The 'Tanavalla Kid' – when World Cup hero Mario played a game in Kerry
THEY are calling him 'Super Mario' at home in Germany, but World Cup goal scorer Mario Goetze is the 'Tanavalla Kid' in Listowel, Co Kerry, where he played six years ago.
Goetze, who scored the winning goal against Argentina in Sunday night's final, was part of the German under-16 squad that played an international friendly against Ireland, hosted by Listowel Celtic Football Club in 2008.
He didn't score that night but he set up Germany's goal after only two minutes of play at Listowel Celtic's grounds in Tanavalla. The game ended 1-1 but coach Vincent Butler says Ireland should have won.
Playing in goal that night was Marc Andre Ter Stegen, who was recently signed to Barcelona for €12m.
Mr Butler remembers the game well, but has only a vague recollection of the German players. "They had some very good players though and he would have been among them - but Ireland still should have won that night."
Listowel Celtic chairman Aidan O'Connor admits he doesn't remember much about the future world superstar that night. He was too busy keeping his eyes on Brian Murphy and David Culhane, two of the club's players on the Irish squad.
"I do remember the night though because it was brutal," he said. "It was in April 2008 and it was pouring rain."
Still, about 3,000 people turned up in Listowel to watch the match, the first time an international game had been played there.
John Delaney had travelled to Co Kerry the previous year with FAI officials and was so impressed by the facilities he told the club they'd be hosting an international game the following year.
"That was great, but then when we heard it was going to be Germany we were delighted," Mr O'Connor said.
Playwright John B Keane's grand nephews, Nicc and Alexei Schuster, both fans of Bayern Munich, also met Goetze in Dublin in 2012 when Germany were playing Ireland.
Their father John said: "They asked him if it was true he had played in Listowel and he told them it was – and that he would love to come back."
And although Super Mario has gone on to worldwide fame, the two local lads on the team haven't done too badly either. Murphy is the senior captain and Culhane is on the Kerry football panel.