This is a first-hand account of FC Karl-Marx Stadt’s (now Chemnitzer FC) trip to Turin to face Juventus in the UEFA Cup 1989/90 written by Tino Richter. It has been translated from German with the kind permission of www.cfc-fanpage.de, where it was originally published.
It was autumn ’89, people had other stuff in the minds, not football. But in Chemnitz, all the talk was of the UEFA Cup. Until now we only saw it on TV. Sure FCK once played on the European stage, but back then we were all in nappies. Now, though, things were different. After the first couple of successful matches for our sky-blue heroes in this amazing competition, the draw was to take place for the next round. Just as always in Chemnitz, people were complaining before the draw was even made: “As long as its not Prague or some fucking place like that”. Fortunately, it wasn’t. The next victim of FC Karl-Marx Stadt would be… Juventus. The Old Lady, an Italian institution versus our beloved FCK. The city was gripped by UEFA Cup fever. Even though only 10,000 people trudged down to the Gellertstraße for Oberliga matches, suddenly everyone was interested.
There were people in Chemnitz who didn’t even know where FCK played, but everyone knew Juve. The border was becoming increasingly porous and we soon came to the conclusion that we had to be there in Turin, regardless of what it took. We go to every single fucking away match in the Oberliga and then let this trip simply pass us by? Never. Rumours spread that a football special was being organised for the trip south. We would have gone by car, but the 15 West marks we had to our name wouldn’t even have got us to Austria. After a home match in the Oberliga, there was a meeting between those involved in planning the trip, people who didn’t have a clue and the proper fans. As always at FCK, nothing was properly organised. It went to and fro – no one really knew what was going on. At some point a list appeared with some names on it. There were already quite a few on the list that we didn’t know, and a few that we did. My mate and I have former FCK keeper Michael Kompalla to thank for getting on that list. The trip was supposed to cost 800 Ost marks, a month’s wage. It was a lot of money, but fuck it: A month without food is better than a week without FCK.
Then all we had to do was make sure we got a ticket for the football special. First things first, we had to get passports and, of course, passport photos for the visa. Shit, passport photos? Where were we supposed to get those done? It wasn’t like it is now where you can pop down to the supermarket and get ‘em done on the machine. Polyphoto was the magic word. So off we went. But wait, we forgot that it wasn’t just football fans that wanted a passport, the entire population of Chemnitz did too in preparation for a potential border opening. The queue was worse than the queue at the grocer’s when they had bananas in. No chance.
Then we had an idea – we had a bit of West German money left over from the odd job on the side in the garage and we were able to buy our way forward a few places in the queue. Just like now I suppose. My mate had some time off and joined the queue for both of us. I was at work and could come by every now and then in one of the cars we had in to repair to check whether we might be in with a chance in the near future. As I said, at some point we had all our papers sorted and the next trip meeting was to be held at the Sportforum. We had to fill out visa forms for Austria and Italy – line for line as dictated by Peter Müller and co. – awesome. As we handed in the mountain of paperwork, our names were crossed off on the list. I asked what it all meant, the response was “None of that matters now” – of course, I’d completely forgotten that the border restrictions had been lifted. The nightmare task of getting the passports and visas approved in East Berlin is probably best left to the club to explain – Peter Müller would be more than happy to oblige, I’m sure.
Tuesday 21 November, around 5pm or so – meeting point at the station. This was the big day – in an hour we’d either be on the train or at home in tears. No one really knew whether the paperwork had gone through properly. I finished work and had a couple of beers to calm the nerves. Then I went up to the man holding all of our passports on the platform. I told him my name, and he began flicking a thick pack of permits like a fucking magician. Was mine there or wasn’t it? He went through about half of them before pulling mine out and holding it aloft. I was going, so were some of my mates – others had to stay behind. We were in absolute ecstasy, while those left behind cried like babies. I still get mad thinking about how many loyal FCK fans had to stay behind, their place taken by privileged party members and that ever-present Stasi mob.
