An Old International

Clouds over Germany

While for many the European Championships will be a festival of football, other thoughts need to be considered, too. Read more →

Dortmund is arming up

The news broke on Tuesday but the deal was signed before, for sure: the German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall will be one of Dortmund’s sponsors for the following next three years. Even before the Champions League Final at Wembley against Real Madrid, the logo of the company will be visible on advertisement hoardings. While there is nothing wrong with a sponsorship deal in general, there is some problem here, nonetheless.

While announcing the deal, the CEO of Dortmund, Aki Watzke has stated that this deal should also contribute to a wider discussion about security in and for society. In other words, he and his club intend to initiate a debate that is best left to politicians and those who have an idea about security, espeically in an international context. Because the national security of Germany or any other country for that matter, is NOT the main business of any football club.

While it is undeniable that sport and politics are intermingled, the governing bodies of the sport staunchly claim otherwise. Football has become the biggest show on earth and it is undoubtedly political. Any attempt to state the opposite sounds ridiculous.

The so-called West and its state model of liberal democracy have been vocal critics of countries that (mis-) use sports in order to re-create a new, a better image for themselves. The allegation of sportswashing has been levelled repeatedly against these countries. The most recent and obvious example for this was Qatar, the host country for the 2022 World Cup. Somewhat closer to home, Bayern have been brandishing adverts for Qatar Airways on their shirts between 2018 and 2023. The deal between Dortmund and Rheinmetall is nothing but sportswashing for the arms manufacturer.

According to some German news outlets, the fans have only been informed and not been involved in the discussions, which leaves them feeling snubbed and used as a fig leave. Additionally, the timing could not have been worse. By accounincg the sponsorship agreement just days before the biggest of the past decade for the club, the board surely must have hoped that the waves this may cause will go unseen and maybe remain unremarked. This horrendously backfired and Dortmund look as though they have exposed themselves and have been disgraced.

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whatever happened … ?

A little post to say I’m still alive and that things are still running at An Old International. There is an urge to state some obvious things, however. Read more →

Ideas on Player Ratings

Experience as a teacher includes marking students work and essays. However, not all these works deserve the same weight in the final bulletin. Here are some ideas how to weigh players performances differently. Read more →

Hostage situation at Parc des Princes is over

It is with great relief that the hostage situation at Parc des Princes has been dissolved without any bloodshed, injuries or other serious consequences. The situation has become untenable over the past few years. Kylian Mbappé was the poster boy of the Parisian team and the squad was built around him; so much so that a number of players left the club while Mbappé had a say in signing new players. It left him as THE star player at PSG. However, the results were disappointing: the Champions League Trophy eluded PSG and has become a wet dream.

The player has miscalculated his move: it comes too late. He fancied playing alongside Karim Benzema at Real Madrid, yet his French teammate has chosen to play in Saudi Arabia. The MLS is surely no option for him as the level of competition is too low for a player of his age and talent.

The options therefore are limited: Real Madrid or Manchester City. It will be a question of money and attractiveness. Madrid vs Manchester, I guess this is a fairly simple question to reply to.

For PSG the period of superstars is over for now; Ibrahimovic, Beckham, Messi and Mbappé to name the biggest names – all have worn the shirt of the first team in Paris. The biggest names remain Marquinhos and Donnaruma, while the majority of the squad are starlets or largely unknown. Irbid a chance for the club to tackle their future challenges without the burden of big names but with the tag of the underdog. Mostly though, they will have to rebuild their squad to be be and to remain competitive in the Champions League, the only currency of value for PSG.

In conclusion it can be noted that the hostage situation is over, there were no casualties only a mistimed transfer and a player who wielded too much power and influence has finally decided to leave.

Jerome Pugmire helped in the writing process with his invaluable insight and knowledge.

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Franz Beckenbauer 1945 – 2024

The story of German could have come quite differently, had not one incident decided the fate of the two Munich clubs, 1860 and Bayern, respectively. As a youngster, Franz Beckenbauer played for a small Munich club in his neighbourhood, Giesing. It was his intention to move to TSV 1860 Munich at some point in his career. However, temper and fate intervened. In a test match between the youth teams of Giesing and 1860 Munich, Beckenbauer got involved in an argument with an opponent. His adversary slapped him in the face and thus sealed the fate of 1860 and Bayern: Beckenbauer simply switched his allegiance from the blue part of the town to the red part and signed for Bayern.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

We live in a period in which every loss adds to the general feeling of a period ending for people of a certain age. In the case of Franz Beckenbauer, it is certainly the end of an era: The loss of a player who transformed one playing position, the libero, or sweeper, like no one before him; those following merely re-interpreted that role anew, but it was him who put life into this position. Beckenbauer did so by not just playing, but by adding a touch of grace and elegance to it that his successors could not match. Yet, also the end of an era in which men in football got away with almost everything. Beckenbauer was a superb player, but he was also a womanizer, and as an official he was involved in one of the biggest scandals German football has experienced. His remarks about slaves in Qatar were a sign that his touch with reality was not well established at the time.

