FRANKFURT: Germany icon Franz Beckenbauer concluded his marathon FIFA World Cup welcome tour yesterday when he arrived at Frankfurt airport following a 24-hour return flight from Australia.
The 60-year-old Beckenbauer, head of the 2006 World Cup Organising Committee, clocked 75,000 air miles on his visit to all 31 nations who qualified for this summer's Finals along with hosts Germany.
The public relations tour began in October last year and the mammoth journey lasted 177 days but Beckenbauer, a World Cup winner with West Germany in 1974, said it had been worth the effort.
This welcome tour has cost a lot of energy and time but it was one of the best ideas we ever had, Beckenbauer said. The response has been very positive.
Australia, one of the last nations to qualify via a play-off with Uruguay, was Beckenbauer's last port of call with the Kaiser' meeting members of Australia's 1974 World Cup squad in Sydney.
Adrian Alston was one of the players from that team to meet Beckenbauer. After the 3-0 group defeat by the hosts and eventual champions in 1974, Alston had the consolation of securing Beckenbauer's treasured number five shirt.
Beckenbauer also met up with old German friend Pierre Littbarski, who is now coach of Australian side FC Sydney.
Littbarski won the 1990 World Cup with West Germany when Beckenbauer was coach.