Monday April 15, 2024

He made us ‘proud’ again: Germany pays emotional tribute to Beckenbauer

Despite the subzero conditions, around 20,000 people gathered under blue skies in the Bavarian capital

January 21, 2024
In an emotional speech, the honourary president of FC Bayern Munich Uli Hoeness paid tribute to his great friend Franz Beckenbauer. — AFP/File
In an emotional speech, the honourary president of FC Bayern Munich Uli Hoeness paid tribute to his "great friend" Franz Beckenbauer. — AFP/File

MUNICH: Germany said an emotional goodbye to Franz Beckenbauer on Friday, former teammate Uli Hoeness crediting the football legend with making Germans “proud” again.

Beckenbauer died on January 7 in Austria and was laid to rest in a private ceremony in Munich five days later.

Friday´s ceremony, which featured leading lights of German football and politics, was open to the public, giving fans a final chance to celebrate the man known as ´Der Kaiser´ - The Emperor.

Completed for the 2006 World Cup, which Beckenbauer ran as president of the organising committee, Munich´s Allianz Arena was a fitting venue for the public goodbye.

“The Allianz Arena, the most beautiful stadium in the world, would never have been built without Franz,” Hoeness said.

Despite the subzero conditions, around 20,000 people gathered under blue skies in the Bavarian capital.

The ceremony opened with a rendition of Con Te Partiro performed by Munich tenor Jonas Kaufmann. He ended the event with Nessun Dorma, an aria from Puccini´s opera Turandot, which became the unofficial anthem of the 1990 World Cup. It was sung by the Three Tenors in Rome on the eve of the final which Germany, coached by Beckenbauer, won.

Beckenbauer´s famous number five, made of red roses, laid on the green turf of the Allianz, alongside wreaths placed by the biggest clubs in the world including Liverpool and Barcelona.

Born in 1945 in the suburbs of Munich, the peerless Beckenbauer became a national treasure in a Germany still grappling with the legacy of the Second World War.

Winning national and European titles with Bayern Munich, Beckenbauer´s West Germany captured the 1972 Euros and the 1974 World Cup.

As a coach, Beckenbauer guided the nation to their next World Cup in 1990, before playing a leading if controversial role in securing the 2006 tournament on home soil.

The tournament, known in Germany as the ´Summer Fairytale´, helped change the nation´s view of itself, six decades after the end of the war.

Hoeness, who played alongside Beckenbauer at Bayern and at an international level, said bringing the World Cup to Germany was Der Kaiser´s “masterpiece”.

“He worked his butt off for years and travelled to the furthest corner of the earth to get the votes for Germany,” Hoeness said in an emotional speech.

The Honorary Bayern President said the tournament showed “how open and friendly our country can be, with thousands driving through our streets waving flags”.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the World Cup gave Germany “a new, friendly view of ourselves”.

Beckenbauer later faced corruption allegations for securing votes for the tournament, but was never found guilty.

Hoeness said Beckenbauer was the victim of “a small-minded and unspeakable media campaign”.

“Dear Franz, you died 12 days ago. And to be honest, I miss you deeply”.

“Rest in peace, a peace that you unfortunately could not enjoy in the past few years in a manner you deserve.”

FIFA President Gianni Infantino sat alongside UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin and German FA boss Bernd Neuendorf.

Barcelona´s Joan Laporta, Paris Saint-Germain´s Nasser Al-Khelaifi and Real Madrid´s honorary president Jose Martinez Pirri were also in the stands.

With the current Bayern squad nestled in the stands, an array of German football stars came onto the pitch to pay their respects to the man widely viewed as his nation´s finest footballer.

German World Cup winners Paul Breitner, Lothar Matthaeus and Bastian Schweinsteiger walked onto the green grass of the Allianz to lay wreaths in Beckenbauer´s honour.

With Chancellor Olaf Scholz in the stands, Steinmeier called Beckenbauer “a Munich lad who became a citizen of the world” and said he was “one of Germany´s greats.”