Franz Beckenbauer is dead. The German football legend died on Sunday at the age of 78.
“It is with deep sadness that we announce that my husband and our father Franz Beckenbauer passed away peacefully in his sleep yesterday, Sunday, surrounded by his family.”the family told the German Press Agency on Monday (January 8, 2024). “We ask that you be able to grieve in silence and refrain from asking any questions.”
Beckenbauer is considered the greatest German football legend, he was a sporting “lightning figure”: he was world champion as a player and coach, and as an ambassador he brought the 2006 World Cup to Germany. With FC Bayern Munich he won, among other things, four national championship titles, was winner of the European Cup three times, he triumphed once in the European Cup Winners’ Cup, and once he celebrated success in the World Cup.
“Franz Beckenbauer is the greatest personality FC Bayern has ever had,” said Bayern Munich’s honorary president Uli Hoeneß, who became world and European champions together with Beckenbauer. “As a player, coach, president, person: unforgettable. Nobody will ever reach him. People can say they saw football in Franz Beckenbauer’s time. He was a friend to me, a unique companion and a gift to all of us. Dear Franz, rest in peace!”
World Cup title in 1974 as the crowning glory Playing career
Legend has it that Beckenbauer only came to FC Bayern as a junior player because of a “Watschn”. Beckenbauer was actually supposed to switch to rival 1860. But when he and his club SC 1906 Munich played against the “Lions”, an opponent slapped him. “To the club”said Beckenbauer, “I’m not changing”. Instead, he went to Bayern and quickly rose to become a top performer.
With his elegance and ease on the field, he redefined the role of the libero. The crowning achievement of his playing career was winning the home World Cup in 1974. Two years earlier he had already led the German European Championship winning team. Beckenbauer was now finally the “best of his time”.
Beckenbauer was a national player until February 1977, when he played for the DFB team for the 103rd time in a 1-0 defeat against France.
World Cup title as team boss in 1990
In the same year, Beckenbauer’s national team career not only ended, he also left FC Bayern. From then on, the “Kaiser” played in the USA for Cosmos New York, and Pelé was one of his teammates. After three years, Beckenbauer returned to Germany and won another championship title with Hamburger SV in 1982. He then moved one last time, his new club was the old one, he played in New York until 1983.
Just one year after the end of his playing career, after the preliminary round exit at the 1984 European Championship, Beckenbauer became team boss at the DFB, even without a coaching license. He led the national team straight into the 1986 World Cup final, but lost there to Argentina (2:3). Four years later, they achieved revenge against Diego Maradona’s Argentinians with the World Cup triumph in Rome.
Florian Eckl, Sportschau, January 8th, 2024 5:58 p.m
Beckenbauer then resigned as team boss after six years – but not before proudly announcing that this team would be invincible for years to come. This was a heavy burden for his successor Berti Vogts.
As a coach, Beckenbauer was responsible for Olympique Marseille for a few months in the 1990/91 season, and years later he took on the same job twice more at FC Bayern: When he took over in February 1994, Bayern were fifth in the table. In the end they became champions. Two years later, Beckenbauer stepped in again for a few weeks and won the UEFA Cup.
Allegations about the 2006 World Cup award
The DFB used his charisma and reputation in its bid for the 2006 World Cup. The “summer fairy tale” became Beckenbauer’s highlight as an official. In terms of sport, the home World Cup was a complete success with a narrow semi-final defeat and third place.
Later, the “summer fairy tale” also cast shadows on the shining figure Beckenbauer; it involved a million-dollar payment related to the awarding of the tournament. The transfer of the equivalent of 6.7 million euros first to Qatar to the official Mohamed bin Hammam and then via the World Cup organizing committee and FIFA back to lender Robert Louis-Dreyfus also put Beckenbauer in distress.
The proceedings against him were separated from those against the other accused in the summer of 2019. Ultimately, like the case against three close companions from the summer fairy tale era, it came under the statute of limitations. Former top German politicians defended Beckenbauer in the scandal surrounding the 2006 World Cup.
It was only when the “Summer Fairy Tale” trial was discontinued in March 2020 due to the statute of limitations that Beckenbauer no longer had to fear legal consequences. He was never proven to have committed any wrongdoing.
Criticism of statements about Qatar
In recent years, Beckenbauer has largely withdrawn from the public eye. Before, however, he had often answered when asked. And he was often asked, and not just about football. Sometimes maybe he should have kept quiet. Once, when the 2020 World Cup had already been awarded to Qatar and there had been criticism of the human rights situation in the emirate, Beckenbauer said: “I haven’t seen a single slave in Qatar. They’re running around freely there.”
He also once talked about dying. Death, said Franz Beckenbauer, “It will come at some point and no one can hide. You have to see death as a friend that accompanies you into another life.”