The Countdown comes to Nürnberg
The Museum for Industrial Culture was the backdrop for the fourth Countdown evening on Thursday. The 2006 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee Germany embarked on its tour of the twelve World Cup Host Cities in January, and this time it was Nürnberg's turn to play host as Franz Beckenbauer and his OC colleagues invited guests to their monthly get-together.
The special relationship the Franconian city's 500,000 inhabitants have with the beautiful game was reflected in the proceedings, hosted as ever by the casual yet consummate OC vice-president Wolfgang Niersbach. And there was no shortage of good reasons for the World Cup organisers to make the trip to Nürnberg.
First of all, there is "The Club". An informal name, but one which leaves no doubt in any German football fan's mind as to which club is being referred to: FC Nürnberg. "The Club" have won the German Championship nine times and lifted the German Cup on three occasions. There were even times when the German national team consisted solely of players from Nürnberg and Fürth. The Nürnberg players would sit at the front of the railway car for away games. Noblesse oblige.
In recent years however, Nürnberg have had no shortage of space in the trophy cabinet; the team has yo-yoed between the first and second Bundesliga and is currently battling for survival in the top flight. Even the stresses of a relegation dogfight could not keep Nürnberg coach Klaus Augenthaler away from the Countdown evening though.
Nor did Karl-Heinz Heimann (picture, together with Horst R. Schmidt and Franz Beckenbauer) have any intention of missing out, especially as he was awarded the DFB Medal of Honour. For decades, Heimann kept a watchful eye over the game via his editor's column in "Kicker-sportmagazin", which tackled all the major issues in football. Kicker is another of Nürnberg's footballing success stories. Its first edition appeared on 14 July 1920 and has based its editorial offices in Nürnberg since 1925.
Heimann received the accolade for his life's work from DFB General Secretary Horst R. Schmidt, who also hails from Nürnberg and was clearly delighted to spend an evening among friends in his native city.
Just outside the Nürnberg city gates is yet another institution in world football. The small town of Herzogenaurach is home to the registered offices of global brand adidas, one of the 15 Official Partners of the 2006 World Cup.
Finally, on a topical note, Wolfgang Niersbach led a discussion with IOC vice-president Dr. Thomas Bach. A week or so ago, a preliminary decision was announced on Germany's bid for the 2012 Olympic bid. Naturally this provided a talking point for experts on worldwide sporting events.