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By ESPN Staff
Jan 25, 2006

Beckenbauer disputes World Cup safety debate

BERLIN -- Germany has embarrassed itself with a needless debate about whether its World Cup stadiums would be safe in the event of crowd disturbances, Franz Beckenbauer said on Wednesday.

The president of Germany's World Cup organizing committee criticized a consumer protection group, Stiftung Warentest, for casting doubts about venues he says are among the most modern in the world.

"Our nation made itself look a bit ridiculous in front of the whole world," Beckenbauer said in an interview with Bild newspaper.

"But it was not the organizing committee (that made Germany look ridiculous) but rather a few self-important people," he added. "I'm curious about whether more of that sort of thing is going to hit us in the weeks ahead."

The Stiftung Warentest reported this month that there could be problems in many World Cup stadiums if fire or panic broke out, adding that there could be even more serious deficiencies even though all 12 venues are new or modernized.

World Cup organizers have refuted the criticism before the tournament which starts on June 9, saying all the stadiums passed safety tests that are more stringent in Germany than many other countries.

Beckenbauer is on a worldwide tour to deliver personal invitations to the 31 countries who qualified for the World Cup finals. He cancelled all trips and engagements over the last two weeks following the death of his mother.