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Report: Beckenbauer linked to 'possible bribery attempt'

A German newspaper has suggested that football legend Franz Beckenbauer may have been behind a bribery attempt linked to the 2006 World Cup. There was no immediate comment from the former West Germany player and coach.

A report published in the mass-circulation "Bild" newspaper on Tuesday says Franz Beckenbauer was the person who signed a dubious document which has emerged during an external investigation into alleged wrongdoing at the German football association (DFB).

According to the report, the document was "possibly a bribery attempt" targeting disgraced former FIFA Executive Committee member Jack Warner ahead of the 2000 vote in which Germany won the right to host the 2006 World Cup.

One of the interim presidents of the DFB, Rainer Koch, on Tuesday confirmed that it was Beckenbauer, who was the president of the bid committee for the 2006 World Cup, who had signed the document.

"Bild" cited the Munich-based broadsheet "Süddeutsche," which had earlier reported on the alleged draft agreement with Warner, without naming Beckenbauer as the person who had signed on behalf of the 2006 World Cup bid committee.

Days before World Cup vote

According to "Bild" the proposed deal was dated four days prior to the vote in which Germany beat South Africa 12-11 after Charles Dempsey, an Executive Committee member from New Zealand abstained, citing intolerable external pressure. The paper did not reveal its sources, and it is not clear whether the deal ever actually came about.

Warner is a former president of CONCACAF, soccer's governing for North and Central America and a former FIFA vice president. He is one of 14 people indicted in the United States on racketeering and corruption charges and has been banned for life by FIFA.

Tuesday's report in "Bild" also said that the document uncovered by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, the firm that the DFB hired to look into possible wrongdoing, was what led

former DFB President Wolfgang Niersbach to resign

on Monday.

Calls for Beckenbauer to break silence

There was no immediate comment from Beckenbauer on the "Bild" report, but there is growing pressure for him to tell what he knew as the head of the 2006 World Cup organizing committee.

Koch, one of the two DFB vice presidents who have taken over for Niersbach on a caretaker basis, told public broadcaster ZDF on Monday that it was "high time" for Beckenbauer to make a statement.

"Our request is that he gets more intensively involved in clearing up the affair," Koch said.

On Tuesday, the chairman of the Bundestag's standing committee on sport, Dagmar Freitag supported Koch's demand that Beckenbauer do more to clear up the affair.

"There is no other way, there are others who know more than Wolfgang Niersbach," Freitag told public broadcaster SWR.

In the statement announcing his resignation on Monday, Niersbach denied any wrongdoing and spoke of new evidence having come to light in the external investigation, of which he had not been aware. Both he and Beckenbauer have repeatedly insisted that the 2006 World Cup bid committee had no slush funds and that no votes were bought.

The affair was kicked off by an article published by "Spiegel" newsmagazine last month, in which it reported that slush fund had been used to buy the votes of four Asian members of the FIFA Executive Committee in 2000.

Since then, the German authorities have launched a tax-evasion investigation, and last week,

police raided the DFB headquarters, as well as the residences of Niersbach,

his predecessor, Theo Zwanziger, and former DFB General Secretary Horst R. Schmidt.

pfd/ap (dpa, Reuters)

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