Franz Beckenbauer, ‘Der Kaiser’ of world football, dies at 78 | ET REALITY

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Franz Beckenbauer, a World Cup-winning player and coach who became the defining figure of German soccer for more than half a century, died on Sunday. He was 78 years old.

He died at home, his family confirmed in a statement. The statement does not specify where he lived or indicate the cause of his death. His relatives had previously suggested to the German media that his health was in poor condition.

Known throughout an illustrious, trophy-laden career as “Der Kaiser,” Beckenbauer had retreated from public view in recent years, hit by the death of one of his five children, Stephan, from a brain tumor in 2015, and for a heart bypass. operation next year.

Until then he had had a totemic and magnetic presence in both German football and German public life. He was a player, a defender of unusual poise and elegance. He was a coach who displayed a deft touch and an easy way with his players. And he was an executive who proved to be a skilled diplomat and networking expert.

But, above all, Beckenbauer was the winner. He won relentlessly at Bayern Munich, the club he joined as a teenager and with which he was so intertwined that Uli Hoeness, its long-time president, called him the “greatest personality” in its history.

Over 14 years at the club, Beckenbauer won four German championships, four German Cups, three European Cups and one Intercontinental Cup, the precursor to the Club World Cup. He was twice elected Ballon d’Or, the prestigious award given by France Football magazine to the European Player of the Year, being the only defender to win it more than once. He would earn three more titles during a stint in the fall of his career with the New York Cosmos.

Even more notable is that he also won with his national team. Beckenbauer helped guide West Germany to the 1966 World Cup final, losing in extra time to hosts England in a match he felt he was “too young” to influence, as he put it. Four years later, he was part of the West Germany team that lost to Italy in a thrilling semi-final dubbed the “Game of the Century.”

In 1974, two years after winning the European Championship, he finally conquered the world’s pinnacle of the game, leading West Germany to a 2-1 victory against the Netherlands at home in Munich. As captain, Beckenbauer became the first player to lift the current incarnation of the World Cup trophy.

I would find it again 16 years later. Beckenbauer had agreed, somewhat reluctantly, to coach the West German national team in 1984, accepting the position only because he felt what he later described as a “moral obligation.”

They reached the World Cup final two years later, losing 3-2 to Diego Maradona and Argentina, and then got their revenge in 1990, beating the same opponent by a single goal in Rome in the final. Beckenbauer thus secured his place in an exclusive group of only three men who won the World Cup as a player and coach.

Even after his direct involvement in football ended, on the field, he continued to win. Beckenbauer was at the forefront of a reunified Germany’s attempt to host the 2006 World Cup; The success of the bid, as well as the eventual success of the tournament, led him to nominate that World Cup as the one to It meant more to him personally..

It also came to tarnish his legacy. Throughout his career, his private life and his conduct as an executive caused damage to his reputation and more than one brush with the law: both his tax affairs and his romantic life attracted scrutiny and, in the case of the former, fines of seven figures.

“He did everything a German is not supposed to do,” his former teammate Paul Breitner once said. “He got divorced, left his children, left with his girlfriend, had problems with the tax collectors, left his girlfriend again. But everything is forgiven because he has a good heart, he is a positive person and is always willing to help. He doesn’t hide his weaknesses, he doesn’t sweep his mistakes under the rug.”

However, allegations of corruption surrounding the 2006 World Cup selection process were not so easily forgiven. A decade after his role as a figurehead of that tournament, Beckenbauer evaded criminal conviction in Switzerland, home of FIFA, soccer’s governing body, only when a trial was abandoned just before the verdict was due due to a Swiss rule related to the amount of time. elapsed since the alleged commission of the crimes.

He always denied the accusations. “We didn’t want to bribe anyone and we didn’t bribe anyone,” he wrote in a column for the German newspaper Bild in 2016.

That trial came a few years after Beckenbauer participated in the tainted FIFA vote that led to the 2018 and 2022 tournaments being awarded to Russia and Qatar. Beckenbauer was among the officials accused of wrongdoing.

Franz Anton Beckenbauer was born in September 1945, the son of Franz and Antonie Beckenbauer, in Giesing, a working-class suburb of Munich, near what would become the city’s Olympic stadium. His father was a postal worker. Franz was identified as a player of uncommon talent when he was a child by the city’s two professional teams, 1860 Munich and Bayern Munich.

His decision to play for Bayern marked the moment in which the team’s destiny was marked. Without Beckenbauer, Bayern “would never have become the club it is today,” as the eternal German champion put it.

Originally a midfielder, Beckenbauer spent most of his career as a “libero”, effectively a deep sweeper who was given license to move forward and initiate attacks whenever the opportunity arose.

“For me he was the best player in German history,” said current national team coach Julian Nagelsmann. “His portrayal of the libero role changed the game. This role and his friendship with the ball made him a free man. Franz Beckenbauer was able to float on the grass. As a footballer, and later also as a coach, he was sublime. He was above things.”

Beckenbauer made more than 500 appearances for Bayern (and another 103 for West Germany) before announcing his decision to leave the country and join the Cosmos in 1977. It was a decision that cost him his place in the 1978 World Cup, when The German football federation decreed that it would not select players who worked outside Europe.

He didn’t regret it. He would later describe his years with the Cosmos, where he counted Pelé among his teammates, as the best of his life.

In Munich, he said, he couldn’t go to lunch without “the newspapers reporting on my main course.” The cosmopolitanism of New York, by contrast, offered a certain degree of freedom. “In Munich we were all German players,” he said. “In the Cosmos there were 14 nationalities, and Pelé.”

However, anonymity was only relative. One night, Beckenbauer was having dinner with Ahmet Ertegun, the founder of Atlantic Records and the driving force behind the Cosmos, on Second Avenue. Beckenbauer saw Woody Allen and asked the impeccably connected Mr. Ertegun to introduce him.

As Gavin Newsham details in his 2006 book “Once In A Lifetime,” his history of the Cosmos, the businessman duly obeyed and crossed the restaurant followed by an unusually shy Beckenbauer. However, when they reached the director’s table, before Ertegun could speak, Allen quickly stood up, an expression of disbelief on his face. “My God, Franz Beckenbauer,” he said.

Beckenbauer is survived by his wife, Heidrunknown as Heidi, and her two children, Joel and francescaas well as two children from his previous marriages, thomas and Miguel.

Melissa Eddy and Tariq Panja contributed reports.

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