Vale, Franz Beckenbauer: Tributes flow for ‘Der Kaiser’, one of football’s most influential figures
Franz Beckenbauer, a legend of German soccer and one of the world game’s most influential figures as a player, coach and administrator, has died at the age of 78.
The Bavarian is one of only three men – along with Brazil’s Mario Zagallo, who in an odd coincidence died last week, and France’s Didier Deschamps, to win the World Cup as a player and coach.
Beckenbauer, who also lost finals as player and coach, then went one step further, helping Germany secure hosting rights in 2006 and working as one of the organisers.
However, that proved his downfall as his reputation was subsequently tarnished by bribery and tax scandals.
Known as “Der Kaiser”, Beckenbauer joined Bayern as a junior and quickly became a key player for the Munich club. He won four German league titles, three European Cups and the Intercontinental Cup.
With his elegance and ease on the pitch, he redefined the sweeper role, turning it into one that launched attacks as well as ending them.
Two years after leading West Germany to European Championship success, he crowned his playing career by winning the 1974 World Cup at home.
He then helped the development of the sport in the USA, playing for New York Cosmos alongside Pele, not that everyone appreciated his genius. One executive, wondering why the new star was in defence, said: “Tell the Kraut to get his ass up front – we don’t pay a million for a guy to hang around in defence.”
Back in Europe he turned to coaching, steering West Germany to World Cup success in 1990.
His passing comes just months after that of Bobby Charlton, often a rival, who Beckenbauer man-marked in the 1966 World Cup final loss to England.
They were also competitors when both nations chased hosting rights for 2006. Beckenbauer won, and was feted for doing so. But over the years claims emerged that bribes were paid to secure the tournament.
Beckenbauer was formally made a criminal suspect by Swiss prosecutors but delays caused by poor health, then the pandemic meant the statute of limitations expired.
He was also suspended and fined by FIFA’s ethics committee for failing to co-operate with an inquiry into the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and forced to pay unpaid taxes of €5.5million ($A9 million) relating to the 2006 finals, for which he had claimed he was working voluntarily.
“He did everything that a German is not supposed to do,” former Bayern Munich teammate Paul Breitner once said.
“But he is forgiven for everything because he’s got a good heart, he’s a positive person and he’s always ready to help”.
A statement from his family to German news agency DPA read: “It is with deep sadness that we announce that my husband and our father, Franz Beckenbauer, passed away peacefully in his sleep yesterday, Sunday, surrounded by his family.”
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz posted on X that Beckenbauer had “inspired generations of enthusiasm for German football”, adding, “We will miss him.”