There may be famous goalkeepers than Lutz Pfannenstiel , but there are none who are more well travelled and there are barely any who are more storied. Especially when it comes to penguins. The young Lutz was a talented goalkeeper, but a little headstrong. Well, okay. Really headstrong. As a teenager in 1993, he was offered an amateur contract with Bayern Munich with a view to later turning professional. But he…he turned it down. He turned it down to take a professional contract in Malaysia. That really should have been the last we heard of him, but Lutz got lucky. He was spotted by a freelance scout who happened to be in Malaysia scouting on behalf of a number of English clubs. He lured Lutz to Wimbledon, a Premier League side back then. Lutz fell in with hardened English footballers Gary Blissett and Mick Harford . They liked Lutz. Once they took him out drinking and nearly killed him. In England, that’s a sign of affection. On another occasion, they encouraged him to chat up two girls in a bar. Lutz struggled with English and asked Gary and Mick for a chat up line. Gary and Mick were only too happy to help.
“Go over there and say, ‘Hello, I’m Lutz from Germany, you little c***s,” they told him. Lutz did exactly that. He was unsuccessful. Sadly, it didn’t work out at Wimbledon. Or at Nottingham Forest. So Lutz went to Orlando Pirates in South Africa for a bit. And then to Sembawang Rangers in Singapore. And then to Finland with TPV and FC Haka. And then to Germany with SV Wacker Burghausen. And then back to Singapore where it all went really, really wrong. Accused of match-fixing, something he vehemently denies, Lutz spent 101 gruelling days in a Singaporean jail before he was released.
He moved to England where he signed with Bradford Park Avenue and Huddersfiled Town. And then he went to New Zealand where he stole a penguin and kept it in his bath for an awkward 24 hours before returning when he was told that penguins were protected and that this was the sort of monumentally stupid thing that could put a man in prison all over again. Lutz returned to England and signed up with Bradford Park Avenue. And that’s where it almost went really, really, really wrong. After a collision with powerful Harrogate striker Clayton Donaldson, Lutz collapsed and his heart stopped beating. As the small crowd watched in horror, physio Ray Killick brought him back from the brink three times before an ambulance arrived to take him to hospital.
After that, Lutz decided to try his luck in Norway. From here, Lutz’s career reads more like a partial catalogue of Lonely Planet guidebooks. He went back to New Zealand, he went to Canada, he went to Albania, he went to Armenia, he went back to Canada and back to Norway again. And then he signed for America FC in Brazil and became the first man to play on all six continents. The world’s most peripatetic player is, sadly, no longer playing. After a career that took in 25 different clubs, he’s now retired. At the age of 43, he’s a TV pundit and the head of scouting for Hoffenheim. And they seem to be doing all right out of it, don’t they? But his complete story is told in his book, ‘The Unstoppable Keeper’.
It’s well worth a read. .