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"Germans Can't Always Perfectly Organize Everything"

Thomas Mandlmeier interviewed Theo Zwanziger (nda)
June 4, 2006

Theo Zwanziger is sleeping well these days. That's surprising considering the DFB chief executive has been living and breathing the World Cup for the past three years and his work will soon be under global scrutiny.

Theo Zwanziger says he is relaxed and is anticipating a successful World CupImage: AP

The German Soccer Federation's (DFB) Chief Executive Theo Zwanziger is the Vice President of the German World Cup Organizing Committee (OK).

DW-TV: Mr. Zwanziger, the anticipation's mounting. The world is looking forward to the World Cup Finals in Germany. Is it affecting your sleep?

Theo Zwanziger: No, I'm sleeping well. We've worked hard for three years and now we're getting to the big event, and you feel the tension a bit. But we're looking forward to it.

You're not only president of the German Soccer Association you're also vice president of the organizing committee for the FIFA World Cup 2006. Is there anything in this that could shake your confidence?

I don't think anything will shake my confidence. Of course we know there are still some areas that need our attention. One of those -- which will probably go right up until the last day -- is the whole business of ticketing. It's very complex, but it has to be complex because we want to offer security and that's why there was a joint decision by FIFA, the German government and the organizing committee that tickets would be personalized. And in practice that is very, very difficult.

Organizing a huge event like this is quite a feat even for a country like Germany. How well have we done our homework?

You can only master such a challenge through good co-operation. We've experienced this co-operation from the German government right from the day in 2000 that the decision was announced that Germany would host the World Cup. We've seen co-operation from the state governments, that's very important in our federal republic. We've been able to work very closely with the 12 cities hosting World Cup matches, in particular. There's been truly excellent co-operation there.

What do you say to the fears that the stadiums could be half-empty at some games?

Polizei und Spürhund
A time to make friends -- and to keep those friends safeImage: dpa

We've made an effort to ensure this won't happen. You can take for granted that we will have sold all the tickets by then, but even so there have always been cases where seats were still empty. That can happen in the hospitality sector. But it would be very unfortunate for us, if the stands for fans were empty. And that will be one of our jobs right up till the end -- that those people who actually have a ticket go into the stadium and are there. I hope we succeed - but we can't guarantee it.

You radiate a sometimes eerie sense of calm, even at times of crisis. Is that something based on your background or is it a result of your experience as a lawyer, a politician, a manager?

No, you can only stay calm when you're pretty sure -- even being self-critical -- that you've done your homework. And then you keep your cool which basically everyone should have. Because we now all know there is no absolute guarantee of security, we can't deliver perfection. It's just not humanly possible. And people will forgive us a few mistakes and not get upset -- and I don't think it would be so bad for Germany's reputation in the world if people notice: Ah ha! The Germans can't always perfectly organize everything either.

How much of a problem was it for you during the preparations that the opening gala had to be cancelled?

Andre Heller
Andre Heller's extravagent opening gala was scrappedImage: AP

We wanted to present reunited Germany as a country committed to freedom and the human dignity -- and so for us, alongside the 64 games, cultural events: the concerts, the exhibitions are very, very important. The opening ceremony would have been a great experience, not only for Germans but also for our guests. But when the sponsorship of the event was transferred from the government to FIFA, things were seen differently. The government viewed it as something for our country. FIFA looked at it with international eyes, and probably also considered the economic risks. And in the end it was quite so clear and then there was the problem with the pitch, and everything else. We were disappointed, but we weren't critical because we weren't the organizers of that event.

On the subject of FIFA: Has this omnipotent attitude of FIFA helped or hindered in the preparations?

It is a highly delicate form of co-operation that must be acknowledged. FIFA is an international organization -- it's their World Cup. That's something we maybe somewhat underestimated at the start. We thought it was a German World Cup. And it's not, we had to learn that. On the other hand, and I'm very grateful that the president of FIFA has also said this, we have been made aware that the commercial aspects of the World Cup, in particular the legal aspects, do take precedence. With FIFA, you do have to wonder whether they should be doing this with people in the long term -- and it is in fact all the little people who make football strong. The agreements FIFA makes, particularly in the marketing area -- about what you can and can't do, what you're allowed to eat and drink, what you may do in what place -- they were demanding for us and there have been disputes and confusion in many areas. And I think, and my understanding of what the president thinks, is that FIFA will also consider whether this is wise in the long-term.

Jürgen Klinsmann, Oliver Bierhoff, Matthias Sammer -- Is that a dream trio for the future of German soccer?

Deutsche Nationalmannschaft trainiert
Klinsi and Oli were happy before Sammi came alongImage: AP

That would be my wish -- although when it comes down to the German coach, you never know what could happen. That's also the reason why we could join forces with two top football personalities -- tried and true national players -- who promise continuity. Oliver Bierhoff -- who's responsible for the management of the National A Team and the under 21s; Matthias Sammer -- who's head of the National Youth Team, head of coaching and responsible for the fostering of young players. They fit well together. And now, my wish is that Jürgen Klinsmann is not only successful, but that -- in the wake of success -- he says, it's fun working with the young players and I'll stay on another two years.

And finally - who'll be playing in the final in Berlin on July 9th?

Of course my hope as always is that it will be Brazil against Germany. Actually all German soccer fans want this, because that's the earliest that we could meet Brazil -- in the final. That's the way the schedule's set up.

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