Bayern Munich club president Franz Beckenbauer has one of the most enviable CVs in the game, and Uli Hesse-Lichtenberger tells us how the man can do no wrong in his native Germany
Distinguishing features Awesome, really. He looks like the royalty he is and doesn’t even need the normally imperative elephant’s ears and protruding noses the less noble employ to stress their status. Actually, he may very well be the first person to rule Germany who’s not an ugly gnome, a shrivelled old fogey or a walking glandular disorder. Has the healthy tan that betrays the good golfer, sports the receding hairline which proves he’s been there and seen it all, and took up wearing understated glasses to suggest he might even be a bit of a thinker.
Habitat Most often sighted on TV or on the golf course, as he doesn’t need to work for a living. A topic like money is simply beneath him. He could spend the rest of his life without a nickel in the bank, as I have yet to hear of a shop, restaurant or hotel where he is handed a bill. It goes without saying that he didn’t “buy” (yuck!) the club he watches over, instead the faithful pleaded with him to become president.
What use is he He won everything there is to win (and then some) as a player. Then, without any previous coaching experience, he led awful German teams to the World Cup finals in 1986 and 1990. Later he took charge of a Bayern side on the brink of self-destruction, said he could work no miracles – and won the championship. Had he been on the Titanic, the iceberg would have melted just in time.
Who remembers his birthday? At Bayern, they never chant his name, celebrate him on banners or write to newspapers to defend his actions. Such things are for pitiful mortals. Beckenbauer is so far beyond good and evil people won’t even understand what you mean when you ask them how they feel about him. He has chosen not to be loved in the conventional sense, settling for hushed devotion instead.
Quote Unquote His quotes mean nothing, as he’s taken up the motto of the former Chancellor Konrad Adenauer – “What do I care about the rubbish I told you yesterday?” This season alone he first called Bayern “a schoolboy side”, then claimed they were “better than the team of the Seventies” (which won three European Cups). Personally, I like his “I’m only a minor figure” best, but the majority of football people love to fall back upon the stock reply he had for pestering hacks when he was coaching: “Let’s wait and see”. (Must be pronounced with an easy-going Bavarian accent.)
Other offences to be taken into consideration Munich journos say they “sometimes feel compelled to protect Beckenbauer from himself”, because he loves to talk faster than he thinks. He regularly appears on RTL TV’s (Vice) Champions League show to do a good cop/bad cop act with host Günther Jauch, who usually manages to coax a crushing verdict on a player or a snooty remark about “the Rosenborg Trondheims of this world” out of Beckenbauer. Few, however, have ever really felt insulted. They’ll grin and say: “Well, that’s just him – the Kaiser.”
From WSC 148 June 1999. What was happening this month