Tuesday, July 16, 2024

‘Danke Franz’: Germany lights a candle for football icon Beckenbauer

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“Suddenly darker, quieter, poorer”: the words of Bayern Munich summed up the mood of a bereaved Germany on Tuesday as the country mourned the legendary footballer Franz Beckenbauer, the man they called “the Kaiser”.

Residents in Beckenbauer’s home city of Munich braved freezing cold to pay their respects, bringing flowers a day after the death was announced of Germany’s greatest football icon, a World Cup winner as both player and manager.

The headquarters of Bayern Munich on Saebener Strasse were a point of pilgrimage for fans of Beckenbauer, who spent most of his playing career at the club, winning four of his five Bundesliga titles and three European Cups in 1974, 1975 and 1976.

“Brazil had Pele, Argentina had (Diego) Maradona. As a German, I don’t want to belittle the others, but Franz Beckenbauer is the greatest for me,” Henryk Mnich, 49, told AFP outside the club’s offices.

Flowers were placed in front of the building and a candle lit in honour of Beckenbauer, who died at the age of 78 on Sunday.

Playing alongside the likes of Gerd Mueller and Sepp Maier in the 1960s and 1970s, Beckenbauer helped Bayern on the way to becoming one of the world’s top footballing powers.

Subsequently, Beckenbauer steered the club to further successes as its president from 1994 to 2009, working with former Bayern teammates Uli Hoeness and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

“I will never forget you, as a teammate, as a sportsman, but above all as a man,” Maier wrote on the Sport1 website.

– Minute’s silence –

The words “Danke Franz” (Thank you, Franz) will be projected in tribute onto Bayern’s stadium, the Allianz Arena, over the coming days.

The commemorations are set to continue at Bayern’s next home match against Hoffenheim on Friday night in the league.

The rest of the Bundesliga will pay tribute to Beckenbauer with a minute’s silence before kickoff ahead of this weekend’s fixtures as the teams return from their winter break.

The club also announced a commemoration ceremony for the public at the Allianz Arena on January 19, starting at 3:00 pm (1400 GMT).

“Friends and fellow travellers from national and international sport, from culture and politics, and more broadly all the fans and extended family of football” are invited, the club announced Tuesday.

The precise date of Beckenbauer’s funeral has not yet been disclosed by his family, who said he “passed away peacefully” surrounded by relatives.

Bayern switched its online presence black and white to mark the passing of their former captain.

“The FC Bayern world is no longer what it used to be — suddenly darker, quieter, poorer,” the club said in a eulogy published on its website.

“FC Bayern would never have become the club it is today” without the player they called “Der Kaiser”.

The club would be “a bit different” without Beckenbauer, said Bogdan Piecuch, 45, another fan who came to the club’s offices to bid farewell.

– National icon –

Beckenbauer also left his mark on the German national team, winning the World Cup as a player in 1974 and as the manager in 1990.

“In 1990 as the coach, where he walked around the stadium on his own, those seconds, minutes… that’s my childhood memory of Beckenbauer,” Piecuch said.

The German press paid hommage to the footballer, with the German daily Bild dedicating its front page to the loss of “our Kaiser”.

Suggestions have already been made of ways to commemorate the footballing genius, whose silky way with the ball in defence anticipated the modern game.

His former teammate on the national team and successor as Germany manager, Berti Vogts, had one idea for the German Football Association: rename the domestic cup after Beckenbauer, he told the Rheinische Post daily.

“It is important that his name is not forgotten.”


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