Everything was ready for the big showdown. The Presidium of the German Football Association (DFB) will meet for its next meeting on Friday morning; Some in the association have already joked that twelve o’clock would have been the best time – like in the famous western from 1952 in which Gary Cooper waits for the bandits. Because at the head of the association there is a hot duel: between President Fritz Keller, 63, and General Secretary Friedrich Curtius, 44.

Now the big, direct showdown is canceled according to SZ information. On Thursday, Curtius reportedly informed his colleagues on the Presidium that he would not attend the meeting. He was therefore advised, he wrote, “that I should not attend tomorrow’s meeting of the Presidium if a member of the Presidium so requested”. He wants to follow this suggestion. At the same time, however, he tries to defend his position in the letter. This unusual event already shows how broken the relationship between the top officials is. And it increases the doubts that they still have a future together. At the top of the DFB there is probably only room for one.

According to SZ information, Keller wants Curtius’ contract to be terminated. The DFB did not deny that when asked on Thursday, he only stated that he did not want to comment on the speculation in the media. Curtius, on the other hand, wrote in his email that he “tried yesterday together with Fritz Keller to clear up existing misunderstandings. Unfortunately we have not yet found a reliable solution in the conversation.” He had suggested a joint mediation to Keller in order to “clear up existing misunderstandings and dissonances” – and would like to have “two neutral companions” from the Presidium with him. “None of us should put personal sensitivities above the welfare of the organization,” writes Curtius tellingly, and: Nobody can “have an interest in us continuing internal conflicts”. How much distrust must there be among the top people of the association?

It is remarkable how rapidly the relationship between these two different functionaries has deteriorated. As president of SC Freiburg and member of the DFB board of directors, Keller was in football for a long time, but above all in professional business. He has only been part of the association’s innermost leadership since September 2019, when he took over the presidency. Curtius has been with the association for 15 years, first as an adviser to ex-DFB President Wolfgang Niersbach, who stumbled in the 2006 World Cup affair, and since spring 2016 as Secretary General. At first, the duo looked harmonious, but this image was deceptive.

At first sight, the current criminal tax proceedings play an important role. Two weeks ago there were raids, the Frankfurt public prosecutor’s office accuses the DFB of withholding 4.7 million euros from the tax authorities for allegedly incorrect tax returns for 2014/15. The proceedings are directed against three old functionaries – and against three current ones: Curtius, Vice President Rainer Koch and Treasurer Stephan Osnabr├╝gge. Last week, however, external auditors put the allegations into perspective and stated that the trio still in office had not made any accusations. Curtius also refers to this in his circular. He was convinced that the investigation would be stopped; but should he be “convicted of any misconduct during my work at the DFB”, he will immediately make all offices available.

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