World Cup 2006 hosts Germany may pass the honor of playing the opening game of the soccer showpiece to current champions Brazil. The proposal is seen as another example of team chief Jürgen Klinsmann's growing control.
Klinsmann prefers Berlin's new stadium for Germany's first game
Despite playing host to soccer's most prestigious event, the World Cup, in 2006, Germany may not play the opening game of the tournament. Germany's organizing committee chairman Franz Beckenbauer said on Monday that the option to pass the honor to reigning World Champions Brazil, providing they qualify, was being discussed.
Since 1974 the world cup winners have taken to the field in the opening match and it is expected that Germany will allow this tradition to continue with Brazil opening the tournament on June 9, 2006 at Munich's new Allianz Arena.
Beckenbauer also confirmed that the possibility arose from discussions held with team chief Jürgen Klinsmann who had expressed a preference for the hosts to start the tournament three days later at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin than in the opening match in Munich. It is believed his reasons centered on giving his team more time to prepare.
"We, at the organizing committee, don't mind whether Germany or Brazil play the opening game," Beckenbauer told German sports television channel DSF. "We would have liked Germany to start with a highlight but the Brazil solution would not be bad either," he added.
Team manager Oliver Bierhoff seemed to be more definite in his view.
"We will step aside for Brazil," he told the German news agency DPA. "The reigning champions can open the World Cup."
There has yet to be any official word on the decision.
Klinsmann exerting influence
Klinsmann is said to be getting his own way through strong words and deeds.
Klinsmann, who was appointed in July, has also been stamping his identity on other areas of the World Cup 2006 plan by informing the organizing committee that he was against the idea of having Germany's training camp in Leverkusen, which he felt was not practical.
The plan to have the camp in Leverkusen was agreed when Klinsmann's predecessor Rudi Völler was still in charge and was seen as compensation after the city's bid to stage games of the 2006 finals was turned down because its stadium was too small.
"He (Klinsmann) has the right to refuse what Rudi Völler found correct and to have the team training somewhere else," Beckenbauer said.
Leverkusen anger over DFB reverse
This could cause problems for the German Football Federation (DFB). Chemical giant Bayer AG, Leverkusen's main sponsor, is accusing the DFB of breach of contract after they invested time and money in bringing the 2006 World Cup to Germany.
Bayer AG sports director Meinolf Sprink accused Klinsmann and the DFB of lacking style in making the change, as well as breach of contract.
"We have a clear written agreement. I think it's sad that we found this out through the press," Sprink told the AP.
Rainer Calmund is angry over what he sees as a u-turn by the DFB over their World Cup agreement.
"I think the DFB have forgotten what Leverkusen and the Bayer group have done to advertise this World Cup," raged Leverkusen's former general manager Reiner Calmund.
"We are aware the promises have been made to Leverkusen," Bierhoff said. "But the situation is not optimal. Not because of Leverkusen's stadium, but because of the distance between the hotel and stadium."