Franz Beckenbauer celebrates his 75th birthday on Friday. Giesing, FC Bayern, New York – where did he truly grow up? Der Kaiser talks about his childhood, the future of the club, and his definition of happiness. Read the full interview (in German) in the current edition of FC Bayern members’ magazine ’51’.
Franz Beckenbauer, 75 this week – what does that number mean to you?
I have to say that, for the first time in my life, this age has given me food for thought. All the other birthdays just passed me by. But I think its all part of life. You inevitably reach the point when you contemplate the finite nature of life.
When will the time come for you to disappear? And in what circumstance? The universe is big enough – there are definitely enough possibilities of where you might end up (smiles). But looking back, I’m very happy. And that’s the most important thing.
If you think back to how it all started when you were a young lad in the Munich district of Giesing, what springs to mind first?
My family home and the football pitch right in front of our door. They were definitely the most important constants in my life. My grandmother let my parents, my brother and I live with her and our four-room apartment was relatively spacious given the circumstances at the time.
Our greatest fortune was our neighbours opposite: SC 1906 Munich. Football wasn’t as popular in the 1950s as it is today – but it was the elixir of life for us. We had the best childhood of all.
What values were passed on to you at the time?
My parents set us an example of their values every day. Times were hard just after the war. There was nothing to be had, nobody had anything and nobody needed to be jealous of anybody else. It was all about being considerate, having mutual respect, and supporting each other.
When we had a scrap – that did happen at times – and somebody ended up on the ground, we picked him up again rather than giving him another kick. That was the zeitgeist as I remember it and I think everybody felt like that at the time: you looked after somebody who was down on their luck. There was a lot of humanity and care. You tried to make sure that other people were somehow OK.
Is it right that you were called ‘stumpy’ back then?
(laughs) Yes, that came from my father. He called me that because I was always the smallest. By the way, that’s where my pace came from: as a child on the streets, I knew I had to run quickly when there was trouble.
My pace was my gift to keep me out of trouble. Sometimes I had to go down into the cellar to fetch wood. It was dark and full of nooks and crannies down there, and I saw ghostly figures around every corner. I sprinted out every time and, looking back, that was the best possible training.
How did it come about that you wanted to join TSV 1860 back then?
That’s explained by the times: I grew up in Giesing and that was an 1860 part of town. FC Bayern were from Schwabing – that was a long, long way away for us. Ludwig Zausinger, Kurt Mondschein, plus Petar ‘Radi’ Radenkovic later on – they were our heroes. But then there was a game between our 1906 schoolboys’ team and 1860.
Their center-back wasn’t very friendly to me and during the course of the game, I blew my top. He gave me a slap, and with that, my mind was made up: I’m not going to 1860! In retrospect, I don’t think it was a bad decision.
What does being happy mean to you?
Happiness is not a permanent state, but there are happy moments in your life. If you can hold onto them for a long time and repeat them, that is real happiness.
What’s your view of your FC Bayern today?
I think I can be very, very calm looking at this club. The course is set. From the 1960s up to today, it’s only ever gotten better and better.
Just reminding you FC Barcelona lost 8-2 to Bayern Munich in a Champions League Quarter Final, suffering the heaviest defeat beyond Quarter Finals in the competition's history.
— Allu 🦈 (@GreatWhite_9) September 4, 2020
There have been setbacks such as not winning the league and occasional painful defeats – but what does that matter? This club always gets back up and, overall, it’s a unique story of success that we can all be proud about. I’m convinced it will carry on. Even the terrible coronavirus pandemic will not change that. FC Bayern remains unsurpassed in its stability.
What impresses you on the pitch?
Basically everything. Hansi Flick has reinvigorated the team again. Before that, it felt like some players weren’t really up for it. It’s one of his biggest achievements to get everybody going again and just convey joy.
I really enjoy this football. Hansi has a very human side and he knows exactly how to speak to all the World Cup winners and serial champions. He’s accepted by the players and that’s reflected on the pitch. The treble came from nowhere.
FC Bayern have been champions eight times in succession and won the second treble in the club’s history – can you explain why this hunger doesn’t stop?
It used to be said that you’d have to rebuild the team after two or three title wins because they wouldn’t be able to give their all again. Players today are more rigorous. Being champions eight times in succession is really high art, a sign of outstanding mentality and outstanding desire.
I can only salute them. Brilliant. And I don’t get the impression these boys have had enough. The treble is definitely an incentive.
How do you think the club is set for the future?
Oliver Kahn and Hasan Salihamidžić are working very successfully with Herbert Hainer. They’ve shown they’re capable of following in the big footsteps of Uli Hoeneß and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. I absolutely believe they will continue to follow the same path that Uli and Kalle have laid out, in the same style, with the same commitment and the same joy. I’ve no doubt about that. There could hardly have been a better start.
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