Theo Zwanziger is to stand down next October, a year early, as president of the German federation (the DFB). He says he will then have completed 20 years in and around the top of the domestic game and that will be long enough.
However it is inevitable that speculation will accompany Zwanziger down the final year of his mandate and while he takes on a greater weight of work with FIFA in leading a major revision of the world federation’s statutes.
Zwanziger took over as president of the DFB in the wake of Germany’s successful hosting of the 2006 World Cup. In fact he had effectively ousted long-serving predecessor Gerhard Mayer-Vorfelder in 2005. ‘MV’ was kept on as joint president in a diplomatic gesture acknowledging his service to the domestic game and allowing him to enjoy the World Cup in peace.
A statement from Zwanziger said: “This decision is one which has been under consideration for a long time. There is a certain times where things must come to an end. I have already extended my presidency once, now the time has come.”
Zwanziger became a member of the FIFA executive committee at the start of June as a representative of the European federation (UEFA) in succession to Franz Beckenbauer.
Senior aides Horst R Schmidt and Wolfgang Niersbach apparently tried to persuade Zwanziger to see his current mandate through and national coach Joachim Low expressed the staff’s surprise when he said: “We have always enjoyed great ‘teamwork’ with Mr Zwanziger. We regret this step but also respect his personal decision.”
In fact, Zwanziger’s reign has included a potentially damaging row with Low over the renewal of the coach’s contract in the run-up to the 2010 World Cup finals.
That was not all. Lately he was caught in a row with DFB vice-president Rainer Koch on top of a string of refereeing scandals. These included, most recently, allegations of tax evasion against match officials and there was no doubt that Zwanziger was deeply upset by the suicide attempt of Babak Rafati.
Zwanziger has conceded that dealing with these issues on top of his FIFA and UEFA responsibilities had been personally testing and stress, of course, has become a major issue in German football.
His visible successes include the manner in which Germany hosted the Women’s World Cup this past summer and a completion of the renewal of German football’s coaching structures at grassroots and national team levels.
No doubt that Zwanziger retains his power. Koch has been switched sideways and effectively downgraded within the DFB and early favourite to succeed Zwanziger is now Erwin Staudt, a former president of Stuttgart, who is currently the German league’s representative in the DFB council.
No serious speculation has yet been launched that Zwanziger has his eyes on climbing to the top of the tree at FIFA. But it is inevitable that his role in the reform programme will keep him in the media spotlight . . . especially if he proposes major winding up the law-making International Board in its present form.
By Keir Radnedge