As a leading personality on the world football stage, Franz Beckenbauer needs no introduction. The 63-year-old, known at home and abroad as Der Kaiser, led Germany to FIFA World Cup™ glory both as a player and a coach, and is currently in his 15th year as President of Germany’s most successful club, Bayern Munich.
The man who practically defined the concept of the libero in modern football, and who took third place in the global vote for World Footballer of the 20th century, is also a member of the FIFA Executive Committee. Interviewed by FIFA.com, Beckenbauer discussed the overwhelmingly positive trend in women’s football, new Bayern coach Jurgen Klinsmann, the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa and his personal football highlight of 2008.
FIFA.com: Franz Beckenbauer, you recently travelled round the world in the cause of women’s football. What conclusions have you drawn?
Franz Beckenbauer: I found it a very, very interesting trip. First of all, I went to the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in New Zealand, before travelling on to Chile for the U-20 Women’s World Cup. Let me say this: women's football has definitely come an enormously long way. What I witnessed leads to only one conclusion: it has achieved a very high standard.
What exactly have been the main areas of improvement, thinking in terms of youth development?
There’s been a significant improvement, especially in the tactical area. I thought it was exceptionally entertaining to watch.
The world of football is looking back on an exciting, incident-packed and varied 2008, including the UEFA European Championship, the Olympic Football Tournaments, the start of European qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup finals, and the tournaments you attended in New Zealand and Chile. What was the highlight for you personally?
I’ll have to think about that. I reckon the highlight of the year for me was Bayern Munich’s latest league and cup double, when Ottmar Hitzfeld and Oliver Kahn also took their leave. It was a worthy farewell, and a very emotional one too.
Has Jurgen Klinsmann got what it takes to follow in Hitzfeld’s footsteps and guide Bayern to further success?
I firmly believe Klinsmann can do it. He works exceptionally hard, and that will pay off in the end.
You led Germany to FIFA World Cup glory in 1974 as a player, and in 1990 as a coach. Do Germany have any chance of claiming the trophy for the first time in 20 years at the next World Cup?
The 2010 World Cup in South Africa will be difficult for Germany. They finished third at the last World Cup, when they had the home crowd behind them. They were good enough to make the EURO 2008 final, so expectations are running high. I’m intrigued to see what role we might play.
What would be a realistic goal for [captain] Michael Ballack and his team?
Their target should be the semi-finals. Anything’s possible once you make it that far, as we all know.
Are you already looking forward to South Africa 2010?
Of course I am! I’m absolutely certain the finals in South Africa will be a terrific tournament. More than anything else, I’m expecting it to be a very emotional time, and that’s good too. The 2010 World Cup will definitely take on a character all of its own. It’ll be very different compared to 2006 in Germany, for example. I’m really looking forward to it.