10 Mar 2020
Anyone who experienced it will still remember the euphoria that gripped Germany at the time. Brilliant weather, full stadiums and the triumphant public viewings in squares, streets and pubs across the land. The fact that the German team failed to win the tournament hardly dampened the mood. From then on, June and July 2006 were considered a “summer fairy tale.” It was almost too good to be true.
The FIFA World Cup host role going to Germany had not been a foregone conclusion. Franz Beckenbauer, who virtually invented the sweeper position as a player and later became world champion again as a coach, played a central role as head of the organizing committee working to land the host bid.
Before the decisive vote on the host nation, Beckenbauer had flown around the world in order to cast Germany in a favorable light. Soon a dubious cash flow of €6.7 million ($7.5 million) between the years 2002 and 2005 was being discussed. The matter quickly became confused: in 2002 Beckenbauer had received a loan for this amount from the now deceased entrepreneur Robert Louis-Dreyfus.
The money then flowed into the accounts of the then-FIFA official Mohammed bin Hammam in Qatar. The repayment to Louis-Dreyfus three years later was made from a DFB account via FIFA.
These transfers are at the heart of a legal process in Switzerland that opens on Monday. Were these payments bribes? Was the World Cup bought?
Beckenbauer, who for a long time held the honorary title of “Lichtgestalt” (“figure of light”) in Germany because he apparently succeeded in everything, has until now managed to avoid becoming a central figure of interest for the prosecuting lawyers.
The men in the dock are those who were the key figures in the association itself: former DFB presidents Theo Zwanziger and Wolfgang Niersbach and former DFB General Secretary Horst R. Schmidt. The three men, as well as former Swiss FIFA General Secretary Urs Linsi, are accused of something that is unknown in German law: “Disloyal management” is the term used for the offence.
Each man has always denied the allegations. The defense counsel for Zwanziger has already announced that the former president of the association will not attend the trial on Monday for health reasons. “After a serious eye operation his attending doctors do not consider him able to travel over 700 kilometers to participate,” the lawyer’s statement said. Whether Niersbach and Schmidt will appear in person remains unclear.
Some observers say the real culprits are not the ones on trial: ex-FIFA boss Sepp Blatter, for example, or the aforementioned Beckenbauer, who is now 74 years old. His defense attorneys have presented certificates in Switzerland stating that Beckenbauer’s health has also deteriorated massively. His judgment and his memory have been severely impaired, and no improvement is to be expected.
By Marko Langer, Deutsche Welle, 9 March 2020
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