One of the many bugbears that BTLM has with modern football is how worthless the practice of interviewing players has become. In the past a conversation with one of the stars of the day could, sometimes, offer a compelling warts-and-all exposé of its subject. Modern day player interviews by contrast are nothing more than sycophantic exercises in rehearsed statements and recycled platitudes. It’s a consequence of the traditional master-serf relationship between the media and players unravelling over the past few decades. Nowadays footballers have become such huge icons with absolute control over every aspect of how their image is conveyed that interviewers dare not ask anything contentious for fear of being cast into exile and denied future crumbs from the master’s table.
It didn’t always used to be that way back in the days before betting bonuses, as this fascinating 1974 Shoot magazine interview with Franz Beckenbauer (below) ably demonstrates. The unnamed interviewer appears to have a near pathological obsession with the rumours that the West German legend undermined the authority of his national coach, Helmut Schön, during the recent World Cup. Normally a player’s contradiction with accompanying explanation would be deemed sufficient to move the line of questioning on to other topics, but not on this occasion. The interviewer is stuck on this single theme and essentially asks the same question in slightly different ways SEVEN times in succession.
Beckenbauer was renowned as a calm and collected individual and these qualities are ably demonstrated in this interview. It’s testament to his patience and professionalism that he continues to play a highly provocative line of questioning with a straight bat. Viewed through contemporary eyes it’s hard to imagine any player, yet alone a World Cup winning captain, tolerating such a confrontational approach.
This particular interview of course reflects poorly on the questioner and his curiously ill-chosen fixations, but it does make for an entertaining read for the rest of us. Such an interview does at the very least represent a time when the first instinct of a journalist in the presence of a top footballer was not to tug a forelock in deference.