Em­bat­tled Ger­man FA boss faces cri­sis meet­ing

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

BER­LIN: Ger­man Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion (DFB) boss Wolf­gang Niers­bach faces tough ques­tion­ing at a cri­sis meet­ing to­day over claims that bribes were paid in or­der to host the 2006 World Cup.

Niers­bach faces a grilling from the foot­ball of­fi­cials and pres­i­dents of the 16 re­gional as­so­ci­a­tions which make up the Ger­man FA when the gov­ern­ing body’s ex­tra­or­di­nary meet­ing in Frank­furt be­gins at 2:30 pm lo­cal time (1330 GMT).

Ger­man foot­ball has been plunged into cri­sis since mag­a­zine Der Spiegel al­leged last month that the DFB made a 6.7 mil­lion eu­ros ($7.4 mil­lion) pay­ment to FIFA in or­der to buy the votes of four Asian mem­bers of the ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee in or­der to host the 2006 fi­nals.

At the vote in July 2000, Ger­many saw off South Africa by 12 votes to 11 to win the right to stage the tour­na­ment fi­nals, re­mem­bered here as the “sum­mer fairy­tale”.

Niers­bach has ve­he­mently de­nied the claims, say­ing “there was no slush fund, there was no vote buy­ing”, and claimed in­stead that the sum was used to se­cure 170 mil­lion eu­ros of fund­ing from world foot­ball’s gov­ern­ing body. How­ever, some 50 po­lice of­fi­cers swooped last Tues­day on the DFB’s head­quar­ters, as well as well as at homes of three ac­cused-the DFB pres­i­dent, former DFB pres­i­dent and former gen­eral sec­re­tary.

The three are un­der­stood to be Niers­bach, his pre­de­ces­sor Theo Zwanziger and ex-gen­eral sec­re­tary Horst Sch­midt. Prose­cu­tors said they were launch­ing a tax probe against the three foot­ball bosses, and that they only re­frained from pur­su­ing ac­cu­sa­tions of cor­rup­tion be­cause the statute of lim­i­ta­tions on graft had ex­pired.

Pres­sure to re­sign

The scan­dal has left 64-year-old Niers­bach un­der in­tense pres­sure to re­sign. Zwanziger has ac­cused Niers­bach of ly­ing, say­ing it was “clear that there was a slush fund in the Ger­man World Cup bid­ding process”.

Ger­man daily Die Welt said the DFB plans to set up an ethics com­mit­tee, but both its mem­bers and the gen­eral pub­lic want an­swers now. “I hope that the DFB will shed light on the mat­ter as soon as pos­si­ble, be­cause this af­fair ir­ri­tates many peo­ple,” said Ger­man politi­cian Volker Bouffier, pre­mier of cen­tral Hesse state.

Ru­mours of who might suc­ceed Niers­bach are al­ready cir­cu­lat­ing, with Rein­hard Rauball, pres­i­dent of the Ger­man Foot­ball League (DFL), and Oliver Bier­hoff, man­ager of the Ger­man na­tional team, men­tioned among the likely can­di­dates.

De­spite on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions by both Ger­man author­i­ties and FIFA’s Ethics Com­mit­tee, Niers­bach still en­joys sup­port in the DFB, but he needs to come up with con­vinc­ing an­swers.

Among the ques­tions is how long he knew about the du­bi­ous pay­ment of 6.7 mil­lion eu­ros, what was the money used for and where did it go. Ob­servers have also won­dered why foot­ball leg­end Franz Beck­en­bauer, who led Ger­many’s bid to host the 2006 World Cup and was head of the or­gan­is­ing com­mit­tee, has left his long-time friend Niers­bach in the cold and re­fused to clar­ify the scan­dal.

Niers­bach wants to stay in of­fice and plans to travel with the world cham­pi­ons to play France in a friendly in Paris on Fri­day. But to­day’s meet­ing prom­ises to be the tough­est test yet of his three years in charge of Ger­many’s most pow­er­ful sport­ing body. —AFP

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