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Born: Sunday 10 March 1912, Küppersteg, Germany
Died: Friday 12 June 1987, Düsseldorf, West Germany (aged 75)
One of the finest defenders of the pre-Second World War era, Germany's Paul Janes played with great distinction as first a half-back and then later in his career as a full-back. A strong, intelligent player, he also displayed a flair which was unusual for someone who played in his position and had a reputation for spectacular free kicks and bicycle kicks at a time which such abilities were much rarer than they are today.
Paul Janes was born on 10 March 1912, the youngest of eight children and after leaving school completed an apprenticeship as a bricklayer. Playing football locally with Jahn Küppersteg, in the suburbs of Leverkusen, Janes was watched by scouts from Fortuna Düsseldorf who offered him a trial at the club. They were sufficiently impressed to offer him a contract, and Janes joined Fortuna in 1930, at the age of 18.
His first team debut came in March 1931, at that point playing as a right half-back. Having broken into the team Janes quickly became a first choice starter, gaining a reputation not just for his strength but also his exceptional positional play and superb heading ability. He also took free kicks and penalties, allegedly with such power that one team-mate claimed that Janes had once hit the crossbar with a penalty and the ball rebounded nearly half the length of the field.
During his time with Fortuna Düsseldorf, the club was one of the strongest in western Germany. There was no national league at that time, with regional competitions and national play-offs. Fortuna won the west region title in 1930-31, Janes first season, but lost out in the opening round of the national play-offs. Two years later, Janes did win a first major honour when Fortuna gained revenge on Schalke 04, who had beaten them in the western final and were hot favourites, by claiming a comprehensive 3-0 win in the national final.
His performances for Fortuna earned Janes an international debut against Hungary in October 1932 and he managed to establish himself in the team in the lead up to the 1934 World Cup in Italy. In Germany's opening match, a 5-2 win over Belgium, he played in his familiar position of right-half but found himself left out of both the quarter-final win over Sweden and the semi-final defeat to Czechoslovakia. Returning to the team for the third place match against Austria, Janes was moved to the full-back position and it was there that he would spend most of the remainder of his career.
During the 1930s, the German league structure was reorganised in to 16 regional league in which only the champions would advance to the national play-offs, and Janes had to wait until the 1935-36 season to get another run at national success when Fortuna won the Niederrhein title. They advanced through the national play-offs to the final against 1. FC Nürnberg, but were agonisingly denied by a 2-1 extra-time defeat.
In the summer of 1936 Janes was injured and missed the Olympic Games in Berlin, which ended in embarrassing defeat for Germany at the hands of Norway. There was also further frustration at domestic level. In 1937 Fortuna narrowly missed out on another trophy with defeat in the German Cup final against Schalke and although they won the Niederrhein regional title in every year until 1940, they were never able to advance past the national semi-finals. In the one semi-final they did reach, in 1938, it was again Schalke who ended hopes of a second national title.
The German national team seemed to be growing stronger, and in 1937 Janes played in a famous 8-0 win over Denmark which established them as one of the favourites for the 1938 World Cup in France. They cruised through qualifying, but when the tournament came round could not find their form and were eliminated after a first round replay defeat at the hands of Switzerland. To this day, that remains the only time Germany/West Germany have been knocked out of the World Cup before the quarter-finals.
The following year, Janes was named national captain by manager Sepp Herberger, a position which he would hold until the end of his international career in 1942. His calmness and intelligent understanding of the game made him an ideal captain. 1939 also brought his first international goal, in a narrow 3-2 win over Yugoslavia in Berlin. Janes went on to score seven goals for Germany and in keeping with his reputation as a dead-ball specialist, all seven were either free kicks or penalties. Perhaps the highlight of his 31 games as captain was an impressive 5-2 win over two-time reigning world champions Italy in Berlin in November 1939.
As with all players of his generation, Janes' career was interrupted by the Second World War. He served in the German Navy, but continued to appear regularly for the national team until winning the last of his 71 caps against Slovakia in November 1942. That was a record total at the time, and would remain so until broken by Uwe Seeler almost 30 years later. He also continued to play for Fortuna, as well as guesting for a number of other clubs.
Returning to Fortuna permanently after the war, Janes played on until 1950 when at the age of 38, he seemed set to be selected for Germany's first post-war international but broke his foot shortly before the match and was forced to retire from playing soon after. He tried to move into coaching, initially with Fortuna and then with a number of other German clubs, but seemed to lack the necessary skills to be a coach and eventually left active involvement in football.
In his later years Janes ran a restaurant and a pub in Düsseldorf with his wife. He continued to live in the city for the remainder of his life but was a very private man and gradually withdrew more and more from public view. He died suddenly of a heart attack on 12 June 1987 at the age of 75, while travelling on a tram in the city. In his honour, Fortuna named their training and reserve team stadium after him.
References (all accessed 11 February 2012):
- Published on Saturday, 11 February 2012 22:31