The journey began. We had a sleeper compartment, plus room for all of our food and drinks. The schnapps bottles were opened and the beer started flowing. First stop was the border – open at that point but still very much fortified with guard towers and minefields. It was a pretty strange feeling; a few weeks ago this was the death strip, but now we were just casually passing through. We’re off to see our club, just like always, so we though “fuck the border, forever FCK”.
First station on the other side was Hof. Two Bavarian border policemen wished us luck, even though they didn’t really know what was going on. We slept a little and our express train rolled through Bavaria and into Austria. At some station or other – the name escapes me – there were these two officials who were relatively intelligent for Austrians. They asked us where we were coming from and then tried to understand what we were saying. I reckon they probably still don’t know to this day what our city was called.
Before long we reached Innsbruck and had an hour to spare – time to stock up on supplies. Oh wait, we had only changed our 15 Ost marks into lira and of course no one would take that stuff here. We had to look elsewhere. A staff member at the station drove a pallet full of crates of beer along the platform and parked it next to our train. We felt sorry for him, that poor guy. The thought that he would have to carry all of that heavy stuff into one of the Austrian trains gave us an idea. Two guys went down to the vehicle, while the others stood at the window. We heaved all the crates through the window – into the FCK Express of course. We hid a few crates in our compartment, before the police appeared at the door. They were on the lookout for stolen beer and had the impression that it may be here in our wagon. We responded with complete bafflement of course, saying that we were merely passing through and didn’t really understand what they were saying. Another FCK fan in the train suggested that they might like to quietly fuck off, we weren’t here to go skiing, we were off to see FCK.
Finally we started moving again. Steffl was the name of the beer if I remember correctly. It was alright and lasted until we reached our destination. Our FCK Express meandered through the Alps, the bright sky matching our sky-blue scarves. I still have a picture – leaning out of the train as we chugged around a curve, the perfect blue of the sky with snow-capped mountains in the background and FCK flags adorning our carriages; amazing. After traversing the Alps we reached Milan, and couldn’t go any further. The Italian railways were on strike – quite rightly, no doubt. But FCK was waiting for us. What were we going to do??? While we waited we sang songs on the platform at Milan station with some crazy Italians. Neither of us knew what the other was saying, but at least we were loud. While this was happening, some of the unwelcome party members on the train unfurled an East German flag out of the window and were subsequently photographed by some Italian journalists. Shortly afterwards, we made it painfully clear to these unwanted guests how things were going to work from now on. The flag soon disappeared.
Finally we got the news we had all been hoping for – the driver had got a special permit from his trade union to proceed just for us. The focus was on FCK and its fans and that’s how things were going to remain for a while. Our train rumbled onwards and soon reached our final destination, Turin. It was late afternoon and the floodlights were already on – not at the stadium, at the Stationi Torino. The whole place was lit up like a Christmas tree, hundreds of journalists, Italian TV and loads of Juventus fans gave us a welcome that still brings tears to my eyes this day.
We were there – the famous Chemnitz fans arriving at the heart of Italian football. It was mental. Interviews in every language under the sun. Before I knew it I had a Juventus scarf around my neck. Italians are emotional people and we felt that we fitted in. Our arrival was broadcast live on Italian TV. We were in luck, our personal reporter could speak German well and explained more about us than we did about ourselves. After all, news of the fall of the Iron Curtain hadn’t passed Italy by or anything and the Italians were happy to be part of this huge shift in the European landscape.
We swapped everything. Anything that had an East German emblem on it was swapped. One FCK fan ripped his passport apart and swapped every page for a scarf or a pennant – unbelievable. Juventus had organised a few buses at the station to take us to the ground – probably about ten in total for the 460 FCK fans. Out of the hustle and bustle of the station and into the buses to the ground – that was the plan. But we wanted a tour of the famous city, and it was chaos. Getting 10 buses through the awful Torino traffic was impossible. I suppose it was late afternoon, commuter traffic, European match that evening and, of course, the temperament. At some point 3 of our buses stopped next to a park. No idea where the other buses got to. We were supposed to take a look at a museum “or something”.
As always, our part of the group decided to go for the “or something” and headed into the pedestrian zone in the city centre. There we saw a friendly Italian guy with a pair of tongs in his hand, selling roasted chestnuts. What the hell was this stuff? We gobbled up the entire grill and then the seller started calling for his mother – Maria or something her name was. The next stop on our tour was the newsagents. Aha! Here we could buy some postcards. When we came back out, the newspaper stands were empty. How the journalists got that picture of us in Milan in the papers three hours after it was taken is still a mystery. One of our group flicked through a top-shelf mag, lamenting “this isn’t a programme.” “Forget the birds, today FCK needs us!” shouted someone else.
Onwards we went through the pedestrian zone, past a jewellers watched by eagled-eyed Carabinieri. We started counting the zeroes on the price labels – a 25 with 7 zeroes after it, no way. So that bloke from Bavarian radio was lying to us when he read out the exchange rates every week. 1 Ost mark was 1,000 lire, so that means that necklace costs…never!! We decided to forget the maths and walk on. It was almost time for the big event. Across the street with our big FCK flag and into a huge traffic jam. The Italians were honking their horns like there was no tomorrow. We danced around on the roundabout with our flag as if no one else was there. One driver forgot about the jam and joined in. He climbed on the roof of his car with a massive Juventus flag, while others began singing with their flags and scarves. They were all crazy – just like us. We would have loved to have stayed but it was time to head to the stadium. Whether those Italians ever got out of that traffic jam I do not know.
On the way to the stadium we saw a few shops barricaded up. Of course, Juve were playing and there was always something going on. Somehow we made it there. The Stadio Communale di Torino, one of the most famous in Europe, was expecting us. It was a huge concrete bowl with rows of seats in every direction; the walls plastered with AS Roma and Inter graffiti. Now, however, it was time for FCK. The Italians were really friendly towards us, and we swapped scarves and badges all night. In our block was also a delegation from Juve’s city rivals – I think they might just have been crazier than the Juve fans. The stadium wasn’t very full, but the noise could have filled several. We were welcomed by the home fans in our block and a group of Italian women came over to present us with flowers. Some of us would have preferred it if they had stayed, but that wasn’t why we were here.
Suddenly the noise became deafening as the Juve fans joined to sing the club song. The volume was indescribable. During the song the home curve was bathed in a bright orange glare. It seemed to me as if every fan in the curva had one in the hand. You couldn’t see anything but for flares and smoke.
Soon it was time for the real show to begin. 0-6 or 0-7, whatever happens it doesn’t matter, at least we’re here. As the match progressed things started to change, the Stadio Communale grew quieter as FC Karl-Marx Stadt showed the Old Lady how to play football. The only Juve fan still making a racket was the coffee seller in the away end – but he soon shut up after he was told that none of us wanted any fucking coffee. Then the silence was broken – 1-0 for FCK in Turin. We saw nothing, but as the team ran back towards our end, arms aloft, we knew what had happened. For me and my 459 companions in the away terrace it was bedlam. The rest of the stadium was in shocked silence. No-one, not even us fans, thought we even had a sniff of hope against one of Europe’s best defences. The fog enveloping the stadium became thicker and thicker, some Juve fans called for it to be abandoned – no wonder given the scoreline.
The rest is history I suppose. A shame to lose, but the performance from our sky-blue heroes was incredible. As we left the stadium and got back on the buses, we celebrated as if we’d won. On the streets we were surrounded by enthusiastic Italian fans who followed us to the station and gave us all these presents for our trip home. Our compartment was full with bottles of wine. A friend of ours came in to the train clutching a bag of oranges; never have I laughed so much.
The journey back was pretty uneventful – the bottles were empty and we were correspondingly tipsy. I think the first signs of life from our compartment came when we reached Rosenheim. Some searched the station for any other football fans and came back with a green and orange scarf. No idea what team that was, maybe it was just from some passer-by. That was it, back to normal. Just before we reached Hof we were asked to close all the windows and the doors were locked. Hundreds of people from Saxony and Thuringia had been shopping in West Germany and wanted to get home. They were squeezed into the station at Hof as we went through, and of course we didn’t want to take any of them with us on the FCK Express. Quickly we gathered together some rubbish, put it in a box and threw it out the window at their feet hoping there might be a bit of action – but nothing happened. None of them were prepared for seeing a train full of football fans travelling back home on a Thursday afternoon. A group of party agitators came on board wanting to teach us how to behave shortly before we got home – they just couldn’t help themselves. In our wagon things finally escalated and we got the entertainment we were looking for – just like a proper away match.
It was a crazy autumn. Our beloved FCK had to take a back seat for a bit, as the political situation had a firm grip on our lives. Upon our return, the first thing to do was enjoy the reception by the welcoming committee in the pub. There was only space for six around a table, but there must have been thirty around ours: “So come on, how was it?”
It’s late summer in 1989 and something strange is happening all across the German Democratic Republic (GDR). Gorbatchow’s policy of glasnost had taken hold across the Soviet Union and the people of East Germany were growing tired of the restriction and oppression. This growing sentiment over the course of the autumn of 1989 culminated in the “Peaceful Revolution”, a wave of non-violent protests that swept across all of East Germany’s major cities. The Berlin Wall fell on 9th November and, eleven months later, Germany was a unified nation again. The fusion of two societies that had been polar opposites for more than four decades was a mammoth task in every respect, the effects of which are still being felt today over 20 years down the line. The unification of both country’s national sport, football, was no different.
Football in West Germany developed much the same way as football around the rest of western Europe. In East Germany, however, the situation was much different. Football clubs were backed either by state ministries or by massive state-owned combines and the sport was used by the ruling party, the SED, to prove the prowess and fortitude of the East German nation. From the early 1960s onwards, highly skilled footballers were concentrated around a handful of “centres of excellence”, which included all the clubs familiar to most English football fans from those early, patchy TV broadcasts of European Cup ties. All footballers were technically employees of the respective club backers: Dynamo Dresden players were policemen, those at army-backed FC Vorwärts Frankfurt technically soldiers. As a result, they were amateur sportsmen like any other and, according to the socialist principles of equality, were seen and treated merely as any other factory worker or civil servant.
However, in reality footballers were often paid underhand bonuses in almost total secrecy. They were given cars or houses as rewards for success or to encourage players to complete a transfer. When Lutz Lindemann moved from Rot-Weiß Erfurt to Carl Zeiss Jena in 1977, he received a Trabant full of fruit as a “sweetener” and was promised a large house up in the hills surrounding the city. Right through the 1980s, transfers only really ever took place if the Deutscher Fußball-Verband (DFV – East German FA) ordered players to move to certain clubs or if money changed hands illegally. It was a world away from the million-pound transfers of English football in the 1980s.
By early November 1989, the Oberliga had reached match day 10. On Wednesday 8th November, FC Magdeburg travelled to bitter rivals Dynamo Dresden looking to preserve their slim one-point lead at the top of the table. Dynamo sent Magdeburg packing with a 3:1 victory with a brace from Torsten Gütschow and 30-yarder from Matthias Sammer, preserving the side’s unbeaten start to the season. However, the minds of players, coaches and fans alike had long since been elsewhere
Peaceful protests had gathered momentum across the country and half a million people had taken to the streets in Leipzig two days earlier. East Germany was becoming increasingly porous, with citizens fleeing to the West through Czechoslovakia and Hungary. On the evening of the Thursday 9th November, Günter Scharbowski, a member of the Politbüro of ruling party SED gave a now infamous press conference in which he declared that East Germany borders were effectively open. The new regulations were supposed to apply from the next morning, but Scharbowski committed what proved to be a fatal error for his nation by announcing that the borders were open “immediately”. That night the Berlin Wall fell and jubilant East and West Germans were reunited up and down the country.
The DFV had long since recognised that the West German Bundesliga could perhaps be a desirable destination for many of the East German footballers under its management, especially after several national team players had fled after away matches in Western countries or after travelling abroad with their clubs for European Cup matches. In late October 1989, it approached all Oberliga footballers and requested that they sign central contracts in line with FIFA statutes. These contracts effectively meant that no East German player could be transferred to another country without DFV consent. It proved to be a sage move, as developments in the GDR hadn’t gone unnoticed in the boardrooms of the Bundesliga giants, either. With protests gathering momentum and revolution in the air, managers and directors of football at teams such as Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen had recognised the chance to hand-pick the best talent East Germany had to offer.
On 15th November, just under a week after the East had effectively crumbled, the East German national team travelled to Austria for a key World Cup qualifier. The talented squad contained a number of the under-20 side that had finished third at the World Youth Championships in Chile two year previously, including Matthias Sammer and FC Karl-Marx-Stadt midfielder Rico Steinmann. Placed in a group with the USSR, Austria, Iceland and an emerging Turkish side, East Germany appeared to have been heading for an early exit from the qualifying tournament after back-to-back defeats against Turkey and only a draw at home to the Austrians. However, an impressive victory over the USSR at the start of October with two goals in the last ten minutes from Andreas Thom and Matthias Sammer meant that, provided Turkey lost to the USSR in Simferopol on the final match day, all East Germany needed was a draw in Vienna to qualify for Italia ’90.
Almost as soon as the East German players arrived at the team hotel in Vienna, they were swamped by agents, scouts and managers from Bundesliga sides. Rainer Calmund, then manager of Bayer Leverkusen, sent an army of scouts together with youth team manager Wolfgang Karnath, whom Calmund valued for his persistence. Karnath’s missions was clear: Get the exact addresses and contact details of Thom, Kirsten, Sammer and co
Despite the backing of over 5,000 travelling fans enjoying their first ever away match in “the West” with the national team, East Germany succumbed to a Toni Polster hat-trick and lost 3:0. Steinmann missed a penalty. As he was subbed off late on in the match, Matthias Sammer suddenly found himself sat on the bench next to a man he didn’t recognise. It was Karnath. He had snuck into the ground by waving some kind of official-looking ID, pulled on a high-vis vest and posed as a photographer. “Rainer Calmund says his best wishes,” he said to Sammer. “We want to bring you to Leverkusen. How about we meet later on at the hotel?” Andreas Thom was approach as he trudged off the pitch at the final whistle – a meeting was arranged for later that evening.
After a little gentle persuasion and gifts to sweeten the deal, Thom agreed to join Bayer Leverkusen a few weeks later. All that was left for Calmund was to agree on the transfer amount with the DFV and obtain the approval of the Deutsche Turn- und Sportverband (DTSB). Thom played his last match for BFC Dynamo on 1st December, before becoming the first East German to be officially transferred to West Germany in January 1990, moving to Leverkusen for 2.8 million marks. He scored 15 minutes into his Bundesliga debut for Bayer Leverkusen on 17th February against FC Homburg and would go on to score a further 41 times in the Bundesliga for Leverkusen and then Hertha BSC either side of a spell at Celtic. Sammer would move to Stuttgart and Kirsten would end up with Thom at Leverkusen after reneging on a deal with Dortmund.
The fall of the Berlin Wall of course also had a profound effect on the fans of East German clubs. FC Karl-Marx-Stadt (now Chemnitzer FC) were playing in their first season of European competition for over 20 years after finishing third in the 1988/89 season. Against the odds, they beat both Boavista and FC Sion to reach the third round. They were drawn against the mighty Juventus and, with the first leg in Turin taking place on 22nd November, fans of the Westsachsen would be able to actually follow their team to a European away match officially for the first time instead of having to make do with television coverage. A total of 430 FCK fans paid 800 Ostmarks (a month’s salary at the time) each for a berth in the football special rail service through Bavaria and over the Alps. FC Karl-Marx-Stadt almost pulled off a mighty shock after taking a 70th minute lead in the Stadio delle Alpi, but ended up losing the leg 2:1 and the tie 3:1 after a 1:0 home defeat in front of a packed Stadion an der Gellertstraße.
By early 1990, capitalism had well and truly arrived in the Oberliga. East German teams bore sponsors on their shirts for the first time, players were given West German marks in addition to their regular Ostmark salaries. However, as was the case in many other aspects in the dissolution of East German infrastructure, not all investors from the West proved to have the cash they promised.
On 13th May, the East German national team played what proved to be their penultimate match. The venue was the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro against admittedly not the best Brazil side to ever grace the hallowed turf. Ricardo Teixeira, the head of the Brazilian FA, wanted to organize a friendly against a side that would really test the Brazilians in the run-up to World Cup 1990. As they would not be represented at Italia ’90, East Germany were the perfect choice. With flights and accommodation paid by the Brazilians, the group of players from a country that would cease to exist in less than five months’ time found themselves pulling on the national shirt for the penultimate time in front of 80,000 Brazilian fans. Despite trailing 3:1 after 59 minutes, goals from Rainer Ernst and a last-minute equaliser from Rico Steinmann secured the East Germans a respectable draw. Hans-Georg Moldenhauser, the man who would later mastermind the incorporation of the DFV into the DFB, said later that everyone thought manager Eduard Geyer was responsible for bringing the side up to such a standard, but the truth was that each and every player was doing his all to impress Bundesliga scouts and earn a lucrative contract.
The Oberliga season finished and, for the second season in succession, Dynamo Dresden took the title. Rekordmeister BFC Dynamo had lost the backing of the defunct Ministry for State Security and had renamed itself FC Berlin with the aim of shedding its controversial past. Dynamo Dresden also wrapped up the club’s third double by beating Eintracht Schwerin in the cup final. However, over the summer, Dresden lost the spine of their team with the departures of Ulf Kirsten, Matthias Sammer and Hans-Uwe Pilz. It would be the same story all over the Republik, with the best players seeking their fortunes in the more lucrative Bundesliga. Any clubs that were able to retain their best players were forced to offer large contracts far beyond their means, further exacerbating the financial difficulties that were to come.
The summer of 1990 also marked the first time an East German manager took over a West German club. Joachim Streich was perhaps one of East Germany’s most talented players. The former Hansa Rostock and 1. FC Magdeburg striker was the record Oberliga goal scorer (229 goals), most-capped East German national team player (102 appearances) and record national team goal scorer (55 goals). On 1 July 1990, he took the helm at upper-mid-table second-division side Eintracht Braunschweig but soon found himself under pressure. The East German training routines aimed at generating ultimate physical fitness didn’t go down well with the Braunschweig squad and Streich experienced petulance and a lack of respect that had been completely alien to him as a manager in the East. Eight months later he was sacked and Eintracht finished a lowly 13th.
The last ever Oberliga season began in August 1990. The stakes were high – two spots in the unified Bundesliga and five in the 2. Bundesliga for the 1991/92 season. The season’s card count of 544 yellows and 29 reds (compared with 512 yellows and 7 reds in 1987/88) shows how hard-fought the season was. This was East German football’s swansong, and it would go out kicking and screaming. The reunification of Germany saw interest in the Oberliga tumble, leaving the door open for hooliganism, now unleashed from tight state control, to take hold. The wave of violence reached a tragic climax in November 1990 with the death of eighteen-year-old FC Berlin fan Mike Polley. The hopelessly overwhelmed police force had attempted to contain a group of FC Berlin supporters after their side’s away match at FC Sachsen Leipzig and Polley was shot by a police officer. The death triggered further rioting across the country for the rest of the season, something that further damaged the popularity of the league.
On 4th May 1991, Hansa Rostock beat second-place Dynamo Dresden at the Ostseestadion to secure their first ever East German title and a passage into the Bundesliga for the 1991/92 season, where Dynamo would join them. Rot-Weiß Erfurt, Hallescher FC, Chemnitzer FC and Carl Zeiss Jena were promoted directly into the 2. Bundesliga, as were Stahl Brandenburg and Lokomotive Leipzig after a playoff. However, once in the unified leagues, East German sides found it difficult to attract the necessary quality to replace the top-class players that had left to join established Bundesliga giants. Ageing talents came in on big contracts and, plagued by mismanagement and short-termism almost across the board, many of the former East German clubs began on a relatively short road to ruin.
Dynamo Dresden battled against relegation for four seasons before being refused a licence and forced to start again in the third tier. Hansa Rostock, the final East German champions, fared a little better and were a permanent fixture of the Bundesliga between 1995 and 2005. Since then, however, they too have been plagued by financial difficulties. Minor success was also achieved at Energie Cottbus, but so far none of the former Oberliga sides have managed to establish themselves as true forces in German football.
The uncompromising and unstoppable wave of capitalism that engulfed East Germany after reunification undoubtedly harmed the former country’s football teams, but with infrastructure gradually being improved around the region, the foundations are gradually being laid for sustainable growth. New stadiums have been built in Berlin-Köpenick, Halle, Dresden, Magdeburg and Rostock and more are planned in Jena, Erfurt, Zwickau and Chemnitz. With financial mismanagement (hopefully) a thing of the past, the time may finally come for these well-supported, traditional sides to return to former glories.
11 Freunde – “Wie die Ost-Stars die Wende erlebten“. This is an excellent timeline of the reunification, from which a lot of information in this piece was taken.
MDR – “Schwarze Kassen im DDR-Fußball”
Tagesspiegel – “Fußball in Ostdeutschland: Brasilien ruft nicht mehr an”
Die Geschichte der DDR-Oberliga, Michael Horn & Andreas Baingo.
The East German Oberliga has a reputation for being one of the most manipulated sporting competitions the world has ever seen. The favouritism enjoyed by several big clubs in the 70s and 80s is relatively well-known, but the manipulation can be traced right back to the start of the league’s existence. Nothing illustrates the ridiculousness of the whole system better than the 1950-51 season.
Organised football in the Ostzone was barely three seasons old, and indeed the Deutsche Demokratische Republik had itself only existed for a year. The first two Ostzone championships had been played as a cup competition and were won by Zwickau-based SG Planitz and ZSG Union Halle. The first league competition was in 1949-50 and won again by SG Planitz, by then renamed as ZSG Horch Zwickau. The fact that the capital city of Berlin was not even represented in the newly-formed Oberliga was obviously an embarrassment for the ruling party, the SED. Until that point, teams from the capital had played in top Berlin league along with teams from the Westzone. This obviously wouldn’t do, so three teams were re-allocated to play in the Oberliga from 1950-51, namely Union Oberschöneweide (later to become 1. FC Union Berlin), VfB Pankow and SG Lichtenberg 47.
The Oberliga would now contain 18 teams, up from 14 from the previous season. To balance this out, the authorities declared in late 1950 that four sides would be relegated and only two promoted for the 1951-52 season. After further confirmation of this decision in January 1951, suddenly it was declared that only two teams would be relegated instead of four. Why, I hear you ask? Well, I’m sure it had nothing to do with the fact that, at the time, VfB Pankow were rock bottom of the league, setting a string of records for being completely rubbish that would never be beaten in the 40-year history of the Oberliga. 34 games, 131 goals conceded, 29 scored and an outstanding away record of P 17, W 0, D 0, L 17.
Even with the relaxed relegation regulations, VfB Pankow still finished bottom, a massive 13 points adrift of second-bottom SG Lichtenberg 47 (there were only two points for a win in those days too). With Union Oberschöneweide finishing 15th (and originally in a relegation place), it seemed like the experiment of trying to integrate the Hauptstadt clubs into the Oberliga had failed miserably. But East Germany’s sporting authorities thought otherwise, declaring that VfB Pankow would remain in the league for the following season as Pankow, the area of Berlin where the DDR government was based, had a right to a place in the top tier – VfB Pankow were saved. And in addition to that, it was also declared that Berlin, as the “political, financial and cultural centre of the country”, also had a right to a second team in the top flight, meaning that Union Oberschöneweide also stayed up.
