The Kaiser has had enough. Franz Beckenbauer, the earthly God worshipped by millions of German soccer fans, the man who almost single handedly brought the 2006 World Cup to Germany, is steamed with national team trainer Jürgen Klinsmann. And on Monday evening, he let everyone know about it.
Speaking at the opening of the pre-tournament workshop in Düsseldorf -- an event attended by national team coaches from 21 of the 32 countries qualified -- Beckenbauer laid into "Klinsi" for electing not to attend the event and instead, flying back to his home in sunny California. "The national trainer of the host country should be here. That's not even a question," said Beckenbauer, who is the president of the World Cup 2006 Organizing Committee and who played on Germany's 1974 World Cup winning team and coached the 1990 team to World Cup nirvana. "This is a compulsory event and (Klinsmann) doesn't have all that many compulsory events. He should be here…. If I have to think about this any longer my choice of words would be even more drastic."
For a country still smarting from the national team's abysmal performance in a friendly against Italy last week -- losing 4-1 in a game that was even uglier than that -- Beckenbauer's words served as the spark that set off an explosion of bile hurled in Klinsmann's direction. Immediately, a number of politicians joined in the criticism demanding that Klinsmann spend more time in Germany in the three months remaining before the World Cup tournament kicks off on June 9 in Munich. "The German Football Association should never have agreed to allow the national team trainer to supervise a mega-event like the World Cup from California," said Dieter Wiefelspütz of the Social Democrats. Klinsmann lives in California and has been commuting back and forth to his team for training sessions and games.
It's a style of coaching that many in Germany find too hands off. Just last week, following the disaster against Italy, the best-selling tabloid Bild Zeitung printed pictures of Klinsmann walking into his California home a day after the game, and heavily criticized him in the accompanying article. On Tuesday, following Beckenbauer's, another clutch of disparaging diatribes appeared in the paper, including speculation on who might replace Klinsmann should he be canned on the eve of the tournament along with an image of Brazil trainer Carlos Alberto Parreira in Düsseldorf under the headline: "He came 9,580 km from Brazil."
"I can only repeat myself," Beckenbauer said on Monday when asked about the presence of the other trainers. "When people are here who are experienced, who have already won everything, who are world champions and European champions, and our national coach doesn't consider it possible to be at this workshop -- then I'm sorry."
Klinsmann for his part, in an interview with the German press agency dpa, defended his non-presence by saying the workshop was primarily held to iron out a few "organizational and administrative things." He also said he understands Beckenbauer's anger, but said he would like "to be allowed to have a different opinion every now and then." He and Beckenbauer aren't having a feud, he emphasized.
But he and the German public may be. According to a survey held by a Frankfurt radio station on Monday, fully 71 percent of those who logged on to the station's Web site to vote would like to see the back of Klinsmann.
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