K E I R R A D N E D G E R E P O R T I N G
** Theo Zwanziger, freed from the diplomatic constraints of being German football federation president, has been settling scores in a book and interviews with old enemies such as Uli Hoeness.
Zwanziger took over as president of the DFB in 2006 from the fast-fading Gerhard Mayer-Vorfelder. But his leadership came under question after one muddle over the contract of national coach Joachim Low and then a string of refereeing scandals.
His presidency also coincided with a resurgence of violent hooliganism, particularly stemming from the old eastern Germany, which the DFB, under Zwanziger, struggled to address. He was ultimately forced out of the presidency early and succeeded by Wolfgang Niersbach, his chief executive.
Niersbach comes in for criticism from Zwanziger along with Hoeness, the long-time strongman of Bayern Munich whose strident public comments displayed increasing disdain for the man who is now playing a leading role in guiding governance reform at world federation FIFA.
Platform for provocation
In his book, Die Zwanziger Jahre [literal translation The Zwanziger Years or, as a play on words and his name, The Twenties], the 67-year-old Jena lawyer accuses Hoeness of using his role as chief executive and then president of Bayern as a platform from which to deliver deliberately provocative criticism “without understanding his particular responsibilities as president of a leading club.”
In a weekend interview with Welt am Sonntag to promote the book, Zwanziger expanded on his criticism of Hoeness by insisting that “he was a great disappointment, especially in international football, with his sweeping criticisms” and generalised accusations of corruption within FIFA.
Bayern, said Zwanziger, was a “circus” and “full of know-alls.”
Zwanziger also criticised the club’s chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. He said he had offered both Hoeness and Rummenigge the prospect of roles within FIFA but had been snubbed by both. He dismissed them as preferring “TV talkshows to serious work” in the committee rooms.
Zwanziger, in the newspaper interview, also criticised what he considered over-hasty changes enacted within the DFB by “my friend and successor Wolfgang Niersbach.”
He thought Niersbach had mishandled various sensitive political opportunities during Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine.
These included the hasty nature of the visit by a DFB delegation to the site of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz and the failure to meet the politically critical Klitschko brothers in Ukraine or to lay a wreath at the Babi Yar memorial site in Kiev.
FIFA reform role
The one major figure to come in for praise from Zwanziger was FIFA president Sepp Blatter – who had appointed Zwanziger to help lead the reform process within the world federation. Blatter, said Zwanziger, “has been doing, basically, a good job,” and was fully committed to the reform process.
Hoeness, responding to Zwanziger’s comments, said: “This is nothing new. I always knew he was a poor president.” Niersbach said: “I don’t want to make any comment but I can’t disagree with Hoeness.”
Rummenigge thought Zwanziger’s criticisms of Hoeness as mystifying as the recent attack on his colleague by former Bayern coach Louis Van Gaal.
The former Germany captain said: “One thing I can say is that I won’t wait until after my career is over and then put it all in a book. Anything I have to say to anyone I will say in the here and now.”
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Also at www.WorldSoccer.com
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