The ex-Bayer Leverkusen and Lecce player was at the centre of controversy after he appeared at a Central Coast Mariners costume party dressed at Adolf Hitler ? his East-German nationality fuelling unreserved criticism from around the world.
Suddenly, the man who had been the driving force of the Mariners? midfield throughout their short existence, found himself subjugated to the substitute bench for the remainder of the campaign. His last appearance in the familiar yellow of the Central Coast would be a cameo role, coming off the bench in the closing stages of the Mariners? 1-0 Grand Final loss to rivals the Newcastle Jets.
After winning an NSL Championship with the Perth Glory and appearing in two A-League Grand Finals with the Central Coast, it appeared as though Andre Gumprecht?s Australian career was dead ? for reasons suggested to be more politically motivated than football-related.
But what followed was a miraculous resurrection of the forgotten man of Australian football. His savior: the Bankstown City Lions.
It would the the Lions? humble abode of Jensen Park where the East-German would set about proving himself as a footballer, with a string of energetic performances almost inspiring Bankstown to a finals berth.
However, Gumprecht?s labour in the Telechoice Premier League was enough to earn the popular figure a one-year contract with the Central Coast Mariners for the fourth season of the A-League.
Though Peter Tsekenis? side missed out on a ?Top 5? place, one man will always have special memories of a club who would not discriminate or stereotype and who appreciated that the most important talk in football is done on the pitch, with two feet and a ball?
This week, Football NSW catches up for perhaps the last time with the whole-hearted and extremely grateful Andre Gumprecht.
FNSW: Andre, you seemed down and out after the controversy surrounding your last season in the A-League. How important was playing for Bankstown?
AG: During the Premier League season I wanted to show that I could play in the A-League and I?m very thankful to the Bankstown City Lions, who allowed me to be in the shop-window and to be in a team environment when the A-League wasn?t on.
I needed something to stay fit and Bankstown gave me the opportunity. I?m very pleased at the moment and I?m very glad the Mariners came along and signed me up again.
FNSW: Your demotion to the bench and eventual exile from the Mariners was shrouded in uncertainty. It was suggested that your personal turmoil was motivated more by politics than football. Any comment?
AG: At the end of the day the coach makes the decision and whether it is right or wrong, you are an employee and have to deal with the decision that is made.
It will be the same approach from me in the future, because we have a boss and he makes the decisions which we must go along with. Whatever happens, I?m going to do the best in any situation I?m facing.
It obviously took a little bit longer for the Mariners to make their mind up but I?m very happy that they decided to take me on board again. I?m really looking forward to having another successful year with the Mariners.
FNSW: Now that you are back with the Mariners, do you have any idea of what role you will play in the side?
AG: The Mariners say they will give me a fair chance and the rest is up to me.
In any professional environment, you?re not walking in and getting gifts. You have to prove yourself, train hard, perform well and you will be picked and this applies to any player coming in to the club.
We have been talking to each other about what we are expecting. We have to get on with the job as quickly as we can.
I had my first training session the other morning, it went really well and I?m happy to be back in a professional environment.
FNSW: You have signed for the Mariners for one year. What does the future hold for you beyond that?
AG: All I want to do is to stay fit and prove my ability to play in the A-League and whatever comes after that is a little too far ahead to predict.
But I plan to play football for at least another three years.
FNSW: Andre Gumprecht, thanks for your time, we?ve enjoyed watching you in the Telechoice Premier League this season and good luck for the future.
AG: Thank you very much.
-By Chris Paraskevas