Since the kick-off of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Franz Beckenbauer, undoubtedly one of the greatest stars to step onto a football pitch, has been watching the tournament with interest and believes South Africa has much to be proud of.
“So far it has been a fantastic World Cup,” said Beckenbauer. “Right now the whole world is watching South Africa and they are doing a great job.”
Franz Beckenbauer is one of football's greatest heroes, having championed his national side to win the FIFA World Cup trophy in 1974 and again as West German coach in 1990, the only person to have achieved this accolade, earning himself a place in the National Soccer Hall of Fame and the nickname Der Kaiser. Beckenbauer appeared 103 times for his national side, West Germany, and is still the only player to have captained three European Cup winning sides.
After following the German national side around the country, Beckenbauer is full of admiration for the host nation. “The stadiums are the best in the whole world, some of them they are brand new and setting a new standard for stadiums. All together the atmosphere, the fans, the stadiums, the infrastructure, they couldn't be better.”
Even the controversial vuvuzela has earned Beckenbauer's praise. “Some criticised the vuvuzela because it was a different noise, making a different atmosphere, but it's Africa and it belongs to Africa. I was in some of the stadiums to see the games and I think it is great.”
Beckenbauer was the chairman of the German Organising Committee for the 2006 World Cup and as such has some invaluable insight and experience when it comes to the hosting of the largest sporting event in the world. He acknowledges that criticism of South Africa during the build up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup is only natural.
“It is always the same, each country has a different character. Germany was criticised in the beginning. People said, ‘we believe the Germans can organise well, but they are not warm-hearted, they will not take care of the atmosphere’ but the result was a fantastic World Cup. The whole world was celebrating and it is the same here. The next World Cup in 2014 in Brazil - there will always be someone who criticises them, but the reality is different.”
Although the host nation failed to qualify from the group stages, Beckenbauer feels Bafana Bafana can be proud of their performance. “The South African team did a good job, but we knew before the World Cup that the team had no real experience, like the Germans, like Brazil or Argentina, but they did a really good job.”
With the final whistle around the corner the discussion around the 2010 FIFA World Cup is turning to the legacy the tournament will leave behind in the host nation. Having being intricately involved in Germany's FIFA World Cup, Beckenbauer feels the legacy will be one of a changed international image.
“I think the whole world is talking about South Africa, how beautiful the World Cup has been. Everything has worked and you will see after many years the world will still be talking about the World Cup in South Africa, so that's the legacy.”