His was an era in which players negotiated bonuses and fees with their coaches and clubs themselves — unthinkable nowadays. Today, there would be numerous representatives of the player in question, the setting would be an office. What a contrast the early 1970s were: The West German national team negotiated their fees with the DFB in the training camp with the tournament just a few days away and the coach at the time, Helmut Schön, was frustrated by the attitude of his players. The post-war generation fully embraced the lifestyle of professional footballers and tried to make as long as the days lasted.

It was also Beckenbauer who allegedly took over selection duties from the coach after the East Germans beat their Western counterparts 1-0. Legend has it that it paved the way to the World Cup Final and success. This may be so, and it is indicative of his personality: he wanted to be in charge. And the success proved him right. Had any of these previous instances gone wrong, he would be a mere footnote of German footnote. As it is, he is the uberfather — Der Kaiser.

The Midas Touch

From the outside, it looked as though everything he had touched turned to gold. It was he who guided Germany to the title in 1974 as a player; 16 years later he repeated the feat as national coach, thus becoming one of three men to lift the trophy as player and coach: Mario Zagallo of Brazil and Didier Deschamps of France. During the 1990s, he took over as coach of Bayern Munich, his club and, needless to say, they duly won the German league title in 1994. In 1996, he added the UEFA-Cup to their trophy cabinet.

Where there is light, there is shadow. Throughout his career, Beckenbauer had the dubious habit of tax evasion and had been fined a few times. Another legend has it that he signed for New York Cosmos to avoid a larger punishment for a similar infringement.

His legacy will always be marked by allegations of corruption to win the hosting rights for the 2006 World Cup in Germany, the summer fairy tale. Of course, he argued he would never intentionally do bad, let alone bribe someone.

Der Kaiser vs Uns Uwe

The contrast with Uwe Seeler could not be bigger. The Hamburg player, who passed away in 2022, never left his hometown, let alone did he play for another club. Seeler was of a different kind, approachable, a man of the people: “Uns Uwe” as the people called him.

The nickname, ‘Der Kaiser’ is revealing. A deity of such heights is untouchable, almost immortal. Another nom de guerre was ‘Lichtgestalt’, a shining figure possibly surrounded by a halo (remember Gandalf the White when he arrived at the final battle
These attributes constitute(d) an aloofness of Beckenbauer, of him standing above the things. This, of course, is impossible, as the corruption allegations show.

Here, a quote of his is revealing. During the “Welcome Tour” for the 2006 World Cup, he met politicians as well as Sheikhs. About both groups, he stated, “Politicians come and go, a Sheikh or an Emir will stay, these are very special people.” Did he indicate here that he was susceptible to their offers and charms?

Franz Beckenbauer’s life was very much a typical one for West Germany: growing up in poverty during the immediate postwar period in 1945 to benefit from approving living conditions for the majority of the population from the second half of the 1950s onwards. The economic miracle made Beckenbauer possible. He represented an openness that previous generations did not show. In an interview dating from June 2010, he spoke about a trip to Argentina in 1966 where he observed “people dancing in the streets” — unthinkable then in Germany. The smell of Argentina is different, he added: “spicier, hotter, more sensual”. What a contrast, Geoff Hurst of England. About being in Mexico for the 1970 World Cup, the golden boy of 1966 stated about the specifically imported team bus, “The smell of leather and tobacco in felt reassuring”.


“I recommend to everyone to go abroad, if there is a chance”


This credo of his is still very much valid today.

