Evening Standard

For Franz Beckenbauer 1966 remains a miscarriage of justice. “That Geoff Hurst shot was not over the line,” he says bluntly of England’s third goal in extra-time that broke the resolve of the Germans at Wembley.

Had technology been available to the officials 44 years ago, we may not still be talking about the decision of the Russian linesman who said Hurst’s effort was over the line.

Fast forward to 2010 and the same thing happened in reverse in Bloemfontein as the Uruguayan referee and his assistants missed Frank Lampard’s first-half equaliser’ as Fabio Capello’s team crashed out of the World Cup.

The dodgy decisions between the two countries at the tournament would appear to have cancelled each other out and as we enjoy breakfast in the Michelangelo Towers, in the exclusive Johannesburg suburb Sandton, Beckenbauer — who sits on FIFA’s executive committee — is adamant that the use of technology in the game is a big no-no.

“I think it is a very difficult one because most of the decisions are very, very close,” he tells me. “Who will decide? At the end the people have to decide. Technology would mean too many interruptions.”

For Beckenbauer football is too unique to follow other sports. “Rugby is a different game, there is an interruption every two minutes, also in American football,” he adds. “Our soccer is a moving game, play, play, play, move, move, you don’t interrupt.”

What upsets the Kaiser’ more is the standard of refereeing during the first World Cup to be held in Africa. Howard Webb meted out 14 cards in the final in Soccer City and Beckenbauer believes the officiating at the tournament has not been up to scratch.

“There have been too many yellows,” he says. “Referee standards have to improve and I have been surprised by the quality. It has been poor.”

If change has to come the 64-year-old will accept UEFA president Michel Platini’s idea of having two extra referees behind each goal, an experiment used in last year’s Europa League.

“They have an agreement with FIFA to do another test for the next two years in the Europa and Champions Leagues, then we will see but I’m in favour of these two extra referees behind the goal,” says Beckenbauer.

“If that system was in place, the additional referee would have spotted the Thierry Henry incident [which enabled France to beat Ireland and qualify for 2010]. He would also have spotted the Lampard goal.”

The Lampard controversy has forced FIFA president Sepp Blatter to look again at the issue of technology but few expect change. Beckenbauer thinks that is right and he remains a deep football conservative.

He was opposed to expanding the World Cup from 16 to 32 teams and still remains the Bayern Munich boy, a believer in developing the game by nourishing grass roots, and nations remaining true to their historic origins. It is this that gives him great pride — that the German revival has come after a decade-long reform of the nation’s soccer which was started following defeat at the hands of Croatia in the 1998 World Cup, compounded by the 1-0 defeat against England in Euro 2000.

The result: the 2010 Germans, with an average age of 25, reflected the country’s multicultural youth: Mesut Ozil, of Turkish origin, and Jerome Boateng, of Ghanaian descent, are both 21 years old. Beckenbauer had no direct role in this but is proud of the development of the 20-year-old Thomas Muller from the youth ranks of Bayern.

“German football is like English football,” he says. “The Germans and the English do not play like a Brazilian side. They have to improve, bring up their young players, who have character.”

In coming third and being the only team to put four goals past three opponents — Australia, England and Argentina — Germany more than justified the Kaiser’s belief in his country’s youth. “I never thought the Germans would do badly. I saw their last two friendly games. Everybody’s moving, everybody enjoying themselves.

“It was a good sign, everybody wanted to play. I always thought they had the quality. You never underestimate the Germans. Even when they lost to Serbia they did not play badly.”

Not even the semi-final loss to ultimate champions Spain came as a real surprise. “Spain has played the best football in Europe for the last two years and, along with Brazil, were my tournament favourites,” he adds.

The team that really disappointed him was England. Immediately after their opening match Beckenbauer was quoted saying: “And what I saw from England in their 1-1 draw with the USA had very little to do with football. It seems to me the English had gone back to the bad old times of kick and rush.”

Now Beckenbauer says that he had been misquoted and gave me a fuller explanation of what has happened to English football, claiming that he felt Capello had made great strides during qualification and yet went backwards in South Africa.

“When I saw the English team before Fabio Capello took over, I thought they were not like the English sides I played against,” he argues. “They were not running and fighting any more. I thought, what has happened?”

He admits that, like many, he believed Capello had rediscovered the England Beckenbauer knew. “Capello is one of the most experienced coaches in the world and he seemed to change the style of the English team: more practical, better organised and disciplined. He had a personality and he gave the players the orders. But I was disappointed in how they performed.”

As good as the Italian is and despite his record, Beckenbauer worries about the use of foreign coaches by England. “You never bring in a foreign coach unless he is part of the development,” he claims.

“I can see a time when Germany may have a foreign coach but it must be part of an overall development. I remember England 40 years ago was one of the few countries where you were not allowed to bring in foreign players.”

Since that time, overseas owners have come in and Beckenbauer pointedly draws attention to how this could never happen in Germany.

“If a Middle-Eastern Sheikh comes to buy Bayern Munich, he could buy 49 per cent. Fifty-one per cent must stay in Germany with the club. That law came about because of the developments of international football.

“In England Roman Abramovich took over Chelsea and you have a lot of other examples. It is up to the English to think whether they want a German- style law but the problem of allowing foreign owners to buy and sell is, if they don’t like their club any more, then they are going away.

“The risk you take in having such freedom is that you could give your club away.”

But he agrees the changes that have come to English football mean the country is ready to host a World Cup in 2018 even thought it seems that when the FIFA executive meet in December the Kaiser, like Blatter, will be backing Russia. “England has the best infrastructure, they have everything there, so they have a strong bid.

“But Russia is strong. Russia had a great history in football. It was a very, very big disappointment they were not here in South Africa.”

Beckenbauer does not have to be told what hosting a World Cup can do for a country having been on the organising committee that brought the event to Germany four years ago.

So, despite being one of only two men to win World Cups as player and manager — the Brazilian Mario Zagallo being the other — Beckenbauer rates his achievement of winning the bid for 2006 as the biggest success in his football career. He says: “As a player, as a manager we have the chance to win the World Cup every four years, but to bring the World Cup to your country, it happens to you only once in your lifetime. For the next 50 years, there will be no World Cup in Germany.”

And what made the triumph all the sweeter was that Germans learnt to display their nationalism without threatening other countries.

“Yes,” he says. “That’s right. A united Germany never had the World Cup and during 2006 German flags were flying, people were singing the national anthem and could identify with the country for the first time. I was surprised.” So how did this come about?

“You know before the World Cup everybody was scared,” explains Beckenbauer. “Because of the Second World War, the Germans were always a little bit afraid, because they still feel. . .”

As he pauses, I suggest, “Guilt?”

“Guilt, yeah. Not as much in our generation because we were born after the World War. But our parents and our grandparents were involved so we felt a little bit guilty. There was a release at the World Cup.”

And showing the matches on the big screens proved a great, unexpected success. “Eighteen million people watched the games on big television screens. We had no experience when we organised the first fanfest and we wondered how many people would come. We expected 5,000 to 8,000 but a million people turned up in that street in Berlin. Also in Munich we thought we would get maybe 5,000, 10,000 maximum and there were more than 100,000. It was fantastic.”

All this was helped by the English fans’ exemplary behaviour. “There were 35,000 English people who came to the country without tickets. Normally they drink beer and there is fighting but, because of the public viewing places, they could see and they were dancing and celebrating.

The English fans behaved themselves extremely well.”

And, having used the World Cup to get his countrymen to display a non-threatening nationalism, Beckenbauer has no more football fields to conquer.


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