KEIR RADNEDGE in SALVADOR: The German federation has demanded that former president Theo Zwanziger resigns as a member of the executive committee of world federation FIFA.
The demand is couched in terms associated with the ongoing controversy over Zwanziger’s role in the FIFA reform programme and the DFB’s anger at Sepp Blatter’s refusal to retire.
However in the background is an escalating personal clash between Zwanziger and Wolfgang Niersbach, his successor at the head of what is perceived to be the most powerful football federation in Europe.
The row adds to a sense of increasing confusion within the DFB after Franz Beckenbauer was barred from all football for 90 days by FIFA’s ethics operation for refusing to co-operate with investigator Michael Garcia’s inquiry into the 2018/2022 World Cup awards.
Beckenbauer had to cancel a trip to see Germany open their World Cup campaign here against Portugal on Monday after FIFA clarified that his ban included even attending matches.
The Beckenbauer issue was a further high-profile embarrassment for both German football and champions Bayern Munich after the jailing of club president Uli Hoeness for tax evasion and a hefty fine for ceo Karl-Heinz Rummengge for not declaring a gift of two luxury watches from a Qatari associate last year.
Beckenbauer was UEFA’s German delegate on the FIFA executive committee from 2007 to 2011 when he stepped down and Zwanziger was ‘promoted’ in his place by the European federation. Since then Zwanziger has emerged as a guide of the reform process while also leading FIFA’s pressure on Qatar to reform its labour rights for migrant construction workers.
Earlier this week Niersbach was among leading UEFA delegates who fiercely criticised Blatter for reversing his promise, to UEFA Congress in 2011, that he would retire from leadership of FIFA next year.
There was no suggestion from UEFA, however, that its representatives should quit the FIFA executive in protest.
However unhappiness at the DFB over Zwanziger’s FIFA roles was sparked after he commented sarcastically in a newspaper interview about the remuneration package Niersbach had negotiated after moving up from the position of DFB chief executive.
Zwanziger said: “How can you expect thousands of people to volunteer their services to German football free of charge while the person who leads it benefits from a six-figure remuneration? This is hypocrisy. The DFB is a non-profit-making organization.”
The DFB hit straight back. A statement said: “Since he has not, within FIFA, represented adequately the opinions of the DFB or defended the interests of German football, the DFB board on Theo Zwanziger to resign his position on the executive committee of the world federation.”
League president Reinhard Rauball criticised Zwanziger’s comments as “totally unacceptable, especially during a World Cup in which the players and the sport should be the focus.” DFB vice-president Rainer Koch, said the charge of hypocrisy was “untenable.”
Zwanziger remained defiant over criticism from the men who ousted from the DFB presidency ahead of time, describing the resignation demand as “laughable.”