Socceroo, milkman, friend to Pelé : football mourns Hall of Famer Manfred Schaefer

Football fans around the world are mourning the death of Manfred Schaefer, the Socceroo, milkman and friend to Pelé, who has passed away at the age of 85.

Schaefer, who was known affectionately as ‘Manny', was born in Germany in 1938 and moved to Australia in the 1950s. He quickly made a name for himself as a player for South Melbourne in the Victorian State League, and was later selected for the Socceroos in 1966 – the first German-born player to represent Australia.

In the 1970s, Schaefer moved from playing to become a milkman in Sydney and was affectionately known as ‘The Milkman of Soccer'. During his time as a milkman, he maintained his links with the game, becoming a regular attendee at Sydney FC, the former NSW Premier League club.

Schaefer's friendship with Pelé, the Brazilian football icon, began when Pelé visited Australia in 1973. The two men struck up an unlikely friendship and would remain close for the rest of their lives.

Schaefer was inducted into the Football Federation Australia Hall of Fame in 2009, in recognition of his contribution to the game. He was also a long-time member of the Socceroos Supporters Club and was a passionate advocate for the game in Australia.

The news of Schaefer's passing has been met with sadness from the footballing community, with Pelé leading the tributes.

“He was a great friend, a great footballer and a great supporter of the game,” Pelé said.

Schaefer is survived by his wife, two children, four grandchildren and a large extended family. Football fans around the world will be sure to remember his contributions to the game and the legacy he leaves behind.