Franz Beckenbauer (“My opponents. My friends. Stages of a career”) will turn 75 on September 11, 2020 – and everyone will want to congratulate him. But it will feel different than in the years before. Also different than on his 70th birthday. The “Kaiser” is no longer the same. The picture of him no longer shines so incomparably.
Outwardly, it hasn’t changed that much. His smile is just as friendly as ever, his hair is thinner and a little whiter, the skin a little paler. He looks more delicate, more vulnerable. And his voice has become more fragile, a little higher, as older men often speak when they are inevitably getting on in years.
He says that all other birthdays passed “easier” on him. “I have to say that this age makes me a bit pensive for the first time in my life,” he told FC Bayern Munich’s member magazine “51”.
With age he becomes thoughtful
He thinks that is part of life, “that you inevitably get to the point where you think about it, that life is finite: When is it so far that you disappear? And in which spheres? The universe is out there big enough, in any case there would be enough possibilities where one could end up. “
He hasn’t fared particularly well in recent years. He had a heart operation, he had a groin operation and got an artificial hip joint, he suffered an ocular infarct that restricted the vision of the right eye.
The worst happened to him in 2015: His eldest son Stephan died of a brain tumor at the age of only 46. A broken father had been seen at his funeral. A face frozen in grief and sorrow. He never recovered from it. Almost two years ago he declared “Bunte”: “I don’t know if you can ever come to terms with it. I think it will always stay that way.”
Beckenbauer is withdrawing more and more
Beckenbauer has withdrawn more and more from the public. The figure of light that cast a mighty shadow on all the others around him suddenly stood in the shadow itself. He had been the Germans’ favorite figure for decades. That was not only due to his outstanding sporting record as a player and coach (two world champions, European champions, world cup winners, three-time European championship champions, ten national championships). Because of his incomparably elegant style of play, he was named “Kaiser”.
Where he was was up
Beckenbauer was the nation’s lucky child. Where he was was up. When he gave his sayings garnished with Confucius quotes and invented “Franzeln”, even intellectuals hung on his lips. The Scottish team manager Andy Roxburgh (77) described him most aptly: “Franz is the only person in the world who would fly up if he jumped out the window.”
Indeed, most of the features of his life had a decidedly playful and elegant character. Where others sweated, toiled, bucked and tormented, he celebrated. With a smile and an inimitable casualness.
His charisma ironed out any faux pas
He was also forgiven for his affairs with women like a rascal. Three marriages, a longstanding relationship – but what the heck. Germany smiled when Beckenbauer said: “I once had a family tree made: The Beckenbauer’s roots are in Franconia. They were funny families, all illegitimate children. We stuck with them.”
He was never a barker like so many other footballers and ex-athletes. He was charming, generous to ex-wives and life mates. He founded and donated, much more in silence than in public, founded the Franz Beckenbauer Foundation to support disabled, needy and in no-fault people in need, became an ambassador for the children’s social project “Football for Friendship”.
Awarding the 2006 World Cup to Germany seemed to be the high point in Franz B.’s professional life from Munich. “He is probably so powerful that he could even overthrow governments”, said the Viennese artist André Heller, the artistic World Cup advisor from 2006. That was the time when he himself believed: “All Sundays in the world are united in me. ”
“I had a beautiful life”
Then came the dubious aftermath of the summer fairy tale. “What was there in the last few years. With all the operations and also with the history of 2006. That really bothered me. I can see that it is now accepted that there was nothing, but the last few years have been tough” , explained Beckenbauer in the birthday interview with the “Bild” newspaper. However, he does not want to complain. “I had such a beautiful life that I will be forever grateful.” It could only have gone better with health, he admits.