KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Theo Zwanziger, highest-placed German in world football, believes his home federation should have demanded that FIFA strip Joao Havelange of his honorary presidency of the world football federation.
Zwanziger sniped at the DFB and his presidential successor Wolfgang Niersbach in an interview in which he also turned his critical gaze on Bayern Munich boss Uli Hoeness and on his old nemesis, the state of Qatar.
In May 2011 Zwanziger succeeded Franz Beckenbauer on his FIFA executive committee. Already Zwanziger had stood out as an arch critic of the decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.
That concern, his comments to Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung have revealed, has not faded with time. Quite the reverse: Zwanziger has grown ever more critical and suspicious of the Gulf state and its motives.
Zwanziger was ousted as DFB president this time last year by Niersbach, his former chief executive. Since then he has concentrated on steering the concluding phase of the FIFA reform process.
This oversaw the creation of a new ethics commission which is pursuing the ISL bribes scandal in which former FIFA president Havelange has been implicated.
The veteran Brazilian was created honorary president of FIFA on his retirement in 1998. His role in the scandal prompted suggestions that next month’s FIFA Congress should vote him down. Yet no such proposal was registered before the agenda deadline.
Zwanziger believed the German federation should have set the example and done so.
He said: “Why didn’t the DFB apply to withdraw the honorary presidency from Havelange? Such a request would have been entirely appropriate. I wish the DFB has done that.”
Niersbach has talked about integrity among football directors but, said Zwanziger, “such words should be matched by action.” In the case of Havelange, Niersbach and the DFB had fallen short.
This was not the only instance in which Zwanziger considered the credibility of German football as having been undermined.
A second such case was the tax evasion scandal likely to topple Uli Hoeness from his all-powerful role as president of champions Bayern Munich.
Zwanziger said: “That [Hoeness] case is taking us backwards internationally. After this who, in Asia, Africa or the other confederations, will seriously believe now that the Germans are clean?”
The Bayern connection fed into Zwanziger’s long-held antipathy towards Qatar, the Gulf state whose financial tentacles are reaching far and wide across the political, sporting and communications world.
Zwanziger said: “The infinite wealth of this small country is spreading almost like a cancer throughout football and the sport. I have been occasionally approached by people in Qatar and invited there. This small country is using its economic power to influence decisions in politics and in sports.”
Zwanziger was president of the DFB but not on the FIFA exco when Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup. He has been a consistent critic but is suspicious about the speed with which other initial critics have moderated their views.
He said: “I can’t help but notice how many people seem to have resigned themelves to that decision. Suddenly they are all saying that, in fact, the World Cup can be made to work in Qatar, maybe in the winter.
“That plan could work but that was not the original idea or tender. Yet already people in Germany are discussing turning the calendar around.
“Then I ask myself a question: Who goes to Qatar for training camps during the winter and international breaks? That would be worth a closer look.”
FAZ answered Zwanziger’s question, noting that Hoeness had taken Bayern to Qatar for the third time lately and that Schalke had begin to follow their example.
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