Franz Beckenbauer, one of football's greatest ever, has passed.
His career coincided with the golden era of German football during which he won every honour coveted by footballers: the FIFA World Cup (both as player and manager), the European Nations Cup and the European Champions Cup.
He was also one of a number
of European and South American greats who tried to turn football into a major
part of American sporting culture by joining Pele at the New York Cosmos.
Beckenbauer was significant not only as part of the generation of West German players who built upon the post-war World Cup triumph at Berne in 1954, he also played a part in developing the possibilities associated with the role of a ‘libero’, a position excelled at by a select few including Armando Picchi, Gaetano Scirea and Franco Baresi.
If Paul Breitner and Gunther Netzer represented the rebellious face of German football, then Beckenbauer was their ideological opposite. Where Breitner was a self-professing Maoist, Beckenbauer was for the bourgeoisie. He was explicitly a supporter of the politically conservative Christian Social Union of Bavaria which ruled the state of Bavaria for decades just as Beckenbauer, "Der Kaiser", ruled the roost as captain of both the national team and Bayern Munich.
It was a testament to Beckenbauer's power and influence that Bayern Munich accepted his recommendation that Udo Lattek take up the reins as manager of Bayern. Lattek then led Bayern to three consecutive Bundesliga titles, one German Cup and the first of three consecutive European Cup titles.
Beckenbauer had an elegant, imperious style of playing. He had industry and was resourceful. Above all he was a tremendous leader of men.
He had many career highlights but the one which sticks with me most is of the one-armed Beckenbauer, hand in a sling, doggedly playing to the last minute in the losing effort in the FIFA World Cup semi-final in Mexico when West Germany lost 3-4 to Italy in a game which was dubbed the "Match of the Century".
© Adeyinka Makinde (2024).
Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.