Frankfurt / Main (dpa) – A godfather could hardly be more famous in football. DFB president Fritz Keller, actually Friedrich Walter Keller, noticed early in his youth that 1954 world champion Fritz Walter was a special person.
As a child, Keller received small gift boxes from the former 1. FC Kaiserslautern professional, who died in 2002 and would have turned 100 on October 31, as the head of the German Football Association said in an interview with the German news agency.
Fritz Walter as godfather – that’s what many children would have wished for. How did your parents come into contact with the 1954 World Champion?
Fritz Keller: My father was an ardent supporter of 1. FC Kaiserslautern at the time and always drove to the Betzenberg. He was in contact from time to time through mutual acquaintances. Fritz Walter was also a guest at my family’s restaurant at the Kaiserstuhl. And this friendship resulted in sponsorship. And yes, Fritz was also a great connoisseur. And my mom was a great cook, and my dad had a great wine cellar.
As a child, when did you realize how important your godfather was to German football?
KELLER: As a small child I also sat at the regulars’ table. When he entered, the room was quiet. Then we noticed what aura he had, that he had something very special about himself. He just had a good word for everyone, was so patient and kind. When I started playing soccer – against my father’s wishes, who thought soccer was a drug that discourages work and school – I noticed the expectations placed on me. Of course I have never been able to meet this expectation (laughs).
Do you have a special memory of your godfather?
Keller: I went to boarding school at the monastery. By the way, that was a very, very nice time when I was allowed to play football, ski and climb. He kept sending me something. Small football boots from Adidas or one T-shirt, Small things. The teachers were always amazed to see that a package had arrived for Fritz Walter – from Fritz Walter! Everyone was excited to see what was in this package. Then I realized how special he was to everyone. To me he was just Fritz.
What did you learn from Fritz Walter?
KELLER: As I slowly got into politics and got involved, I saw the power he put into the social responsibility of football. How he dealt with the importance of the World Cup for Germany. Football has brought us back to normal in the country. That’s the power of football that I got through it too. He took the view that football is actually being pushed into a role to solve what politicians cannot solve. But he said, let’s take it. And he had an upright posture. That’s why he is a hero to me and remains a hero.
ABOUT THE PERSON: Fritz Keller was born on April 2, 1957 in Freiburg and grew up as the godchild of Fritz Walter. After many years at the top of Bundesliga club SC Freiburg, the famed winemaker was elected DFB president on September 27.