Thousands gather for Franz Beckenbauer memorial service at Bayern Munich’s stadium

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German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier paid tribute to Franz Beckenbauer at a memorial service on Friday dedicated to the player and coach known as “Der Kaiser”.

Steinmeyer spoke of the “slightly Bavarian” accent of the man he called “Germany’s most popular ambassador” and said Beckenbauer would make angels play football in heaven:

“I don’t know whether the angels in heaven play sport. But if they do, then they will certainly have heard this new, somewhat Bavarian-sounding voice in the past few days: “Go out and play soccer!”, said the 68-year-old in his funeral speech “A voice that we all know and that we will now miss forever. The voice of the Kaiser. The voice of Franz Beckenbauer.”

A man holds a scarf during a memorial service for Bayern and Germany legend Franz Beckenbauer at the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany, Friday, Jan. 19, 2024

Around 30,000 people gathered at Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena, on a bright, cold day, including many of the most influential figures in German politics and the world of soccer, as well as thousands of Bayern fans.

It was the city Beckenbauer was born in and represented as both a player and coach.

“We are not only bidding farewell to a world-class soccer player. We are bidding farewell to a great person. His skill inspired us, his friendly demeanour won people over, his fairness and attitude were no less than his talent,” Steinmeier said, adding: “Thank you, Franz, thank you for everything.”

Bayern Honorary President Uli Hoeness speaks during a memorial service for Bayern and Germany legend Franz Beckenbauer

Speakers including Steinmeier, Bayern president Herbert Hainer and Beckenbauer’s former teammate Uli Hoeness praised how Beckenbauer combined immense talent on the field with personal warmth.

“This club grew up with Franz Beckenbauer, we grew together,” Hainer said. “The world looked up to him but he didn’t look down on anyone.”

German soccer legend Franz Beckenbauer

A black-and-white picture of Beckenbauer covered the centre circle of the field, surrounded by wreaths laid in his memory, including tributes from clubs like Barcelona and Liverpool.

As renowned tenor Jonas Kaufmann sang, 11 former players laid floral tributes. They included Beckenbauer’s teammates from West Germany’s World Cup-winning 1974 team like Paul Breitner and Berti Vogts, players he coached to victory at the 1990 World Cup such as Lothar Matthäus, and the 2014 World Cup winner Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Among the guests were German chancellor Olaf Scholz and a host of other political figures, FIFA president Gianni Infantino, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, and German national team coach Julian Nagelsmann.

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