Commentary

German soccer scandal tarnishes 'summer fairy tale'

Another internal and costly ($4 million) investigation into a major international soccer scandal ended with another highly unsatisfactory verdict. No evidence of vote-rigging in the awarding of the 2006 World Cup to Germany was found. Sounds like 2010, and 2018 and 2022?

"We have no proof of vote-buying," Christian Duve of the Freshfields law firm, commissioned by the German soccer federation (DFB), said, "although we cannot rule it out completely."

The case started out as an investigation into a mystery payment of 6.7 million euro ($7.34 million) payment to FIFA in 2005. The DFB believed it was the return of a loan via FIFA from the late adidas chief Robert Louis-Dreyfus. Der Spiegel reported a slush fund used to buy the rights to the 2006 World Cup hosting rights Germany controversially won over South Africa.

Germany defeated South Africa by just one vote (12-11) when Oceania president Charlie Dempsey unexpectedly abstained from the final vote. If the vote had been, 12-12, FIFA president Sepp Blatter would have cast the deciding vote -- to South Africa.

"I still don't understand why it had to go through FIFA," Interim DFB president Rainer Koch said.

But the investigation confirmed another mystery payment: 10 million Swiss francs ($10.06 million) in 2002 via a Swiss bank account of a law firm that represented Franz Beckenbauer, head of the German organizing committee, to a scaffolding company Kemco owned by the notorious Qatari Mohamed Bin Hammam, the former president of the Asian Football Confederation who was banned from all soccer-related activity in December 2012.

Duve had little explanation for the payment: "They landed somewhere in Qatar. This [company] is under the influence of Bin Hammam. But anything beyond that is speculation. We had the task of presenting the facts. You could connect the payment with the FIFA re-election of Blatter [over Issa Hayatou in 2002] or for the 2006 [World Cup] vote but that would be pure speculation."

Beckenbauer said he knew nothing about what was going on, insisting his former lawyer Robert Schwan, who died in 2002, handled his affairs.

"I had nothing to do with it," Beckenbauer told German daily Bild. "Robert handled everything for me -- from changing the light bulbs to important contracts."

Sound convincing? The results of the investigation were another blow to Beckenbauer, who is a revered figure in German soccer, having captained West Germany's 1974 World Cup championship team and coached it to the 1990 title in Italy.

"I was a world champion as a player and coach," Beckenbauer. "I helped bring the World Cup to Germany, which was a great success. It remains 'the summer fairy tale.' In hindsight, I might have made mistakes. Hindsight is easier than foresight."

Duve added that some documents were missing from the DFB headquarters and his firm was not able to speak with all the witnesses in the case.

If that sounds familiar, that's just what happened to the Garcia report, the investigation FIFA commissioned and former U.S. prosecutor Michael Garcia did into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids. Russia failed to hand out documents, claiming their rented computers were destroyed by their owners, and Garcia lacked subpoena power to call certain witnesses. (One of them was Beckenbauer, a member of the FIFA executive committee who was later reprimanded and briefly suspended by FIFA ethics committee for not talking.)

The DFB scandal has claimed two victims: Former DFB president Wolfgang Niersbach resigned last fall, and Helmut Sandrock, the DFB general secretary, quit last week.
1 comment about "German soccer scandal tarnishes 'summer fairy tale'".
  1. ROBERT BOND, March 8, 2016 at 11:18 a.m.

    had a better chance to win in '10......

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