RANGERS meeting with Eintracht Frankfurt will rekindle a friendship between the clubs that goes back to 1960 and symbolised by – a bowler hat!
Rangers Vice-Chairman, John F Wilson, who routinely wore a bowler, had something of a habit of giving his hat away.
In April 1960, Rangers met the German champions Eintracht in the semi-final of the European Cup.
The Light Blues were expected to negotiate the tie comfortably, but they met a side that was inspired.
Much of that inspiration came from their captain, Alfred Pfaff who scored two goals in each leg of the tie, with the Germans winning 12-4 in aggregate.
Showing huge respect and sportsmanship, the Rangers team formed a guard of honour to applaud their victorious opponents from the field.
After the match, Wilson presented his bowler hat to Pfaff and called him ‘Don Alfredo’, partly in tribute to the great Real Madrid star Alfredo Di Stefano.
Pfaff had shown him to be every bit as good as the Real star and Wilson presented the hat on a silver platter.
Eintracht would return to Glasgow to play the final at Hampden just over a week later – their opponents Real Madrid.
The game was to become one of the great football matches of all time and, although the German’s lost 7-3, they were not dispirited ad Pfaff put in another sterling shift, scoring once again.
After the game, Wilson met ‘Don Alfredo’ once again and asked about the hat. It was back in Frankfurt, so Wilson duly passed another to the Eintracht captain. The story caused quite a stir in Germany and became part of the popular folklore of Eintracht.
So much so, in fact, that the fans took to the bowler, or ‘koks’ as it is known in that part of the World. Even today it features on fan memorabilia and establishes a link between Eintracht and Rangers.
So, what become of the hats? Don Alfredo passed one of his bowlers to Eintracht and it is now on display in the Eintracht Museum.
The other remains with the Pfaff family. While it was a tie that Rangers were glad to forget, the story of the hat and the sportsmanship that the club displayed following heavy defeat remain something to be proud of.
The Rangers fans were so taken with the Eintracht performance that they carried their support for the team into the final.
Hopefully it will be different in Seville, of course, when hopefully Eintracht will applaud Rangers from the field and recall that close association established through a hat over 60 years ago.
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