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.

Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
Morrissey pictured in 2013
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Robyn Lawley
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine