Henry Kissinger: Diplomat, Nobel laureate, soccer fan

Mon Apr 6, 2009 1:14pm EDT
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By Steve James

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Ever the diplomat, Henry Kissinger refuses to take sides in one of the 20th century's thorniest controversies.

It was a simple. Was Geoff Hurst's second goal, and England's third, in the 1966 World Cup soccer final, legitimate?

Did the ball cross the line after hitting the bar in the match against West Germany at Wembley stadium? The German players naturally said no, but the Swiss referee and Russian linesman overruled them, the goal stood and England went on to win the title game 4-2. But the debate over the goal has raged ever since.

"I've seen replays of that a hundred times -- you can argue it either way," Kissinger said in his throaty German-accented drawl during an interview.

Kissinger, 85, was secretary of state for Presidents Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon and won the Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating an end to the Vietnam War. He also founded a consulting firm and held academic positions.

He is also an avid soccer fan and has been recruited by the U.S. Soccer Federation to help lobby for the United States to host the 2018 or 2022 World Cup.

Kissinger's love of the game started in Germany where he followed his Bavarian hometown team, now called SpVgg Greuther Fuerth and played in the German Bundesliga's second division.

"When the Nazis came in, for anybody of Jewish origin to go to any crowded place was a risk. Kids would beat you up," he recalled. "I went anyway. There was no rational reason for it.   Continued...

<p>Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger speaks at the International Economic Forum of the Americas/Conference of Montreal June 11, 2008. REUTERS/Shaun Best</p>