Farewell to Kaiser Franz. Germany mourns Beckenbauer

Franz Beckenbauer – Reuters

The emperor has abdicated. Franz Beckenbauer, known to everyone simply as Kaiser Franz, captain of Bayern Munich and West Germany, passed away on Sunday at the age of 78. A footballer, a coach, a man who profoundly changed German football, on and off the pitch. He who had left Giesing, a working-class district of Munich. His father, who had his name, was a postal worker, while his uncle Alfons had played for Bayern Munich in the 1930s.

Story of a predestined

A sign of destiny for someone like Franz, who after starting with the small SC München 1906, seemed instead to be headed to Munich 1860, at that time the most important team in the Bavarian capital. What changed his life and the football geography of the city and German football was an episode that happened to the young Beckenbauer at 12 years old. During a match against the same age of Munich 1860 an opponent, Gerhard König slaps him. Franz decides that he will never play for that team. In fact he accepts Bayern Munich’s offer. On the other bank of the Isar, within a few years the new president Wilhelm Neudecker will set up a team that will mark the beginning of the club’s first real winning cycle, with an ungainly striker from Nördlingen Gerd Müller and a goalkeeper with the reflexes of a cat Sepp Maier. On this trio, the Yugoslavian coach Zlatko Čajkovski, lover of sausages, cigarettes and talented players, laid the foundations for a team that would win the first German title in 1969 with Branko Zebec but which would then never stop until 1976 Conquer everything he can conquer in Germany, in Europe and in the world. At the center is him, Franz. First midfielder, then libero. Body, class, personality.

The first German footballer with his “agent”

He is the first German player to have a manager Robert Schwan, who was also Bayern’s sporting director and also one of the first to become a global figure. He becomes one thanks to his games, his angelic appearance, his ability to embody the son-that-everyone-would-like-to-have. He records, acts and lends his face to many products. And then there is the national team. He arrived there in 1965, in the decisive match for England’s qualification for the World Cup where he played an exceptional tournament. He is an all-round midfielder, he knows how to defend, attack and score. It is the revelation of the World Cup. He doesn’t win, just as he won’t win in 1970, but in that edition he delivered to world football one of the most famous images in the history of the game. A player with his arm in a sling at the Azteca Stadium against Italy, in the match of the century, a symbol of someone who gives everything on the pitch and doesn’t like to lose. 1974 is the masterpiece. Beyond his sporting performances, after the lost match against East Germany, it was he who emotionally took his teammates by the hand. He will lead them until the final won at the Olympiastadion against Cruijff’s Holland. For the Kaiser, a nickname that some believe was given after a photo of the young Franz next to a bust of Emperor Francis I of Habsburg, it is the high point of his career. After three years he will go to the New York Cosmos where he will be alongside Pelè and one of the subjects of an Andy Warhol work and then he will return to Germany to play for Hamburg, where the general manager was that Gunter Netzerto whom as a footballer he had always been contrasted in terms of personality and style.

The charisma of the coach of world champion Germany

A charismatic man who in 1984 was called to the bedside of the West Germany national team, fresh from the bitter elimination from the European Championships in France. He, as a new Caesar, who has never coached before, comes, sees and wins. After losing a 1986 final in Mexico against Maradona’s Argentina, four years later in 1990 he took revenge in another Olympic stadium in Rome, becoming after Zagallo, who curiously passed away shortly before him, the second ever to win a World Cup as a player and as a coach. On the bench, apart from an adventure with Olympique Marseille as technical director, he will only return in case of emergency and with his Bayern, with whom he will nominally win a UEFA Cup in 1996. At his old club Beckenbauer would be president between 1994 and 2009 and a living legend as long as his health supported him. The halls of power will be his true home and not without controversy. Beckenbauer will be one of the vice-presidents of the German Federation and in this role he will be one of the main supporters of the awarding of the World Cup to Germany in 2006. Accusations of corruption have rained down on him, which will end with the statute of limitations. The last years will be of slow decline and marked by the death of Stephan, one of his sons. The man who changed German football is slowly passing away. He appears little, he speaks even less, like the old rulers nearing their end.

The palmares of Kaiser Franz

With West Germany he participated in three world championships (1966, 1970, 1974) and two European championships (1972, 1976), winning the 1972 European championship and the 1974 world championship as a protagonist. He also boasts a place of honor at the World Cup (1966) and one at the European Championships (1976), as well as third place at the 1970 Mexican World Cup; on this last occasion he also took part in the so-called match of the century Italy-Germany 4-3. As a coach he led West Germany, Olympique Marseille and Bayern Munich (on two occasions), winning the 1990 World Cup, the 1993-1994 German Championship and the 1995-1996 UEFA Cup. Together with Mário Zagallo and Didier Deschamps, he is one of only three personalities in the world of football who have managed to win the World Cup both as players and coaches (and, like Deschamps, as captain of the winning national team). As coach he also reached the final of the 1986 World Cup, but was defeated by Argentina led by Diego Armando Maradona.

Since 2009 he was honorary president of Bayern Munich. He was president of the organizing committee of the 2006 world championship.

The post first appeared on www.avvenire.it

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