KEIR RADNEDGE in SALVADOR: Franz Beckenbauer sends his apologies but he will not be flying here to Salvador to watch Germany open their World Cup campaign against Portugal.
Beckenbauer has called off plans to travel to Brazil after being suspended provisionally for 90 days by FIFA’s independent investigator Michael Garcia, pending further inquiries.
In fact, the terms of the suspension would have barred Beckenbauer, in any case, from attending any football matches, either under his own volition or by invitation.
Bayern Munich’s honorary president joked, on a television show, that he thought originally “this was some kind of delayed April fool joke.”
As for Brazil, Beckenbauer confirmed he was cancelling his tickets “because I assume I am no longer welcome at FIFA.”
In fact, he is specifically not welcome. The terms of the ban specifically prohibit his attendance at football events.
Beckenbauer is not the first Bayern boss to behave as if he were above the law. Bayern board president Uli Hoeness is serving a jail term for tax evasion and chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge admitted an imports tax offence last year over two luxury watches “given by a friend” in Qatar.
Beckenbauer was a member of world federation FIFA’s executive committee when, in December 2010, it voted controversially to send the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 finals to Qatar.
The former World Cup-winning captain and manager had never declared how he voted but he is thought to have picked Russia for 2018 and, initially, for Australia for 2022.
For the past two years the vote has been the subject of an independent ethics inquiry by Garcia. He will complete his report in the middle of next month. Clearly it will include a reference to Beckenbauer’s non-cooperation.
A further statement from the ethics office detailing the offence, said: “Although was repeatedly asked, in a personal interview or by answering written questions which were provided in English and German, to provide information.”
Beckenbauer responded that his command of English was not up to the demands of the inquiry.
He said: “I had to answer about 130 questions. I did not understand anything but said that the most important questions about corruption, I would answer in German. This has not been approved.”
Last week, in Sao Paulo, ethics investigator Garcia told FIFA Congress that his office was happy to provide interpreters wherever necessary.
As for his visitors to Qatar, Beckenbauer said he travelled in 2009 and 2011, the second trip being as a consultant to a Hamburg company. He dimissed suggestions of corrupt activities and also rebuffed any idea that his promotional contract with Gazprom was payback for backing Russia.
Beckenbauer said, in Bild with which he has long beem star columnist: “It had absolutely nothing to do with the World Cup award. I did not even know the people then. The debate is nonsense.”
Wolfgang Niersbach, president of the German football association, came to Beckenbauer’s defence.
“I was very surprised by the announcement,” said Niersbach “but it does not change my opinion. Franz is an absolutely honorable man who has nothing to hide. I am sure that he will help resolve these issues.”
Beckenbauer is by far the biggest ‘name’ ever sanctioned by the present or former FIFA ethics system. Officials such as Jack Warner and Mohamed Bin Hammam, whatever their political and financial power within the game, were never comparable household names throughout the world.
A possible consolation for Beckenbauer is that the ban does not affect his being signed up to a lucrative contract by German television for World Cup analysis from a studio back home.