With Franz Beckenbauer, German football has lost one of its greatest-ever players, without a doubt. His story, his career would be unthinkable, if not impossible, today. However, his story did not end with his last trophy in 1996, but with allegations of corruption and bribery and an apparent blindness regarding working conditions in Qatar. This is vital to paint a complete picture of The Kaiser.


image credits: featured image: The successful German national team sit down with the trophy, via Wiki Commons CC0 1.0 Deed, twitter card: Friedrich Magnussen: training camp of the German national team in 1965, via Wiki Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE Deed

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Z10ane – An Exhibition Review

Another splendid exhibition or rather art installation is still visible at the Philharmonie de Paris. It focuses on one player alone: Zinedine “Zizou” Zidane, captain of France’s first World Cup winning team in 1998.

The installation shows the film “Zidane a 21st century portray” by Philippe Parreno and Douglas Gordon. In total 16 screens show the film in a darkened room, enabling visitors to wander around and watch different scenes, taking in the movements of Zidane, the development of the game and, of course, the noise: the music by Mogwai and the noise inside the ground, i.e. the spectators but also the brief conversations on the pitch as well as Zidane’s utterings to himself.

As a longtime observer of football, it is staggering to see the game’s slowness at that period. The difference to 2023/24 is telling. The build-up of attacks is much slower and the passing game of Real Madrid was sloppy at times, not to mention their defending. It was almost the end of the ‘Galacticos’; that ensemble of stars like David Beckham, Michael Owen, Ronaldo, Luis Figo, Zidane and Roberto Carlos, which did not work all too well on the pitch but sold well off it.

Showing the film on several screens is in line with recent developments in watching sports and football in particular: the second screen is never far away, be it for statistics or be it to share thoughts and ideas on various platforms. Also, the number of cameras allows us to see the game from different angles. However, the absence of VAR is refreshing; here it could have helped though.

Super Jews – Exhibition Review

The Jewish Museum in Vienna presents an exhibition on Jewish Identity in the football stadium, which looks at several different clubs from four European countries: Austria (Hakoah, First Vienna and Austria), Germany (Bayern Munich), England (Tottenham) and the Netherlands (Ajax).

The question this little exhibition follows is “What makes a football club, a Jewish club?” The players, the officials, or the fans? The clubs in question provide the answer.

The Austrian clubs have direct ties with the Jewish community, though their origins in different social classes; Hakoah was the club for the radical Zionists while Austria represented the Jewish middle classes which were by and large assimilated. Bayern’s inclusion is justified by Kurt Landauer, the Jewish president of the club under which they first won the German league title in 1932.

While the former two have direct links to the Jewish community in their respective cities, the cases of England and the Netherlands are different. Tottenham, have had a huge Jewish followership, which affected their identity. Ajax Amsterdam supporters simply called themselves “Super Jews”, while most fans of the Dutch club would not know where the state of Israel would be on a map.

The links between football and the Jewish communities in the respective cities are very different but no less very interesting.

It attracts a different clientele to the museum, which is a positive side effect. In times like these, with antisemitism once again spreading, highlighting the links between Jewish roots and influences on the world’s most popular pastime is vital.

One very intriguing piece is the banner reading “Partisan Rothschild” which plays with one of the key figures of the First Vienna FC 1894, Nathaniel von Rothschild. It shows an image of Rothschild printed on a red star. The script reads Partisan — a nod towards Partizan Belgrade, the arch-rival of Red Star. It marks the unifying power of football. Further, the red star, a clear communist sign, with Rothschild’s image superimposed on it, is another contrast. The connecting things are placed above those dividing; it is also a satirical way to play with fan identities’ often martial and exclusive nature in and around football.

The section on the Austrian clubs is naturally the biggest in this fine exhibition, presenting the refereeing whistle of Hugo Meisl as well as a miniature version of the Mitropa Cup which was — perversely abused by having “Heil Hitler” engraved on it. It was used to mark “the Anschluss” in 1938. The Ajax section is dominated by the screening of the film “Super Jews”.

The exhibition is still visible until January 7, at the main site of the Jewish Museum of Vienna. The fee is €15, the catalogue €23.90.

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Intel Inside! Magdeburg and Intel

The news that the American chip producer Intel would open a production site near Magdeburg was one of the best news that happened in 2022. The volume of the investment is estimated to be around 30bn Euro. That is massive and a sincere boost for the region which has seen a lot of unemployment following unification of Germany.

It was therefore only a matter of time before talk would turn towards Intel becoming a sponsor of the sports clubs in and around Magdeburg. In December 2023 the long awaited news finally came: Intel would become a technological partner for FC and SC Magdeburg.

