Football: Rematch for Bobby and the Kaiser

Nick Callow in Singapore sees two legends and friends do battle for the world
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BOBBY CHARLTON spent the 1966 World Cup final following Franz Beckenbauer around the Wembley pitch. He was asked to do the same by Alf Ramsey when England met West Germany again in the 1970 quarter-final in Mexico. They ended with honours even and it was, says Charlton, the start of a beautiful friendship.

But now it is Der Kaiser's turn to try to shadow Charlton as the two legends lock horns again as ambassadors in their countries' attempts to secure the rights to stage the 2006 finals.

The English and German camps are displaying characteristic indifference towards each other's bids, albeit behind enemy lines and out of public ear-shot, and the indications are that Charlton is on course to win this latest encounter, but not at the expense of their enduring friendship.

He and Beckenbauer have spent the past week campaigning for 2006 here in Singapore, where Fifa officials and other football power-brokers have been attending the world's first football trade fair. The competition was as fierce as ever with the prize just as great, but their mutual respect remains intact.

"I have been asked to help my national association get the major event in world sport for England and Franz has been asked to do the same for Germany," Charlton said. "I will expect him to do as much for Germany as I will for England and so long as the competition remains fair, to the winner will go the spoils.

"When I think back to '66, Franz and I spent most of the day looking at each other and as a result we didn't contribute anything to the match in a really positive way. We were so busy making sure each other didn't do anything that we cancelled each other out. It's probably why we've become such good friends - because we started so close to each other.

"He was a great player, very positive, very fast and always dangerous. So it was my job to stop him in 1966 and 1970. He was the most dangerous player they had. He could do extraordinary things with his pace, control and ability, but if someone ran with him all the time it seemed to limit his danger.

"Franz Beckenbauer is one of my very closest friends. He is a very close friend now and will always be so, for as far as I can ever imagine. I do not see our World Cup bid as a personal confrontation," Charlton said.

Nor does Beckenbauer, but they are clearly the international focal point for their rival nations, with Charlton the senior in age (by eight years, at 60), and also reputation judging by the positive response to England's bid in Singapore.

And that is why England have been quietly celebrating following the sounds of retreat which have been emanating from Beckenbauer this week.

Germany thought they would be without European opposition when they announced their bid during Euro 96, unaware that England had planned to do the same, three years previously, assuming they could make a success of staging the European Championship.

Beckenbauer said: "It is my opinion that it would be completely wrong to have two European candidates for 2006 because it would simply split the vote and let in another country such as South Africa.

"Bobby knows my concern and I have spoken to him about it this week. We have an expression in Germany that if two people fight for one thing, a third will end up smiling. Like Bobby I grew up in a time when football was everything. We begged to play football all the time and had few other distractions. We need to keep kids interested in football today so why waste so much money on two bids when it could be used so much more sensibly in things like youth development? I know Bobby and England are in this to win and it is too late for either side to withdraw now, but it would be better to sort out this nonsense."

The truth is that Beckenbauer and Charlton could well mark each other out of the game again. England's bid is impeccable but they are well aware that Fifa want to award the World Cup to Africa as soon as possible and the South African president, Danny Joordan, confirmed to me on Thursday that they will be ready by 2006 and bidding for it.

Beckenbauer and Charlton agree that it would be great for football if South Africa succeed, and it was England's ambassador Charlton who helped Japan and Korea land the 2002 finals. They just hope Fifa delay the breakthrough until 2010.

"Let them see England stage the greatest ever finals in 2006, and that is what they will be," Charlton concluded, "and then they can have the next one."

With the voting still over two years away, time is on everyone's side.