'Father of Japanese soccer' Cramer dies at 90

Kyodo, AP

As the Japanese soccer world mourns the loss of Dettmar Cramer, dubbed “the father of Japanese soccer” for helping develop the game as a coach in the country in the 1960s, former players and officials offered their condolences on Friday.

Cramer passed away on Thursday at age 90. A cause of death has not been revealed, but he had been battling cancer, according to Japanese sources.

“He was a mentor that taught me about life itself, not just soccer,” said Saburo Kawabuchi, Japan Football Association’s honorary president.

Cramer came to Japan in 1960 and was hired as a coach to help strengthen the national team ahead of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Japan reached the last eight.

He worked to establish the Japan League, the forerunner of the J. League, in 1965. In 1968, Japan won the bronze medal at the Mexico City Olympics.

“Before the bronze medal he told us ‘show me your Yamato damashii (Japanese fighting spirit),’ ” former striker Ryuichi Sugiyama said. “As a trainer, he was fantastic but he was also engaging as a human being.”

In 2005, Cramer was inducted into Japan soccer’s Hall of Fame.

Cramer led Bayern Munich to two consecutive European Cups in the 1970s and one Intercontinental Cup. He also coached in Egypt, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Greece and Thailand.

Popularly known as “Napoleon” for his small stature, Cramer also coached Eintracht Frankfurt, Bayer Leverkusen and Hertha Berlin in the Bundesliga.

The German Football Federation said Cramer worked in more than 90 countries.