Sport

Beckenbauer plays the long game

The future of English football may have received an unlikely boost – in the form of one its greatest foes.

Franz Beckenbauer has helped spearhead Gazprom’s campaign to develop grassroots football, with the Germany legend fronting the ‘Football For Friendship’ Forum. Gazprom for Children’s CSR programme operates across Europe, with Gazprom spending more than £550m on improving youth sport at a grassroots level since 2007.

“I think that ‘Football For Friendship’ is a wonderful event and I’m very proud to be global ambassador of this project,” said Beckenbauer. “It’s great to work with the kids and the programme that Gazprom has created is fantastic. I am very, very happy to be the one to front it. After all, there is no better way to make friends than through sport.”

With British football getting a boost from the campaign, it is hoped the Home Nations can emulate the success of Beckenbauer’s beloved Bayern Munich, who continue to reap the benefits of an eye-wateringly strong youth set-up.

“I think what has helped us is our academies and youngsters,” said Beckenbauer, the only man to win the World Cup as a player, captain and manager. “Schweinsteiger, Götze, Reus, Neuer, all these young players all came from the academies.

“When I was at Olympique Marseille for a year in 1990, after the World Cup, France made a bill that all professional teams had to have an academy. All these players, Zidane and Dugarry, won the World Cup eight years later and they had come from the academies.

“Teams like Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund and the German national team are on their way, maybe next year on their way to Brazil to win the World Cup. They have a good chance. That means that German football is really on top, so that’s a good opportunity to show this standard to the world.”

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