Win-Win-Situation

For the football club this means, that the stadium will have reliable a 5G network, the training as well as the scouting will also benefit from the engagement of the chip producers. One detail is quite significant, though: the deal includes the support of a woman’s football team. This is surprising just as it is long overdue. However, FC Magdeburg benefit from already existing structures. Just weeks before the Intel deal became official, the members of the club decided by vote to integrate the women’s team of MFFC, a club established as early as 1991 (since 2003 under its current name). This presents either side with opportunities: FC Magdeburg need to have a women’s team as part of the licensing requirements while MFFC will benefit from the network, the facilities but mostly from the popularity of the name of the club.

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Eternal Bauer – Bauer Eternel

These days tickets to see Red Star at the time-honoured Stade Bauer are hard to come by. The team sit comfortably on top of the league with a five-point cushion over second-placed Niort Chamois. The game vs Nîmes was a sending-off for one the oldest stands in European football still in use: it dates back to the early 20th century and was built in the mould of Archibald Leitch who was responsible for designing the Johnny Haynes stand at Craven Cottage, home of Fulham and Ibrox Park in Glasgow – to name but two examples of his work.

A New Ground – A New Bauer?

Traditionalists may cry foul and surely they will have a point since many other monuments of times gone are kept alive at great costs, yet a football stand is easy to be dispensed with. The club, Red Star, are keen to get their new stadium after decades of continuous debate, which, at one point, saw them contemplating a move away from the Stade Bauer to the docklands of Saint-Ouen, which would have been an insult to their fans and possibly would have meant a hollowing out of the club. Given the takeover of the club by Group 777 this scenario was likely but thankfully it did not materialise. If fans are not content with Group 777 they have at least a little reason to be cheerful as the club remains where it has been at home for more than 100 years.

a crane rises up in the night sky behind iron bars which mark the roof of an old terrace

The “end” of Stade Bauer, as we know it, signals the arrival of the 21st century in Saint-Ouen – 25 years after the Stade de France marked the same for Saint-Denis, the capital city of the Seine-Saint-Denis Department. The legacy as it was planned for this poor area was that the World Cup 1998 would bring prosperity – but that never materialised; instead, Stade de France and its immediate surroundings stand stick out like a sore thumb. It is yet indicative of the economic situation of the city of Saint-Ouen and the department, the neuf-trois, as well as the club for them to have to wait until an investor, Group 777 (not welcome!) takes over a controlling stake in the club and realises the dream for the fans: a new stadium at the traditional place.

A game of football

In the face of this situation and at that point in the club’s history, the game of football became less important. Of course, points were to be won and Red Star duly took them, yet the emphasis of this evening from the stands was anywhere but not on the pitch.

The visitors from Nîmes are locked in a relegation battle in Division Three. Their record from the last five games read: played five, lost three, drawn two. A cup win against Roannais Foot 42 provided them with a little morale boost but the ensuing league match was lost.

What a different look the hosts were! They were in a rush, scoring twice very early to make clear where the spoils were going. The first was scored by Damien Durand with less than two minutes gone and Achille Anani doubled the lead after only ten minutes.

Following that the game was over; Red Star continued to press and dominate but failed to add more goals to their accounts. Nîmes had their moments in which they were able to relieve themselves from the constant pressure but their efforts were hampered by their inability to produce an opening of the Red Star defence.

The second half was a repetition of the first. Red Star enjoyed the majority of the ball but failed to make anything accountable from it. This became somewhat of an embarrassment for them as they besieged the goal of Nîmes goalkeeper Dias who in return made some brilliant saves and deserves some special recognition for his performance on this evening. Any team with a little attacking nous would have taken advantage of Red Star’s defensive fragilities and scored at least one goal – however, this is only speculation and not part of the debate here. A third goal was ruled out for offside – it also marked the end of the match. The players made their way to the stands and celebrated another win and of course the end of the old stand. It remains questionable whether they are fully aware of the watershed moment at their current employers.

Smoke filled the stand as the fans celebrated

The evening was all about celebrating the stadium and its old and battered tribune and marking the end of an era. Many former players made the way to Stade Bauer to reminisce about the ground and their own experiences as players of the club.

The new era of the club is already in full view as opposite the old stand, the new stand already rises and offers a glimpse of what is to come: a concrete structure allowing a good view of the pitch but offering little in terms of uniqueness. The old building housing the dressing rooms and the offices has gone and will be replaced by a new stand as will be the tribune “Rino della Negra”.

At the end of the day, Red Star are Red Star: putting on a no-show for the old stand, making sure everybody left on time.

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