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FRISCO, Texas – The North Texas soccer community lost one of its own last week as renowned German player and coach Horst Bertl passed away at the age of 74 on Feb. 6, 2022.  

“Horst Bertl is a soccer legend in Dallas,” said FC Dallas President Dan Hunt, who first met Bertl while playing youth soccer in the area. “He helped grow the game and his presence in the youth system was amazing. It’s a terrible loss, he was an incredibly nice person and great for the development of the game in the metroplex.”

An accomplished player in Germany, Bertl totaled 174 Bundesliga games for Hannover 96, Borussia Dortmund and Hamburger SV. Bertl’s five-season stint in Hamburg was the most successful of his playing career as he won the German Cup (DFB Pokal) in 1976, the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in ’77 and the Bundesliga title in ’79. Following his Bundesliga triumph, Bertl sought a new challenge and signed with the Houston Hurricane of the North American Soccer League where he played for two seasons before the team folded in late 1980. After two years as a player-coach in the Major Indoor Soccer League, Bertl hung up his boots for good and focused on the coaching career that would make him a household name in Texas youth soccer.

Bertl joined the Comets Soccer Club in 1984 and helped usher in a more comprehensive and competitive era of soccer development in the North Texas region. His former pupils include Hall of Famer and five-time MLS Cup champion Jeff Agoos and Dallas Burn/FC Dallas great Chad Deering. As a player agent, Bertl helped U.S. national teamers Brian McBride and Paul Caligiuri launch their European careers in his native Germany.

“Bertl’s Comets teams always represented the best of what soccer could be,” said Chris Hayden, VP of FC Dallas Youth who grew up playing against Bertl’s Comets and later worked alongside him. “Teamwork, work ethic, flair, and sportsmanship were always tangible and observable in Horst’s teams, and his teams were always a reflection of how he lived his life; simple, organized, and with clear purpose.”

Hurricane 79 Home Horst Bertl, Nino Zec, Howie Charbonneau
Bertl (left) alongside Houston Hurricane teammates Nino Zec and Howie Charbonneau

“His approach with me, in particular, left a very indelible mark,” said FCD’s Director of Methodology Marco Ferruzzi, who played under Bertl in the late ‘80s. “He was a midfielder, as I was, so I took basically everything that he said to heart. He put application in the sessions. He inspired me and I know that he inspired other players as well.

“He really developed the idea of having professionally run youth clubs in this part of Texas. And it trickled down into a lot of other places, not just Texas, California and other states. But having this idea of meaningful training and a professional focus on developing young players, promoting them and progressing them on to what the next step would be.”

In 2012, Bertl became a part of the FC Dallas family as FC Dallas Youth acquired the Comets and Bertl became Central Director of the FCDY Dallas Division, as well as managing FCD’s Brookhaven College and Greenhill School training facilities.

“Years ago, after my playing days were over, I decided to stay in the U.S. to get involved in the development of the sport,” Bertl said at the time. “It always fascinated me to see young players getting passionate about the game of soccer. FC Dallas provides the environment where these talents can fulfill their dreams. It is exciting to be part of that.”

“Horst had a positive and meaningful long-term influence over a generation or two of youth players in the Dallas area,” Hayden said. “His contribution both to the overall soccer environment in Dallas and over hundreds and hundreds of individual players that he coached and mentored will never be forgotten. Simply put, Horst Bertl made a difference in the lives of so many of us lucky enough to have played for or worked with him.”