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reunion with Robert Wurtz, the former international football referee, 80 years old and still “a little crazy”

Rund Um. Robert Wurtz lives a peaceful retirement in the north of Alsace, far from the spotlight. But the former football referee, considered one of the best of his generation, has lost none of his whimsical character that marked audiences around the world.

Visiting Robert Wurtz means diving into a universe. The octogenarian – he celebrated his 80th birthday on December 16, 2021 – made an appointment at his home, in Climbach, in the north of Bas-Rhin. He welcomes us in his street, barefoot. The tone is set. A free will, always.

For the symbol, he will put on his crampons for a few minutes. History to appear with the perfect panoply of a “man in black”: football boots therefore, but also shorts and jersey, yellow and red cards, whistle. Very happy to show that it still fits easily into his outfit. But it is with feet in the air that Robert Wurtz now prefers to walk around.

With the forest as a playground. Omnipresent in her village in the northern Vosges. He likes to walk there, bathe his legs in the water of a so-called miraculous fountain – “a Würtz cure”, he jokes. A framework that he has hardly left for 15 years.

“I appreciate the calm, the clean air. I have everything I need here. Before, my goal – through football – was to travel as far as possible. But what I saw m enough. I want to spend my last days or rather my last years here. It’s better for my nerves. Even if I continue to be interested in what is happening in the world”ensures the dgraduated with a doctorate from chemical Physics in macromolecular biology.

He still follows football, with a particular weakness for the program Sportschau, devoted to the Bundesliga on German television – “it is very well done, with short summaries, just what is needed”. Racing Club de Strasbourg obviously remains his favorite club. How could it be otherwise? Robert Wurtz grew up a few meters from the Meinau stadium. As a child, he even wore the colors of the club. “Gilbert Gress, my teammate, was always shouting ‘Robert, look up’ at me. I wasn’t as good as the others but I wanted to stay on the pitch, so I became a referee.”

One of the best in the world. With to his credit, among others, a World Cup (in 1978 in Argentina), two European championships (in 1976 and 1980) and a Champions League final (in 1977, the competition was then called the European champion club cup). The privilege also of having rubbed shoulders with exceptional players, Johan Cruyff or Michel Platini to name but a few.

But if no one has forgotten Robert Wurtz, it is because on the football field, the referee played the artist. As during a PSG-Auxerre, in 1989, where he knelt down in front of Guy Roux to beg the coach to calm down. The image is remembered.

Or during a very tense play-off match of the Mexican championship, in 1971: “There were incidents. I wondered how I was going to be able to hold the match until the end. So I pretended that a stone sent by a spectator had hit me and I collapsed. We I thought I was dead. I heard the announcer say that if the stone throwing didn’t stop, the game would be stopped. People were scared and I was able to bring the game to an end. Proof that an attitude theatrical can sometimes help.”

A natural way of being and doing for this son of a musician and a chorister of the municipal theater of Strasbourg, which became the Opéra national du Rhin. The “Nijinsky of football” would take his antics from his mother – “She did theater every day in her life, she passed on her genes to me”.

Wherever Robert Wurtz went, the spectators asked for more. What to encourage him to continue: “Even today, I want my interlocutor to have had a good time after chatting with me. Otherwise, I was uselesshe confides, completely at ease with the image of a man “a little crazy” which sticks to his skin. Getting out of the box is good. Others are watching you, this encourages you to continue. It’s a game. It doesn’t hurt to have a touch of madness.”

It was this extravagance that prompted the Intervilles team to recruit him. A new role of referee, in the middle of the cows, which he endorsed until a stroke in 2007.

The kid from La Meinau has toured France and the world. Another stroke of genius from this Alsatian who never had the license (he failed the exam twice). His new challenge: to become a centenarian. For this, he also works his head, by dint of sudoku grids and crosswords, lying in front of his garage door. Bare feet and torsos even in winter. “It’s an originalsmiles his wife Hélène. You have to take it that way”. Even at 80, Robert Wurtz continues to whistle his life, in his own way.

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