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Germany Will Take Its Turn

Soccer: Beckenbauer has plenty of ideas and is eager to put his stamp on next World Cup in 2006.

July 02, 2002|GRAHAME L. JONES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

YOKOHAMA, Japan — And so, on to Germany.

Just when World Cup fans had learned to wrap their tongues around such exotic and strange-sounding places as Seogwipo and Gwangju, South Korea, and Shizuoka and Niigata, Japan, the circus has packed its tents and moved on down the road.

Fans now have four years, more or less, to learn to tell their Gelsenkirchens from their Kaiserslauterns. A quick clue: They're both in Germany and are two of the 12 towns that will play host to the 2006 World Cup.

The other cities might be more familiar: Berlin and Dortmund, Frankfurt and Hamburg, Hanover and Cologne, Leipzig and Munich, Nuremberg and Stuttgart.

The name of the chap in charge of it all might also ring a bell, or a glockenspiel, perhaps. He's Franz Beckenbauer, one-time New York Cosmos' defender but no doubt better known as the man who won a World Cup as a player for Germany in 1974 and another as Germany's coach in 1990.

Now he wants to win a third, as "president of the Organizing Committee for the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany," to quote the snappy 52-page media guide that he and his folks already had distributed here long before Ronaldo and Brazil waltzed away with the 2002 World Cup.

"Der Kaiser" is what Beckenbauer is called back home in Bavaria, a nickname that reflects both his stature and his demanding nature.

And "Der Kaiser" already has started demanding.

He doesn't like the idea that the 2002 World Cup calendar was arranged without taking into consideration that the world's top players were all coming off a grueling European season and needed more rest.

"The World Cup is the best we have and the whole world is watching, but what do they see?" Beckenbauer asked early in the tournament. "Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo [and] David Beckham are all injured or out of shape."

The problem, Beckenbauer said, lies in an overcrowded schedule. Leading players are involved in domestic leagues that are too large, there are various cup competitions that are too cumbersomely organized, and unnecessary international friendlies.

"It's too much," he said. "Football suffers from that. Who needs a World Cup with tired teams? This is negative publicity. It's not the future. It's impossible.

"The message from this World Cup--that this situation cannot continue--has to be answered immediately. The number of clubs in some of the major leagues has to be reduced. There are also too many matches in the Champions League and too many internationals.

"And it's not only Europe. [Each of the] South American teams had to go through 18 qualifying matches before making the finals."

Besides reducing the number of games, Beckenbauer also wants more time between the European Champions Cup final, the traditional season finale, and the start of the World Cup.

Korea/Japan '02 started May 31. Beckenbauer said the 2006 Cup will begin at least 10 days later.

Supporting Beckenbauer's view is Jean-Marcel Ferret, France's team doctor, who last month told the French daily Le Parisien that he realized even before the tournament began that the defending champions would not be competitive.

"I found them exhausted mentally and physically," Ferret said. "The tests we made in April were already worrying. Much of the data about their condition was bad then. They were really tired.

"Most of them were fed up, and many things they bore two years ago [when France won the 2000 European Championship] were unbearable this time. They had only two weeks to prepare when they needed at least a month."

France was ousted in the first round without scoring a goal. It was the worst performance by a defending champion.

Germany '06 will at least be easier from a logistics standpoint. There will be only one host country and only a dozen venues, compared to the unwieldy two-country, 20-venue competition of 2002.

Michel Zen-Ruffinen, the soon-to-be former general secretary of FIFA--he was fired in the wake of Joseph "Sepp" Blatter's controversial reelection as president--said Monday that co-hosting had not proven as big a problem as originally feared and that it probably would be repeated.

"With rotation of the World Cup due to start between the continents in 2010, without co-hosting, the World Cup would go back to the same countries time after time," he said.

"I think we have seen here--between, let's say, two countries that have not exactly been good friends--that the concept can work if there is the will to make it work. I am sure more World Cups will be shared in the future."

The next time could be in 2010, when Africa supposedly will get the Cup. That could be bad news for one-time favorite South Africa, because co-hosting would certainly be easier between, say, Morocco and Tunisia, than between countries at opposite ends of the continent.

European teams, too, would prefer the short hop across the Mediterranean to the long haul to South Africa.

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