Football: Beckenbauer the bid meister

'I meet many old friends, like Bobby Charlton. But the World Cup is not life or death, is it?'

HIS RETREATING hairline and professorial spectacles apart, Franz Beckenbauer retains all the youthful lines and unassuming grace of the player who inspired West Germany on the pitch and off it to become a legendary figure in World Cup football. Yes, the hair has gone elegantly grey, too, but it hardly matters. As the only man in the history of the game to have captained and coached different German teams to the ultimate triumph, he will remain forever worthy of our respect and our attention.

Hence, in Cannes last week, there was an orderly queue to stop and chat with the erstwhile Kaiser as he played his new role as a roving ambassador for Germany's bid to host the 2006 World Cup finals at a modest trade stand in the bowels of the Football Expo fair. The famous old film festival, for just a day, was forgotten.

Beckenbauer, of course, has won and lost in World Cup finals, experiences which, in truth, put the sole shaft of English glory involving our footballing knights and 2006 envoys, Sir Bobby Charlton and Sir Geoff Hurst, in the shade when it comes to that age-old final test: put your medals on the table. A losing player against England in 1966 and losing coach against Diego Maradona's Argentina in 1986, he tasted triumph, on the pitch, in 1974 against Johan Cruyff's Netherlands and, on the bench, in 1990, against the same chunkier Maradona's men.

"There is, really and truly, a lot of money in football today and that is the most striking thing," he said. "But in Germany, we are working to preserve the game as a sport, to ensure it is not overtaken entirely by business and the financial needs of the owners. This protection of our sport is important to us. Just look at the English Premiership. There, it seems, the business side of everything seems to have taken greater and greater importance than before. The clubs, some of them anyway, are quoted on the stock market. My club, Bayern Munich, is still only a private sports club with a committee."

Quietly, without drinks, canapes, gimmicks or razzmatazz, Beckenbauer exuded the softly, softly approach that he and the Germans believe will, eventually, bring the 2006 finals to Deutschland. The local paper Nice- Matin called him an ambassadeur de charme and could not resist talking of his legendary class. Others may have been buttoned up tight in double- breasted suits, but Beckenbauer was at ease in a sports jacket and a smile.

"I have always been easy- going, but that does not mean I am not working hard," he said. "I am enjoying this job, of course. I am the president of our 2006 World Cup bid. That means I meet many old friends, like Bobby Charlton. But it is not life or death, is it? It is a sport. For pleasure." Gliding imperiously through a minefield of questions, he was as much in control as ever, admitting he was pleased to see more attacking play now.

"Some of the games I see today are superb at club level, just as they were at the World Cup last summer where, in my opinion, France deserved to be the champions. They were the best team overall with the exception, sometimes, of Holland.

"I cannot argue, either, with Zinedine Zidane's claims to be the best player in the world. He was the No 1 at the World Cup. I like his artistic style. He would be a good player for Bayern alongside Lizarazu... another really super professional with great mental, physical and technical ability. These players show the level at which the modern game is now played. The speed of the game means that players must be in peak condition all the time."

While Germany goes quietly about the business of persuading the world that the gentleman's agreement with Sir Bert Millichip should have been respected, Beckenbauer presents a warm front and absorbs all the chill winds emanating from the fall-out of the Fifa-Uefa power struggle and the residual denials of any previous accord from the English Football Association and its representatives. "I think most of the issues are clear when you consider the candidates for 2006," he said. "Germany is in the heart of Europe, possesses all the necessary infrastructure, has a stable economy and a stable political system and everything in place and ready for hosting the tournament. I would say that if we were asked to host the World Cup tomorrow, we are ready to do so.

"Of course, every country has a chance. All the African nations, Brazil and England. The most important thing is not the words and the messages now, but convincing the 24 members of the Fifa executive committee who will make the decision. We have, at this Exposition, chosen not to hold a presentation event or a conference. Our style of campaign is non-aggressive. There is no point in being drawn into arguments now or getting anxious too soon. The decision, after all, is not being taken until March 2000, is it?"

Back on a subject close to home he was more passionate - Bayern and their hopes in the Champions' League. "It is going well," he grinned. "I enjoyed the matches with Manchester United. And we are on top in the Bundesliga, too. I feel the team has a new energy now, this season." With another smile for the omnipresent flashbulbs, he proved such difficulties are unlikely to cramp his progress. Germany, with Beckenbauer, are back on the move in the global game.

News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence