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FIFA probe claims German soccer chief

Soccer

German football federation president Wolfgang Niersbach has resigned over a payment made to football world governing body FIFA linked to the 2006 World Cup.

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Niersbach said after an extraordinary meeting of the DFB board that he took responsibility in the affair surrounding a payment made by Germany’s 2006 World Cup organising committee of 6.7 million euros ($A10.2 million) to FIFA.

Prosecuting authorities have launched a tax evasion investigation into Niersbach, former DFB president Theo Zwanziger and former DFB secretary general Horst R Schmidt over the payment.

Niersbach in a written statement he had “absolutely no knowledge of the background behind these alleged payments.”

But he also said he recognised the time has come to take the political responsibility for events around the 2006 World Cup.”

“It’s even more depressing and painful for me that nine years later I am now confronted with proceedings, with which I had no involvement in at the time and that also leave many questions unanswered to me,” he said in his written statement.

Germany coach Joachim Loew said he was “very affected” by the news and was “personally very sorry” that Niersbach had resigned.

“Independent of all the legal facts I think simply that Wolfgang was a fantastic person and a fantastic president for us,” Loew said.

Niersbach, 64, was a vice-president of Germany’s organising committee for the 2006 World Cup.

DFB vice president Rainer Koch says they’ll look into “the circumstances under which the 2006 World Cup was awarded.”

He urged Franz Beckenbauer to give more information on his knowledge of payments made to FIFA while he was in charge of the 2006 World Cup organising committee.

“Our request is that he gets more intensively involved in clearing up the affair,” Koch said.

Tax investigators last week searched the homes of Niersbach, Zwanziger and Schmidt as well as the DFB’s offices in a probe which is focusing on the payment made to FIFA in April 2005, which was declared as an operating expense to fund an opening gala for the World Cup.

However, the event never took place and it has since transpired the money was intended to repay a loan – through FIFA channels – to former Adidas chief executive Robert Louis-Dreyfus.

-DPA

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