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Beckenbauer: “Life only works if you stick together”

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Franz Beckenbauer established his foundation 40 years ago. In an interview with club magazine '51', the FC Bayern honorary captain talks about his motives, gratitude, happiness, fate, the situation in Ukraine and the freedom of being able to help people.

Interview with Franz Beckenbauer

Herr Beckenbauer, how did the idea of setting up a foundation come about?
Beckenbauer: "I was in my last Bundesliga season as a player at the time, with Hamburg. The team doctor, Friedrich Nottbohm, came to be with the idea of starting a foundation and using the proceeds from my testimonial as the capital. That's how the Franz Beckenbauer Foundation was started. I then topped up the DM800,000 from the match to one million, to round things off."

I simply wanted to create something sustainable - I felt the need to help people in need in the long term.

Franz Beckenbauer

Why was this foundation important to you? You experienced poor times yourself as a child, although they were also very happy times...
"When I think of my childhood and the time I grew up in, I feel nothing but gratitude. After the war, no one really had much, but especially in our neighbourhood, everyone always helped out somehow. We children learned from football and in general that life only works if you stick together. As far as the foundation is concerned, I simply wanted to create something sustainable - I felt the need to help people in need in the long term."

What does helping others mean to you personally?
"I think, and I learned early on, that helping is an important part of our lives. Many people always talk about humanity - yes, what is humanity? Humanity is perceiving others in their worries and needs - and then being there for the other person. For those who are able to do so, it is, in my eyes, an obligation to help socially weaker people. For my part, I then decided that a foundation was the most suitable vehicle for me. But, of course, you can also help in other ways."

Is this foundation also an expression of gratitude?
"Yes, definitely. I have been very lucky in my life - and I have been able to work for everything that many people only dream of. You can't take that for granted. You have to do something yourself, but at the same time you have to get opportunities in life. I also feel gratitude in terms of my health. I was hardly injured as a player, which is another reason why I was able to make my way."

Freedom is an important good because it always gives you the choice to decide how to approach the world.

Franz Beckenbauer

You once said being a libero is also a nice role in life... Is this foundation part of that attitude? That you have the freedom to create something?
"Interesting question... Essentially, you have a specific purpose in a foundation, but of course when you set up a foundation like this, first of all you have the freedom to decide to want to make something happen. I don't want to overuse the parallel with the libero on the pitch, but in general I feel it is good luck when life gives you opportunities to help others. Freedom is an important good because it always gives you the choice to decide how to approach the world."

How do you feel when you see current images of the war in Ukraine?
"The pictures and news that reach us from Ukraine are simply terrible. Many people are dying, are being injured or have had to flee traumatised from their homeland. Fortunately, there is a lot of solidarity with these people in the Western world. And if many people help, we will manage to alleviate the unimaginable suffering of the refugees, at least as best we can."

Will your foundation be active here?
"The foundation will help these people in need according to its possibilities, in the particular cases especially people with disabilities or sick persons."

The most important thing in these difficult times is never to lose faith in the good and to maintain courage, confidence and motivation.

Franz Beckenbauer

How do you manage to maintain a positive outlook on the world?
"In view of all the bad news from all over the world, and especially now from Ukraine, one could easily get the feeling that individuals are not achieving anything. We want to counteract this resignation with the Foundation. Every person can do good - each within the scope of their possibilities. I don't want to imagine a world of despondency in which nothing progresses because everyone tells themselves that nothing can be achieved. I myself have experienced often enough in my life what you can achieve when you are passionately committed to your goals."

In your opinion, how much in life is fate - and what can one bring about or change oneself?
(smiles) "A highly philosophical question. I think the most important thing in these difficult times with COVID-19, the worries about the climate and now this terrible war in Ukraine is never to lose faith in the good and to maintain courage, confidence and motivation. Fate is fate - but if every person strives to do good, that can never be wrong for this world."

What makes you confident for the future?
"At the moment, you often hear a quote from Mahatma Gandhi, who said that in the history of mankind, truth and love have always won in the end, even if evil seemed invincible for a while. One should always be aware of that. For our foundation in concrete terms, I am also confident that it will continue to be there for people in the future. Even if I myself can no longer be as active as I used to be, it will continue. People in need can rely on that. Of course, we can only ever contribute a small part. But I have learned over the decades that every bit of help counts. That makes me happy and that gives me confidence for the future."

Donation account:

Franz Beckenbauer-Stiftung
HypoVereinsbank München
IBAN: DE 68700202700036474700
BIC: HYVEDEMMXXX

The full interview is available in the FC Bayern member magazine '51'.