Commentary

Beckenbauer's 'summer fairy tale' turns into nightmare

Sixteen years after Germany won the right to host the 2006 World Cup and a decade after the "summer fairy tale" captivated Germans, the legendary Franz Beckenbauer and three of high-profile organizing committee members are under investigation by Swiss prosecutors -- suspected of fraud, criminal mismanagement, money laundering and misappropriation.

Like Frenchman Michel Platini, whose career as UEFA president and bid to become FIFA president was ended after a Swiss investigation into an improper payment, Beckenbauer has fallen from grace after his move from the playing field to the boardroom.

Beckenbauer was the president of the 2006 World Cup organizing committee and along with former German federation presidents
Wolfgang Niersbach and Theo Zwanziger and former German federation secretary general Horst Rudolf Schmidt was named in an investigation into $7.8 million in missing funds for a World Cup gala that never took place.

Beckenbauer's home in Austria was among eight properties searched on Thursday.

"It is suspected that the suspects knew that this sum was not being used to fund the gala event, but instead to repay a debt that was not owed by the DFB," prosecutors said in a statement. "In particular, it is suspected that the suspects willfully misled their fellow members of the executive board of the organizing committee for the 2006 World Cup."

They added that the presumption of innocence applies to all four men.

German magazine Spiegel last year reported that the German bid committee in 2010 borrowed the $7.8 million from late Frenchman Robert Louis-Dreyfus, owner of adidas and French club Marseille, and returned the money via a FIFA account in 2005 as a payment for a gala event that never took place.

The German federation commissioned a report that showed the $7.8 million went from the law firm of Beckenbauer's former attorney to a Qatari construction company whose sole owner then was Mohamed Bin Hammam, the former president of the Asian Football Confederation who was banned from all soccer-related activity in December 2012.

The money was suspected of being used to buy votes in the controversial 12-11 victory by German over South Africa to earn the right to host the 2006 World Cup, which was known as the "Sommermärchen" (summer fairy tale) for the good will and national pride it created among Germans.

"Definitely not for that," said Beckenbauer last year. "We did not buy votes."

But while he denied any wrongdoing, he admitted that in retrospect the DFB should not have taken the money from FIFA.

"In order to get a subsidy from FIFA [for the organization of the 2006 World Cup]," he said "those involved went ahead with a proposal from the FIFA finance commission that in today's eyes should have been rejected. I, as president of the then-organizing committee, bear the responsibility of this mistake."

Beckenbauer, who invented the role of the libero, the attacking central defender, captained West Germany to the 1974 World Cup title and was its coach when it won its third world championship in 1990. Now 70, he is retired from soccer.
1 comment about "Beckenbauer's 'summer fairy tale' turns into nightmare".
  1. William Heiden, September 3, 2016 at 1:58 p.m.

    16 years ago ??? Hilary can't remember how many cell phones she had! Oh yes its Germany---go get 'em Paul.

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