-- Translation of advance text --
Members of the German Bundestag,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Friends of football,
Football moves people the world over. Virtually no other sport has the amazing power to bring people together and arouse their passions. It can plunge whole countries into ecstasy, as we saw in Germany with the summer fairytale of 2006.
I myself grew up playing football. As a child, I took to the field every Sunday for ten years for TuS 08 Brakelsiek. Naturally I am a football fan as well. When time permits, I still enjoy going along to matches. What did football teach me? Stamina, tenacity and team spirit. All of which are just as important in diplomacy as on the football pitch.
Diplomacy and football actually have a great deal in common. The big footballing heroes are also ambassadors for their country –“football ambassadors”, quite simply. When people around the world hear the name Pelé they think of Brazil; the name Eusebio is almost synonymous with Portugal; and there’s probably no-one who would fail to connect Diego Maradona with Argentina.
And football is one of the things that shapes Germany’s image abroad. Ever since the legendary “Miracle of Berne” in the 1950s, our national team has played highly symbolic matches which have had an impact far beyond the stadium. Not only have they blessed us with unforgettable footballing moments. They have also helped win trust and affection for our country, a foundation we can build on today.
I’m sure we’ll have some more moments like that during the World Cup in Brazil, which we’re all already hugely looking forward to. And I’d like to wish our national team the best of luck. Madam Ambassador, we would all like to wish the Brazilian hosts the best of luck too. Having gone through it in 2006, we are well aware of the Herculean task facing you. We are confident that you will organise a World Cup which is not only fun, but also ensures the safety of all players, participants and guests. After all, the footballing gene is part of Brazilian DNA.
The World Cup will also give the German-Brazilian partnership fresh impetus. Over the past few months, during the Germany Year in Brazil, we have seen just how close and diverse the ties between our two countries are. More than a thousand events have shown how strong our political, economic, cultural and sporting links are.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Football Ambassadors we are honouring here today are engaged in a very tangible diplomacy. For decades German football coaches have travelled the world as sought-after, valued experts. Since the 1960s, with support from the Federal Foreign Office, they have also been working towards developing football as a sport all around the world. Indeed, many national football associations owe their current success to German coaches.
The idea for this initiative dates back to 1961, when the then Chancellor Adenauer sent you, Rudi Gutendorf, off to Tunisia as a football coach in his inimitable style, urging you to make a good go of it.
Since then, countless German coaches have passed on their expertise abroad. They have done an important job in development within the scope of the Federal Foreign Office International Sports Promotion. But: It’s not just about the football. That becomes clear when we look at Afghanistan, or Africa or the Middle East. Sport helps to ease tensions and eradicate prejudice; it helps to integrate minorities and build trust. It can build the first bridges over divides hewn by political, ethnic or religious conflicts. In a word, sport is an important tool of diplomacy.
The nominees for this year’s German Football Ambassador award have given impressive demonstrations of this. Ms Staab, Mr Stärk, your engagement in Qatar and Namibia has extended far beyond the pitch. And Winfried Schäfer, who unfortunately is not able to be with us today, has shown equal commitment in Jamaica. You live out the principles of fair play, respect and tolerance. You bring people together and enable them to make a real difference.
Ladies and gentlemen, to kick off our award ceremony, I would like to honour the football trainer who started the whole thing. I have tremendous pleasure in presenting you, Rudi Gutendorf, with a certificate in recognition of your untiring commitment as coach to over fifty teams across the world, from Chile to Tonga, from Australia to Rwanda. It is no exaggeration to say that you are a legendary football ambassador for our country. Rudi Gutendorf, you have our great respect and profound gratitude.
I would like to thank the organisers and sponsors of this award ceremony and the “Football spanning the globe” exhibition which we are opening here today. And now I’d like to wish each and every one of us a pleasant time here in this footballing atmosphere which will no doubt get us even more into the mood for the World Cup!