Munich — Franz Beckenbauerthe German football legend who led his country to conquer the FIFA World Cup as a player and coach, he died at the age of 78.
His family announced his death in a statement sent to the German news agency dpa, and it was later confirmed by the German football federation.
“It is with deep sadness that we have to announce that our father, Franz Beckenbauer, passed away peacefully in his sleep yesterday, Sunday, surrounded by his loved ones,” the family said. “We ask that you allow us to grieve in peace and refrain from asking us questions.”
The statement did not mention the cause of death. The former Bayern Munich star had suffered from several health problems in recent years.
As a player and coach, Beckenbauer was a transformative figure in German football. He captained the West Germany team that won the 1974 World Cup as hosts. He also coached the national team that won the 1990 World Cup after defeating Argentina in the final — a symbolic moment for the country in the middle. of reunification—months after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Beckenbauer’s death occurs just two days after the death of Mario Zagallo, the Brazilian who was the first to win the World Cup as a player and coach, at the age of 92.
Beckenbauer was a key player in Germany winning the 2006 World Cup, although his legacy was later tarnished by allegations that the bid was imposed thanks to bribery payments. He always denied the accusations.
The Bundesliga family is devastated to learn of the death of Franz Beckenbauer. A true icon, then, now, and always. RIP, Der Kaiser. 👑🕊 pic.twitter.com/zE2CcggVNd
— Bundesliga English (@Bundesliga_EN) January 8, 2024
“We didn’t want to bribe anyone and we didn’t bribe anyone either,” Beckenbauer, who was in charge of the World Cup organizing committee, wrote in his last column for the Bild tabloid in 2016.
Beckenbauer and three other members of the executive committee were targeted that year by Swiss prosecutors who suspected fraud regarding the true destination of multimillion-dollar payments to FIFA that had to do with the 2006 World Cup. He was not charged in 2019 for reasons of health and the case was filed without a ruling upon expiration of the statute of limitations in 2020.
In 2014, Beckenbauer was briefly suspended from all football activities by FIFA’s ethics commission because he did not cooperate with prosecutor Michael Garcia’s investigation into alleged corruption in the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosting votes. Suspension was lifted during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil when he agreed to cooperate.
The allegations tarnished Beckenbauer’s public image for the first time. Until then, Beckenbauer was an impeccable figure. The Germans simply adored him.
“He did everything that a German is not supposed to do,” Paul Breitner, a former Bayern Munich teammate, commented at the time about a man who was popularly known as the “Kaiser.”
“He got divorced, left his kids, left with his girlfriend, got in trouble with the tax collectors and left his girlfriend again,” Breitner said. “But he forgave everything, because he had a big heart, he was a positive person and he helped everyone. He did not hide his weaknesses, he did not shy away from his mistakes.”
The son of a postal worker in Giesing, a working-class neighborhood in Munich, Beckenbauer emerged as one of the best players of his generation in a career that took him to the United States with the New York Cosmos in the late 70s and early 80s.
Franz Beckenbauer and Pele, great friends and teammates in the New York Cosmos. Today they meet again in football heaven. pic.twitter.com/x7k186QYS8
— SportsCenter (@SC_ESPN) January 8, 2024
Born on September 11, 1945, months after Germany’s surrender in World War II, Beckenbauer studied to be an insurance policy salesman but signed his first professional contract with Bayern when he was 18 years old.
“You weren’t born in Giesing to become a world football star. For me, football was a way of escape. In retrospect, I can say that my life was just as I imagined it. “I had a perfect life,” Beckenbauer told the magazine. Sueddeutsche in 2010.
Beckenbauer personified the position of “libero”, the all-round defender who joined the attack, something that has virtually disappeared from modern football and was very popular in his time.
With great size and vision as a player, Beckenbauer was the emblematic captain of Bayern who won three European Cup titles between 1974 and 1976.