After a stint as president of Bundesliga club Freiburg, Fritz Keller looks set to take the top job in German football. The 62-year-old appears at first glance to be well suited to overseeing cultural change at the DFB.
"A people person, who enjoys — and has always enjoyed — meeting people, especially new people." That's how Fritz Keller recently described himself in an interview with a wine magazine.
His life as a winemaker and restaurateur means he's rarely left wanting for opportunities of that nature. His other role as president of SC Freiburg since 2010 (originally the role was called chairman) is also a good chance to chat with coaches, guests and fans at home games, an option he prefers to hiding away behind the thick glass that often separates VIPs from fans.
Like the Black Forest club's coach Christian Streich, he embodies the type of approach to running a professional side that most have left in the past. Now he's set to take that ethos in to a new role as DFB (German FA) president.
Those whose only exposure to Keller is on TV screens will recognize a cheerful man who freely expresses joy and talks about a range of subjects — wine, food, soul, respect and humanity among them.
The Freiburg-born entrepreneur stands in stark contrast to his predecessors. Wolfgang Niersbach (2011-2015) was a 'company man' who climbed the DFB ladder only to resign in the wake of the 2006 World Cup scandal. The man who replaced him, Reinhard Grindel, was a former journalist and politician whose tenure also ended in unsavory circumstances.
Fritz, it is to be hoped, will bring amiability, strength of character and steadfast principles to his likely new role. Time and again, the winemaker emphasizes the importance of cooperation and community when it comes to him, the family, his company and his home. These are qualities the DFB has long been accused of lacking.
Success is also important to Fritz, and his restaurant Schwarzer Adler (Black Eagle) has been in possession of a Michelin star for 50 years. But vanity and mis-use of power don't seem to be in his repertoire. The third generation winemaker says "evolution not revolution" is the key to his business acumen.
But if, as widely expected, he takes on the new role at the DFB, he will have to leave the position he loves at Freiburg. "Since the two offices would not be reconcilable, I will resign from my role as President of SC Freiburg in the event of a successful election as DFB President — but with a heavy heart," the 62-year-old said in a club press release.
His experience with winemakers and vineyards around the world should stand him in good stead for working with the various international federations in his new role and he'll also need to overhaul the image of an organization badly damaged in the public perception.
"Fritz Keller is without doubt an extraordinary personality who possesses all of the qualities required for the office of DFB president,” said DFB Vice President Rainer Koch, who is also a member of the selection committee. "He can bring people together and represent the entire spectrum of German football, including the interests of professional and amateur football."
While there are hopes that a new face will mean a new approach at the top of German football, Keller is not regarded as a radical who will completely overhaul the organization's philosophy.
But if he can successfully transport his leadership, philosophy and controlled, composed approach to the DFB headquarters in Frankfurt, some welcome change is likely to be approaching.