Interview: Dr. Theo Zwanziger: „Committed heart and soul“

He's the boss of the Cup: Dr. Theo Zwanziger, president of the German Soccer Association. In his interview with contisoccerworld, the former play-maker of the VfL Altendiez club speaks about cup sensations, interplay between the association and companies – and sport with his grandchildren.

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Question: Dr. Zwanziger, we would like to talk with you about the DFB Cup, Germany's knock-out soccer tournament. You are not only the president of the German Soccer Association (DFB), but also a lawyer. So, we've got to ask you whether the "special laws" of the Cup that people talk about really do exist.

Dr. Theo Zwanziger: You don't need to be a lawyer to answer this question in the affirmative, any football fan knows it. These "special laws" can't be found in any document of rules, rather they reveal themselves on the pitch time and time again. We experience again and again how a team from a lower division succeeds in knocking a top-flight Bundesliga team out of the DFB Cup. As a result, a team wins although it would have stood scarcely any chance of withstanding this overweening opponent over the course of a season. But anything is possible in a cup game – these are the special laws of the Cup.

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Question: What do you think was the greatest Cup sensation in recent years?

Zwanziger: I could point to many games. After all, any game in which the higher-ranked club is bested by an underdog is a surprise. The wider the gulf in ranking, the greater the surprise. Therefore, defeats by the highest-ranked Bundesliga teams always cause a sensation. As a result, of course, the games which are most prominent in my memory are the defeats of the record cup-winning club, Bayern München, against Weinheim, Vestenbergsgreuth or Magdeburg.

Question: As the association's president, are you actually still allowed to be a fan?

Zwanziger: Yes, of course. I'm a great soccer fan. Of course, I am above all a fan of the German national teams. But I also have my favorites in club soccer. It has long since ceased to be a secret that Borussia Mönchengladbach has been close to my heart for many years now, and that more recently I have also supported the women's team of Turbine Potsdam.

Question: Does it still hurt when Borussia gets knocked out in the quarter finals, as was the case this season?

Zwanziger: It certainly does, no doubt about it.

Question: What makes a Cup match so special for you, compared to a league game?

Zwanziger: As I said, the special appeal of a Cup match is that everything is possible over 90 minutes, or sometimes 120 minutes if the game goes into extra time. Sometimes, David can indeed slay Goliath. Although this is also possible in a league game, by the end of the season it is usually the case that the stronger team will finish higher.

Question: Do you still go to watch Cup matches in the stadium?

Zwanziger: If time permits, yes I do. But mostly I watch the games at home on television. Thanks to our partner, Sky, all the games in the DFB Cup are shown live and in full length.

Peruvian Jefferson Farfan of Schalke tackles Ukrainian Anatoliy Tymoshchuk of FC Bayern. (Photo: Firo/Augenklick)

Question: The Cup is thrilling not just for fans but also for the sponsors. What does this competition offer to the sponsoring companies?

Zwanziger: Above all else, high-class soccer, a great atmosphere in the stadiums, a final match in the Berlin Olympic Stadium as the crowning glory and, from time to time, a jaw-dropping surprise.

Question: Are there any particular criteria that a company has to offer as a sponsor?

Zwanziger: It goes without saying that the financial package has got to be right, because as a non-profit civil organization, we are reliant on the income from our contracts with sponsors. But in addition to this, it is important that our partners display a love for sport in general and for soccer in particular. And that's absolutely the case.

Question: Starting from this season, Continental is one of the four big sponsors. What was the main motivating factor for the German Soccer Association to embark on this cooperation with Continental?

Zwanziger: Thanks to its extensive involvement in sport, the company already enjoyed an excellent reputation in the soccer community even before becoming a partner of the DFB Cup. Therefore, our experts judged that Continental represents a magnificent adjunct to our premium product, the DFB Cup. And the course of the season so far has shown that this judgement was bang on target.

Question: Soccer attracts a lot of attention. Many companies devote a great deal of time and effort to the world of football. Why is that the case?

Zwanziger: Quite simply, soccer is a major part of our society. In Germany, there are about 40 million people who are directly or indirectly interested in this sport. In addition, there is the big media presence which is highly appealing for companies of course. But I am pleased above all that our sponsors are now doing more than concentrating on the sport, but are also giving real support to our association in its major charitable and sociopolitical activities.

MSV Duisburg rejoice. The Second Bundesliga club reached the German Cup final for the fourth time. (Photo: Firo/Augenklick)

Question: Let's return to the pitch: Do you get the urge to take part in a game? After all, you were once the play-maker for your team, you were a classic number 10.

Zwanziger: Yes, but that's a good long time ago now. Today, my sporting activities are restricted to regular cycle rides, hiking, a bit of table tennis and, above all, playing with my grandchildren. I leave playing football to the youngsters, but of course I am still committed heart and soul whether I am watching a game from the stand or on the television.

Question: Is there any chance for your old club, VfL Altendiez, to make it into the DFB Cup?

Zwanziger: At present, VfL Altendiez is only playing in what we call "Kreisliga A", which is down on about the 9th tier of the soccer structure in Germany. Clubs from that level compete in regional cups but almost never manage to make it into the DFB Cup because the teams from the nationwide divisions are much stronger than they are. But you never know...

Question: Just imagine that Gladbach were playing Altendiez in the Cup final. Could you attend the game as the president of the German Soccer Association? And which team should be the winner?

Zwanziger: Oh my word! It takes quite an effort to imagine my old club in the final. But no, to be serious, that would certainly be a special game for me and I would be on the edge of my seat to see which team would come out as the winner. To be frank, however, I very much doubt that this pairing would ever be seen in the Berlin Olympic Stadium.