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German football great Franz Beckenbauer told UEFA.com that receiving the UEFA President's Award for 2012 was "something special" after he was handed the prize by Michel Platini in Munich.
Beckenbauer enjoyed a glittering playing career with FC Bayern München and West Germany in which he won, among a wealth of honours, the 1974 FIFA World Cup, three European Champion Clubs' Cups and the European Cup Winners' Cup, before triumphing in the 1990 World Cup and 1996 UEFA Cup as a coach. The former defender collected the award from UEFA President Michel Platini at a ceremony attended by many of his former club and national team colleagues, as well as representatives from the German Football Association (DFB), Bayern and other dignitaries.
"One of the most valuable things is to receive an award from the hands of the UEFA President, Michel Platini," Beckenbauer told UEFA.com. "It is something special. But the most special thing is that Michel Platini was one of the best players in the history of football, so to receive this award from him makes it even more special."
Beckenbauer joins the likes of Sir Bobby Charlton, Eusébio, Gianni Rivera, Raymond Kopa and Alfrédo Di Stefano in picking up the UEFA President's Award. However, the 67-year-old was keen to stress how fortunate he was to play at a time when the game was on the rise in his country.
"I was born in a period that could be described as lucky," he said. "I was there more or less from the start of the professional game [in Germany], around 1964 and 1965. At that time, football was working its way to the top, it was getting more and more popular. Football became professional, and the environment around it as well.
"Compare the TV presence these days for a broadcast game to the past when there was only one camera, which was in motion for 90 minutes. Now, games are shown on 30 cameras and are broadcast all around the world. You can see that football today has a lot more importance than 40 or 50 years ago. I was lucky enough to be part of that period.
"In the past, football was played for the joy or pleasure of it," he added. "Now the players are still playing for the pleasure, but it's a lot more professional. There were no tactical instructions because at the time we tried to focus on our positions and play man to man, but now it is less restricted and there are a lot more ideas.
"The players are better educated, the equipment is a lot lighter than in the past. We used to play with leather balls. When the ground was wet, the leather ball absorbed the water, and it got heavier and heavier. It was the same with leather boots. A lot has changed for the better and the game is more professional."
One of Beckenbauer's greatest successes with the German national team was to win the 1972 UEFA European Championship, including victory against England in a two-legged quarter-final. "When the European Championship started, we were not favourites as England had that status," he said. "We achieved something that no German team had done before – winning in London, at Wembley.
"That opened up our path to winning the tournament. Before the tournament we played a friendly against the USSR and beat them 4-1 in Munich which made us favourites for the final a few weeks later in Brussels. We won 3-0, which I think we deserved.
"The secret was maybe that the team was composed of two blocks – Bayern, with six players, and Borussia Mönchengladbach, with three. They were the best teams in Germany at the time and it created a smooth running team [who knew each other] well. That was the secret."
Beckenbauer also still savours the three straight European Cup triumphs he experienced as Bayern captain from 1974–76. "The Champions League trophy, or back then the Champions' Cup, is something special. It's the most prestigous trophy that you can win in club football and when you hold that trophy in your hands, it's something special."
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