“I am happy to finally talk again about football in a circle of reasonable people” – Beckenbauer said recently at his first TV appearance in the midst of the ongoing investigation about corruption surrounding the FIFA World Cup held in Germany 2006. Welcome to the language of FIFA and Volkswagen. Institutions or corporations always find themselves mascots and messengers that connect whatever there is to connect with the regular dude. Simplified messages mostly, paired with a bit of naivety packaged into emotional commercials or funny looking testimonials.
Well, we live in a free country and everyone can say yes or no to whatever. No one needs to listen, no one needs to buy or consume. Everyone has a choice.
The one big problem: a small circle of people are shaping the everyday reality of millions and because most of the stuff happens behind closed doors, they can move in the grey zones of morality and legality… and few are granted access. So the truth remains hidden in the shade of the tight-knit family. No one is really hurting anyone by donating a couple of million to a corrupt sports official in some Third World country. At least that’s what they feel looking at those countries from a distance. Exactly as Beckenbauer nicely put it during his site inspection of the stadiums built for the World Cup in Qatar 2022 (“I have not seen a single slave, they all walk around freely.”)
The Beckenbauer generation is for the most part generally not filled with criminals or bad people (with a few exceptions like Sepp Blatter or the bosses at Volkswagen of course). But they are the ones that cover up the big scandals. Idols like Beckenbauer would have the power to uncover, to mobilise and bring attention to the issues and situations. But that would require a deeper understanding or interest or sense of responsibility. Or maybe just courage.
No matter how big the corporation, institution or political entity, it’s still a family business out there. Individuals who owe each other favours, sometimes spread over generations. They build relationships because you never know how they might be useful in the future, creating a net of dependencies and insider knowledge. Every member of the family knows about the others dirty laundry. That’s what keeps the system closed and mutually protective. They justify their own actions because in their world everyone does the same anyways. What do you think what kind of world we live in? Do you really think you can get a World Cup to your country without channelling some dough through some funny channels? Or like Armstrong probably thinks: do you really think that there was one rider in history that won the Tour de France without doping ?
There is nothing wrong with family business. Actually it’s a great thing when people relate directly to others. But the crucial part are the underlying values. It’s also normal to simplify things. The world is complicated, and you have to start somewhere, otherwise why bother getting out of bed. But it’s the attitude behind the simplifications. Is it paired with arrogance or is it paired with a desire to learn and a sense of responsibility.
So, what values does the family stand for and how transparent is it dealing with its affairs? What leaders do the family bring to light? Who represents the family? How open is it to let sunshine and new people in? I think families are a living entity. They should evolve and grow and be shaped by their members, not only by the inheritance or the blood line; open family business that creates new idols for the land. Idols we are happy to be entertained by, but foremost inspired to follow in their wise footsteps.
Let’s put new people in charge. And yes Beckenbauer, you could make a difference and help move the football organisations out of the dark ages. And that would be so much more fun then sitting on a couch talking with reasonable people like Lothar Matthaus about a Champions League match.