Say it isn’t so!

Franz Beckenbauerhad connections with a couple of football consultants, Andreas Abold and Fedor Rodmann, who are said to have informed a number of the World Cup bidders that Beckenbauer’s support could be had for “a multi million pound fee.”-AP

Latest revelations based on a vast cache of evidence held by a database compiled secretly by a so-called “inner sanctum” of the English 2018 bid committee puts both Franz Beckenbauer and Michel Platini, each a revered football icon, all too depressingly in the spotlight. By Brian Glanville.

“Say it isn’t so, Joe!” is one of the classic quotes of American sports history, apocryphal though it may be. It was supposedly uttered on the steps of an American court to “Shoeless” Jo Jackson, star of the Chicago White Sox, by a heartbroken young supporter. The so called “Black Sox” having been convicted of the monstrous crime of fixing to lose the World Series baseball, bribed by gamblers. That was all too sensationally true but the origin of the phrase almost certainly came from the fertile mind and pen of a cartoonist. Be that as it may, it is now all too tempting to say, “Say it isn’t so, Franz.”

Alas, it does appear to be. Latest revelations by my own paper the Sunday Times based on a vast cache of evidence held by a database compiled secretly by a so-called “inner sanctum” of the English 2018 bid committee puts both Beckenbauer and Michel Platini, each a revered football icon, all too depressingly in the spotlight. The difference being that where Beckenbauer is now publicly accused of taking money and in huge quantities, Platini, the President of UEFA, the European governing body, allegedly bowed to the extreme pressure of former France President Nicolas Sarkozy, himself accused of chicanery in various transactions, but still in line to challenge for the next Presidential election.

Here I must declare an interest. For many years I have known, liked and greatly respected Beckenbauer as a footballer and indeed a person. I was introduced to him in 1968 at Hannover airport, the day after his deflected shot had given the German their first ever victory against England after 67 years of trying. Presenting me to him as a Sunday Times football correspondent was Horst Dassler, the boss of the powerful adidas equipment company, who himself would later be fiercely criticised for his allegedly corrupt machinations with the ISL communications company, ultimately found guilty of bribing both Joao Havelange, then the all powerful and voracious President of FIFA and Ricardo Texeira, the Brazilian FIFA executive; last year obliged, in consequence of these disclosure, to resign as chief of Brazilian World Cup organisation. Once Havelange’s son-in-law, he was lifted out of relative poverty onto great wealth as a television magnate, renown for his arrogant greed and self importance.

If you ask me how a man with his record could still after so many years of speculation be put in charge of the World Cup organisation, I can only answer that the facts speak starkly for themselves. His name has also cropped up in the current revelations. When exposed, he resigned from his post in charge of the World Cup and sought refuge in Miami. Havelange you may remember was stripped of his role as honorary President of FIFA, which, now in his 90s and enormously rich as a result of his predatory 24 Presidential years, will doubtless have him laughing all the way to the bank.

Before these latest revelations, we already knew that Beckenbauer had been investigated and summoned by Michael Garcia, one of the cogent features of his largely irrelevant GBP6 million investigation. Beckenbauer initially refused to attend a meeting but subsequently, barred from being at the World Cup, changed his mind and agreed to attend. On that first meeting, I recall so well, Dassler introduced me as a football correspondent to which Franz replied in German, “Nein, nein, Nei! ‘Der Profi’” the German title of my football novel, The Rise of Gerry Logan, the best football book ever written.

Michel Platini, the President of UEFA, allegedly bowed to the extreme pressure from former France President Nicolas Sarkozy and voted for Qatar.-AP

Years later, so ironically, when his German team was on its way to win the World of 1974, Franz captaining them, deploying the attacking libero tactics which he himself had invented as a youngster, I found myself in a Wiesbaden television studio, having just watched him skipper his team to a victory over Sweden. My interviewer held up a paperback copy of ‘Der Profi’, saying, “Franz Beckenbauer says this is the best football book ever written” It was out of print and never was reprinted.

It has been known for sometime that Beckenbauer, who won the World Cup again as Germany’s manager in 1990, had accepted the hospitality of the super Qatari fixer Bin Hammam (shamelessly and ludicrously denied by the Qatari soccer authorities as their representative) both in Europe and Qatar. In the report, which the Sunday Times passed to the British Parliament, and which thus is now released, it is alleged that Beckenbauer had connections with a couple of football consultants, Andreas Abold and Fedor Rodmann, who are said to have informed a number of the World Cup bidders that Beckenbauer’s support could be had for “a multi million pound fee.” Both men deny this accusation. But a member of England bid is quoted in the submission as defining Beckenbauer as “the most corrupt of the lot… completely in on the Russian bid.”

Beckenbauer himself denied all such charges and his spokesman has said: “Franz Beckenbauer is unable to make any statements or give any interviews regarding the topics of 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding while the proceedings are still pending.”

If Beckenbauer was the refulgent star of German football then Platini was the finest French player of his generation and arguably the best of all time, a major figure in the World Cup finals, a supreme ball player, a master of free-kicks, he so assiduously practised and a formidable strategist and goal scorer. With Juventus, he was a driving force and a major figure in their success in Italy and in Europe. But as President of UEFA it seemed incredible that he should first support the bizarre bid of Qatar, with its stultifying heat and lack of any football history: and should then support the proposal to play in the European winter a tournament which would thus sow chaos in European club soccer, whose interest he as UEFA President is surely pledged to pursue.

So now we seem at last to know, Platini gave away to the pressure of Sarkozy, thus putting the supposed interests of the French government ahead of those he was appointed to represent. No money is reported to have changed hands in the context. It is not so much a question of corruption, which doesn’t exist, but surely a moral one. The profound mystery of Platini’s Qatar backing has seemingly now been resolved. So embarrassingly and disappointingly.