bayern, among them the important away goal against Ujpest in the semi final which gave the Bavarians the upper hand before the return leg.

The following season Torstensson scored only one goal in the same competition, but he did shine in Bayern’s final against Leeds, providing the assist for Franz Roth’s all important 1-0 goal in the 2-0 win over the English side.

In his last season at the club the Swede churned out the goals for the club from the Säbener Strasse once again. 5 goals and 3 assists in 9 matches meant that Torstensson played a vital role in Bayern securing their third European Cup on the bounce.

These days Torstensson lives secluded in the woods in Sweden together with his wife Anette. But, he still remembers his time in Munich rather fondly:

“If you ask in Munich who Mr. Europa Cup is, they know who that is. At Bayern I was a proper water carrier for the players out on the pitch, I ran a lot and worked hard. That suited me well.”

But, despite being a water carrier on the pitch, Torstensson accomplished something the biggest Swedish players of the last two generations could only dream about.

“I have, by far, the best goal average of all Swedish players with more than 20 European Cup ties, like for instance Kim Källström or Fredrik Ljungberg. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has 0.4 goals per match, but I have 0.56 goals per match. Besides, I have won that trophy three times, whilst Zlatan hasn’t won it all. In that sense I have been more successful than Zlatan.”