The late Franz Beckenbauer won a litany of trophies throughout his career and forever changed the way the game was played. But his influence on football doesn’t stop there.
Earlier this week, football lost one of its pioneers, Franz Beckenbauer. Known as “Der Kaiser,” the German legend died at 78 and leaves us with a chance to look back on his illustrious career and what made him so special both on and off the pitch.
Beckenbauer’s On-Field Influence
A young Beckenbauer would make his debut for Bayern Munich at 18 years old, and from an early age it was clear that there was something different about him. An adeptly capable defender, Beckenbauer also had an abundance of technical brilliance and grace that was more fitting of an attacking midfielder, Beckenbauer was one of the most versatile players of his generation.
In his early years at Bayern, he was deployed in a variety of positions and served many roles to the team. However, he eventually came into his own in a role he would go on to define.
Starting as a center back, Beckenbauer would often utilize his unique blend of talents to venture into midfield and be a link between all three phases of play. It was a style that was based on the libero, or sweeper, a popular position at the time. The libero sat behind the back line to sweep up any danger, and then flip the pitch by starting possession for their team.
In Beckenbauer’s case, he took it a step further by often ghosting past a host of opposition players entirely on his own and blowing a game wide open. His elegance in possession and eye for a pass would be defining aspects of his profile as a player and be instrumental in the success of every team he played for.
In his playing career, he racked up five German titles, four German cups, and three European cups, as well as a European title and World Cup with Germany. Individually, he won the Ballon d’Or in 1972 and 1976 as well. Add another World Cup triumph as Germany’s manager in 1990, with more domestic success to boot, and you undoubtedly have one of the most richly decorated careers in the history of the sport. But his influence doesn’t stop there.
Beckenbauer and the Tracksuit
There’s no way we could overlook the major influence of Beckenbauer in the early fashion game of adidas. Der Kaiser’s prime in the ’60s and ’70s was right around the time sportswear began to gain traction in the mainstream. This era also rang in innovations in clothing that led to the manufacturing of the first tracksuits by adidas, and who better to be the face of the revolution than Beckenbauer?
The Beckenbauer adidas tracksuit first dropped in 1973 as one of the first pieces of training apparel from the brand. It continues to be sold today.
The classic three-stripe design coupled with the adidas trefoil insignia had simplicity as the focus and has become an iconic look for the German company. It has since been re-released, re-imagined, and given variations on multiple occasions, but it’s clear to see, even today, how much of a hit the original was.
Today, the tracksuit is a mainstay in countless wardrobes. A major reason for its continued success throughout multiple decades is the versatility of the piece, an ironic connection to Beckenbauer’s playing days. Whether it’s for workouts, streetwear, or just lounging, the tracksuit is another part of sports culture, covered in Beckenbauer’s fingerprints, that will last for years to come.
Long Live Der Kaiser.