German FA in turmoil after embattled president steps down

·3-min read

The German Football Association (DFB) was in turmoil on Wednesday after its embattled president Fritz Keller said he would step down after comparing his own deputy to a notorious Nazi-era judge.

"President Fritz Keller has made a personal decision...that he is ready in principle to resign," the DFB said in a statement late Tuesday.

The move came just two days ahead of the DFB's flagship annual event, the German Cup final at Berlin's Olympic Stadium, and a month before Euro 2020.

Keller sparked outrage and calls for his resignation after likening DFB vice-president Rainer Koch to Roland Freisler, the infamous head of the Nazi party's court in the 1940s, during a meeting last month.

The 64-year-old later apologised to Koch, acknowledging that his words were "totally inappropriate, notably towards the victims of Nazism", but is now set to step down next Monday, after facing a DFB tribunal to explain his comments.

Far from settling what appeared to be bitter power struggle between Keller and Koch, the president's resignation appears to herald a mass clear out of the federation's top brass.

In their statement on Tuesday, the DFB announced it was "laying the foundations for a new orientation".

General secretary Friedrich Curtius was also set to resign, while Koch and treasurer Stephan Osnabruegge would not put themselves up for re-election in 2022, the federation said.

That leaves only vice-president Peter Peters, a former CEO of Schalke who have just been relegated from the Bundesliga, as the only remaining member of the German FA's top committee.

Koch and Peters will now lead the German FA until a new president is elected early next year.

The changing of the guard in the boardroom comes with the DFB already in the midst of upheaval in its sporting leadership.

With long-serving Germany coach Joachim Loew stepping down after the upcoming European Championship, the DFB is in the middle of negotiations to hire Bayern Munich boss Hansi Flick as his successor.

The hunt is also on for a new president.

Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has already distanced himself from the role which he has described as a "suicide mission".

- Hoeness linked to vacancy -

Former Bayern president Uli Hoeness, ex-Germany coach Ruedi Voeller and 2014 World Cup winning captain Philipp Lahm have all also been mentioned as possible replacements.

Former Germany women's international Nadine Kessler, 33, and anti-corruption expert Sylvia Schenk, 68, are other potential candidates.

Ex-Germany coach Berti Vogts, 74, said Hoeness, 69, should be given the job having turned Bayern into a European powerhouse.

"For me it needs a strong man at the head - and that can really only be Uli Hoeness," Vogts told Duesseldorf-based newspaper the Rheinische Post.

"Over the decades, he has shaped Bayern into a world club, and his word is heard at both UEFA and FIFA.

"His name has a completely different status internationally."

This is the third consecutive occasion where a president of the DFB has resigned amid a scandal, dating back to 2015.

Keller's predecessor Reinhard Grindel stepped down in April 2019 after it was revealed he had accepted the gift of a luxury watch from Ukrainian Grigori Surkis, a former colleague of Grindel's on UEFA's executive committee.

In turn, Grindel replaced Wolfgang Niersbach, who resigned in November 2015 amid accusations the DFB used a secret fund of 10 million Swiss francs (6.7 million euros, $8 million, according to the exchange rate at that time) in 2000 to buy the right to host the 2006 World Cup.


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