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Kind Words from Der Kaiser

After the semifinal win over Germany, U.S. head coach Kazbek Tambi recalls one of his best soccer memories from 31 years ago.

The 2008 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup semifinal was certainly a special game for U.S. head coach Kazbek Tambi, not only because his team played brilliantly and defeated Germany, but also because his childhood hero was in attendance.

In 1977, when Tambi was 16, the great Franz Beckenbauer signed with the New York Cosmos. Tambi, who grew up in New Jersey, suddenly found himself within biking distance of seeing one of the world’s greatest players close up and he wasn’t going to let that opportunity pass.

“He was my idol as a young player when he played for the Cosmos in New York,” said Tambi of the only man to captain a World Cup winner (1974) and coach one as well (1990). “When I was in high school, he arrived in the States to play, and it was a gigantic deal. I skipped out on school and rode 15 minutes on my bicycle to watch him play. I got to put my arm around his shoulder after that first practice and got my picture with him.”

Beckenbauer, who remains an influential figure in both German and international soccer, has been a vocal supporter of the women’s game, hence his trip to New Zealand to attend the match which was not surprisingly a big story for this island nation.

“For me, it’s an honor to have my idol, even though he’s from Germany, be here and watch the Americans play a great game against Germany,” said Tambi, who himself signed with the Cosmos about six months after Beckenbauer retired. “It’s wonderful and what a great story for the women’s game to have the likes Franz Beckenbauer attend a U-17 Women’s World Cup. That’s a tremendous statement because he’s probably one of the most admired soccer people in the entire world.”

Beckenbauer spoke to about his experience in New Zealand, which was likely the first U-17 women’s international he has attended.

“The atmosphere was great,” said Beckenbaur, who led Germany's successful bid to host the wildly successful 2006 FIFA World Cup and chaired the organizing committee. “And the second semifinal, although not a great game for the German team, was really excellent. Germany actually started very well but surprisingly they stopped playing and in the end the USA really deserved their win. The Germans made some mistakes but they are young - 16 and 17 years old - and they have a lot to learn. In general, I was very impressed with everything that I seen yesterday. The football, the people, the organization - everything was perfect. From what I have seen so far, New Zealand has been an excellent host.”

Beckenbauer also tabbed the USA as slight favorites in the final.

“It's difficult to compare Korea DPR and USA, but I think the United States might be a little bit ahead,” he told “They played really excellently in the match against Germany and their physical condition was also very, very good, whereas with the Koreans, you could see towards the end of their match that they became very tired. It's a game, it's a final, and anything can happen, but my view having watched yesterday's two games is that USA has a slight edge.”