Not many Manchester City footballers can claim to have been threatened by the Stasi – the sinister East German secret police.
But that was the fate of Uwe Rosler when he was playing for Lokomotive Leipzig in the last days of the communist regime.
The Stasi made it clear that Rosler’s fledgling football career could be over before it started unless he gave them information on players planning to defect to the West.
It was only the brave intervention of the Leipzig manager that saved the day – and paved the way for Rosler’s eventual move to Manchester in 1994.
Rosler was joined at City by fellow German Maurizio Gaudini who arrived on loan from Eintracht Frankfurt, also in 1994. The two formed a powerful partnership with Gaudini in midfield and Rosler up front.
The press enjoyed the pairing too, even carrying out a photo-call at Maine Road with the players clutching a German to English dictionary!
Born in Atterburg, East Germany, in November 1968, Rosler joined Lokomotive Leipzig in 1987. After a season he moved to BSG Chemie Leipzig and then played for Dynamo Dresden and FC Nuremburg.
It was a massive cultural leap for Rosler to come to Manchester on loan in March 1994 as football was played on almost an amateur basis in East Germany before reunification in 1990.
Rosler said it took time for him to acclimatise, but what was never in doubt was the warmth of the welcome from City fans.
It forged a bond that endures to this day and helped steer Rosler through some of the most difficult times of his life.
Rosler’s first match for City was playing in the reserves against Burnley. He couldn’t have hoped for a better debut as he scored twice and was then picked for the first team against Queens Park Rangers.
He went on to score five goals in 12 matches, prompting City to make his loan move permanent.
Although he was sent off against Arsenal in the opening match of the 1994-5 season, he notched up 22 goals in all matches alongside strike partner Paul Walsh.
He also matched Johnny Hart’s 1953 record of scoring four goals in an FA Cup tie when the Blues trounced Notts County 5-2 at Maine Road. Fellow German Gaudino scored the other goal.
Rosler ended up as City’s leading scorer for the season and won the Player of the Year award. But his goals failed to save manager Brian Horton after the Blues finished 17th. Horton was sacked and replaced by Southampton’s Alan Ball.
The 1995-6 season saw Walsh move to Portsmouth, leaving the striking duties to Rosler and Niall Quinn. Ball preferred playing through the centre rather than relying on wingers – which didn’t suit Rosler.
He was dropped from the team only to return as a sub for the local derby against Manchester United. After scoring a brilliant goal, Rosler rushed over to Ball pointing to his name and number on the back of his shirt.
He again finished as top scorer with 13 goals in all competitions – but City were relegated from the Premier League after finishing 18th on 38 points.
Rosler stayed for the next season, again becoming top scorer, but joined FC Kaiserslautern on a free transfer in May 1988 after City were relegated to Division Two.
Rosler later described his relationship with the City fans as the biggest achievement of his career. He credits his recovery from cancer in 2003 directly to them as they sung his name at a match while he was lying in his hospital bed.
The East German international even named his sons Colin and Tony after City legends Colin Bell and former skipper Tony Book.
In all, Rosler made 176 appearances for the Blues, scoring 64 goals – and was a very popular inductee to the club’s Hall of Fame in 2009.
Rosler made a return to the North West as manager of Championship side Wigan Athletic in December 2013. He even beat his old club 2-1 in the FA Cup quarter final at the Etihad Stadium!
His tenure was brief, however, as he left in November 2014. Club chairman Dave Whelan sought a new manager when the team fell into the relegation zone.
Maurizio Gaudino scored only three goals in his 20 league appearances for City, but featured in some memorable performances.
He was part of the team that beat champions Blackburn Rovers 3-2 away in April 1995 and scored in the 2-1 home victory over Liverpool the same month.
He can also claim the singular honour of being rugby-tackled by future British Prime Minister Boris Johnson during an England v Germany charity football match in 2006!
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