KEIR RADNEDGE COMMENTARY
— Outgoing German federation Theo Zwanziger has snubbed FIFA president Sepp Blatter with a further swipe at the world federation’s award of the 2022 World Cup finals to Qatar.
Zwanziger joined the FIFA executive committee last June as a representative of European federation UEFA and in succession to fellow German Franz Beckenbauer.
This was six months after the exco’s decision on the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and Zwanziger made no secret of his displeasure.
Within three months of joining the exco, Zwanziger was handed an important role as chairman of a task force charged with consideration revisions to the world federation’s statutes.
However FIFA president Sepp Blatter, when asked by reporters, made it clear that he expected Zwanziger now to accept and defend – and certainly not challenge – exco decisions.
Since then, however, Zwanziger has been effectively overthrown by his fellow board members of the DFB. They had grown increasing impatient with the Jena lawyer’s clumsy handing of a string of issues – going right back to the contract extension of national coach Joachim Low before the 2010 World Cup.
Zwanziger agreed at the start of year to step down at the DFB’s next annual conference in October however he was then ‘persuaded’ that he would be seen as only a ‘lame duck’ leader. He will leave the presidency early next month and be succeeded by the current chief executive, former sports reporter Wolfgang Niersbach.
This was the background to a ‘retirement interview’ which Zwanziger undertook with the Frankfurter Rundschau.
The interview generated headlines in Germany because of Zwanziger’s criticism of the style of Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness, probably the most powerful man in domestic professional football.
Zwanziger acknowledged support from Hoeness over several issues but criticised the Bayern boss’s “hasty and ill-considered” attacks, notably concerning the long-running FIFA scandal.
Zwanziger, on behalf of the German federation and to the derision of Hoensss, voted in favour of Blatter’s continuance in the FIFA presidency last year.
He said: “What I fail to understand about the whole [FIFA] thing is whjy Uli Hoeness, instead of publicly insulting me, did not think simply to talk to me even once just to ask the reasons for the decision.”
Having defended his stance on FIFA, however, Zwanziger then broke ranks on Qatar 2022 in defiance of Blatter’s stated expectations.
Zwanziger, with heavy irony, said: “While I appreciate that FC Bayern have had a training camp in Qatar, I still think that organising a World Cup in a country half the size of [the German federal state of] Hesse, is hardly justifiable. ”
In the past Zwanziger has also been a strident critic of not only the World Cup awards – he was happy, presumably, with Russia whose bid the DFB supported – but the structure and the very existence of the historic law-making International Football Board.
Also at www.WorldSoccer.com
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