Franz Beckenbauer's luminous image lives on forever

The ball rested in the wheat beer glass. Franz Beckenbauer returned briefly. He wanted to make sure everyone was actually watching in ZDF's “current sports studio”. He hit the ball to the right and it bounced once or twice and landed at the bottom of the famous goal wall. The man really seemed to have won it all. The whole thing happened in May 1994, at least with Ball. Beckenbauer made FC Bayern Munich the German champion – as a coach. Shortly before he assumed office, he declared: “The more I think, the more I don't get.” That's Franz Beckenbauer. It's always good to say. And always for an arbitrary turn. “Firlefranz,” the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” called him.

Beckenbauer was a child of Munich. FC Bayern is his club. Born on September 11, 1945, the footballer grew up in the working-class district of Keesing, the son of a postal worker and a housewife. Money was tight. Football is everything. “We collected waste paper and scrap metal to get a few pennies off the price of a leather ball,” he later recalled. At the age of 13, Beckenbauer landed at FC Bayern Munich. He made the club a global club. First as a player, then as a coach, then as a leader. Bavaria Beckenbauer. That is the equation.

Even as a player, Beckenbauer rose to become one of Germany's most famous footballers: five times German champion, four cup winners, three European Cup titles, European champion in 1972 and world champion in Munich in 1974. And not possible. Fritz Walter, captain of the 1954 World Cup team, gave Germany a newfound self-esteem nine years after the end of World War II. With his long hair, Gunter Netzer was considered a football rebel in 1970s Willy Brandt Germany. But with the finesse of his game, Beckenbauer gave the Germans a previously unimagined sense of lightness. The fact that his FC Bayern played their home games in the airy Munich Olympic Stadium is only fitting for the film. When he briefly bounced the ball with both feet in a game against Schalke 04, the Bild newspaper gave him the title of “Kaiser”. Francis, Emperor. It was like that.

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Beckenbauer and his manager Robert Schwan discovered early on the new possibilities offered by the soccer prediction surface. Early David Beckham. Songs such as No one should separate good friends were recorded. Advertising deals from Maggi Soup to telephone providers followed. And of course marketing a Bavarian wheat beer.

Lifetime is so perfect. In the mid-1970s, the tax inquiry was investigated. There was also a crisis in the first marriage. Beckenbauer and his new partner, sports photographer Diana Sandmann, fled to New York. Kaiser Cosmos played soccer with Pele in New York, and he had a table at the legendary Club 54 with his girlfriend. Beckenbauer was certainly a man of the world.

But German football needed him. In 1984, Beckenbauer joined the DFB after a failed European Championship. He doesn't have a trainer's license. So he was promoted to team leader. Beckenbauer always had his own rules. And those who worked for him. Georg “Kutsche” Schwarzenegger let him shine as a libero at FC Bayern and Berti Vogts and Holger Osiek as coaches at TFP. The crowning event was to take place at the World Cup in Italy in 1990: just before reunification, the Federal Republic became world champions for the third time. “Let's go out and play football” was Beckenbauer's tactical advice to the team. The game could be that simple. At least for someone like Beckenbauer.

Beckenbauer was the first to win the World Cup as a player and coach. He was to achieve another success: as a World Cup organizer, he brought the 2006 World Cup to Germany. The title of the application: “The world as a guest of friends.” What was supposed to be a competition turned out to be a summer fairytale. A nation of black, red and gold, reconciled with itself and the world. A credit to Beckenbauer. But it was not a fairy tale. In the last decade, investigations have come to light that illicit money flowed into Germany's World Cup bid. About Beckenbauer. Like Helmut Kohl, another leader of German history, Beckenbauer remained silent about the circumstances. That doesn't make it any better.

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The emperor also suffered personally. Her son Stephen Beckenbauer died in 2015. Bundesliga player and coach like his father. Beckenbauer didn't let his death go. Wounded and sick, he returned to his adopted home of Salzburg. “I'm happy to have him as a brother,” Beckenbauer's older brother Walter said in the ARD documentary “Beckenbauer.”

German soccer luminary Franz Beckenbauer died on Sunday in Salzburg at the age of 78. The whole country rejoiced at Beckenbauer.

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