Home » The Great Franz Beckenbauer: A Run-In with “Der Kaiser”

The Great Franz Beckenbauer: A Run-In with “Der Kaiser”

By Antonio John Soave January 17, 2024

I am certainly “aging myself” when I say that I attended a New York Cosmos youth soccer camp way back in 1978. At that time—and due to a wonderful cousin of mine who was playing with the Cosmos then—I traveled from my native Michigan to Suffield, Connecticut for a camp with Giorgio Chinaglia (the enigmatic and  big-hearted  center-forward who would later invite me to train with Lazio in 1983 in Rome). Giorgio was so kind and thoughtful that he brought two players with him to the youth camp; they were two of the greatest players ever to grace the field: Carlos Alberto and Franz Beckenbauer. I don’t think that I’ll ever forget the feeling of being on a wonderful grass soccer field in the hot summer of 1978 with those perennial greats.


In the late 1970s (as many know), those were some of the most famous and exceptional soccer players alive. Giorgio Chinaglia, Carlos Alberto, and Franz Beckenbauer had all appeared for the top national teams around the globe as well: Italy, Brazil, and Germany respectively. To actually be on the field with them—albeit in a scrimmage match, of course—was mind-boggling for a 13-year-old (my age back then).  I can’t remember kicking the ball or doing anything of any import, but I do remember wandering around the grand field of play in a stupor and a daze. Watching the amazing “Kaiser” touch the ball was a thing of grace and poise. I’m sure that I was quite taken by his presence and pedigree, but—more importantly, perhaps—I was impressed with how he seemed to glide across the pitch, almost as if he was walking on water.


I would liken my experience with one that was spiritual in nature (or it certainly seemed like a spiritual experience).

Something else really “got me” about Beckenbauer that day: His humility. When combined with his quiet and gentle demeanor, he was a true superstar that was worth

emulating.  Although he was no “softie” on the field—and not by any stretch of the imagination—he was a true

“gentleman” in a game of “gentlemen” at that juncture in history. Beckenbauer was the “master craftsman” in the industry of soccer. He was larger than life, and he created an aura that led one to understand that he was also a true intellect—an intellect who knew the game much better than most he would play against. To me, Beckenbauer could have been likened to the remarkable chess masters

of his era, except “Der Kaiser” was playing a form of chess—

and dominating the game—on the soccer field instead.


That was the only time I ever got to meet Beckenbauer in person, but the impact has lasted a lifetime. As I now approach 60 years of age (hard to believe, I suppose), I still think of myself as that young teenager on a field of play next to a grand master and a grand gentleman. Der Kaiser,


you will be missed by so many, even by people like me whom you never knew you impacted.


May God bless your soul, Franz.

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