German football legend Franz Beckenbauer dies aged 78

Beckenbauer captained West Germany to a World Cup victory on home soil in 1974.

Franz Beckenbauer
Beckenbauer collected 103 caps for West Germany, winning the 1972 European championship and then the World Cup [File: Pressefoto Ulmerullstein bild via Getty Images]

Franz Beckenbauer – one of Germany’s greatest football players, who captained the country’s team to World Cup victory in 1974 then won the tournament again as manager in 1990 – has died at the age of 78, his family said.

“It is with deep sadness that we announce that my husband and our father, Franz Beckenbauer, passed away peacefully in his sleep on Sunday, surrounded by his family,” his family said in a statement on Monday.

Known in football-obsessed Germany as “the Kaiser” meaning “the Emperor”, Beckenbauer played a central role in some of the country’s greatest sporting achievements.

Born in Munich in 1945, he helped establish Bayern Munich as his country’s strongest club.

He was a classy, dominant presence on the pitch for West Germany and Bayern Munich in the 1960s and 70s, using the calmness on the ball and effortless distribution that marked his midfield performances to virtually invent the central defensive sweeper role where he found most success.

He collected 103 caps for West Germany, winning the 1972 European championship and then the World Cup on home soil.

His Bayern Munich team was the best club side in the world during the mid-1970s, winning three successive European Cups and three successive Bundesliga titles, and Beckenbauer himself was twice named European footballer of the year.

When he was national team manager, his West Germany team lost in the 1986 World Cup final to Argentina but triumphed four years later in Italy as a combined German team.

After coaching, Beckenbauer moved into football administration. But in 2016 he was fined by FIFA’s ethics committee for failing to co-operate with an inquiry into corruption over the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Over the next few years, he was engaged in tending to health issues, and the last time he appeared at Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena was in August 2022, when he attended a match of Bayern Munich against Borussia Monchengladbach.

‘We will miss him’

Tributes have poured in from across Germany and global the football community, honouring Beckenbauer’s legacy.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz mourned Beckenbauer’s death and said he was one of the greatest footballers in Germany and for many ‘the emperor’  because he “inspired enthusiasm for German football for generations”.

“We will miss him. My thoughts are with his family and friends,” Chancellor Scholz said in X.

“Franz Beckenbauer, one of European football’s greatest sons, has passed away aged 78. ‘Der Kaiser’ was an extraordinary player, successful coach and popular pundit who shaped German football like no other,” the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) said in a statement.

Germany’s Bundesliga called Beckenbauer “a true icon, then, now, and always” while the English Premier League said “‘Der Kaiser’ was as elegant as he was dominant. He will forever be remembered.”

Rudi Voller, World Cup winner in 1990 and director of the German national team, said it was “one of the great privileges” of his life to “have known and experienced Franz Beckenbauer”.

“Our time together with the national team was crowned with the 1990 World Cup title in Rome, a title that would never have been possible without his outstanding coaching performance,” he said.

“German football is losing its greatest personality; I am losing a good friend.”

Source: News Agencies