Another controversial event during the season concerned the teams fighting it out at the top. Motor Zwickau started the season well and were leading the Oberliga by 3 points from Turbine Erfurt in second with BSG Chemie Leipzig 2 points further away in third. On 10th December 1950, Zwickau travelled to Leipzig for a top of the table clash. Zwickau were leading 2-1 with seconds to go when Zwickau goalkeeper Joachim Otto catches a deep free-kick and is then pushed over the line in the scrum in front of the goal. The referee gives the Chemie equaliser and the Zwickau players are furious. They protest to the officials and then leave the pitch without acknowledging the other team. This was bad enough, but it got worse: the Zwickau team refuse to accept the pennant and flowers being offered by the Society for German-Soviet Friendship. The thing was, this match had been selected especially by the ruling party to underline the relationship between the two countries, and the episode was highly embarrassing for the authorities. Action was swift, and a few days later the East German Sport Committee announced the following:
1. The main sports facilities at the Georg-Schwarz-Sportplatz shall be closed from hosting football matches until 15th January 1951. The facilities shall only be reopened once all seating inside the barriers has been removed. BSG Chemie Leipzig shall play their home games within this period outside of the city and/or district at a neutral ground.
2. Mr. Dittes (head of administration), Mr. Richter (team manager) and Mr. Schubert (captain) from BSG Motor Zwickau shall be removed of their responsibilities. The final replacement of these members of staff must take place in conjunction with the German Sport Committee.
3. With the exception of Mr. Breitenstein, Mr. Schneider and Mr. Otto, BSG Motor Zwickau players who took part in the match against BSG Chemie Leipzig on 10.12.1950 shall be banned from all football matches until 8th January 1951 due to damaging behaviour towards the Democratic sporting community.
At the first game after the announcement of this judgement, at Aktivist Brieske-Ost (what a name!), club captains of both teams were given a bunch of flowers by the District Association for German-Soviet Friendship whilst making a kind of public apology. After all, Stalin’s birthday was only four days away and all citizens of the GDR were to honour him in the proper manner – including footballers.
The fight between BSG Chemie Leipzig, Turbine Erfurt and Motor Zwickau ended up lasting most of the season, with the former two ending up equal on points after 34 matches. This resulted in a play-off match between Chemie and Turbine at the Ernst-Thälmann-Stadion in Chemnitz. Turbine Erfurt were missing two of their “spine”, Wolfgang Nitsche and Helmut Nordhaus, through suspensions caused by “inappropriate behaviour” after having a few too many following an unofficial international match for East Germany against Poland. Despite having some of the better chances over the course of the match, Turbine succumbed to a stronger BSG Chemie Leipzig team and conceded twice in the final 30 minutes, losing both the match and the title.
Results and table (rsssf): http://www.rsssf.com/tablesd/ddr51.html
Short film about the play-off match: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQoVPsQs-p0
I obviously wasn’t even alive, let alone in East Germany, in 1950, so most of this information is taken from the incredible “Die Geschichte der DDR Oberliga” by Andreas Baingo and Michael Horn. Available here: http://www.amazon.de/Die-Geschichte-DDR-Oberliga-Mit-Spielerlexikon/dp/3895334286/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1326304863&sr=8-1
If you were asked to name your favourite ever match, what would you say? Brazil-Italy from the 1982 World Cup? England-Argentina from 1986? The list is practically endless. Let me tell you about mine though.
It’s 1986 and Dynamo Dresden have qualified for the European Cup Winners’ Cup (remember that?) after winning the East German FDGB Cup in 1985. Dynamo had been an extremely strong team all through the 1970s, winning five Oberliga titles and two FDGB cups. However, they hadn’t managed to replicate this success on a European level and had began to suffer from Dynamo Berlin’s domination of the domestic football scene, helped by a certain Mr Mielke at the head of the Stasi (Dynamo Berlin won all league titles form ’78 until ’89, by which time his grip on the state had started to loosen). That season’s European Cup Winners’ Cup only involved 32 teams and five rounds and, after scraping past Cercle Brugge in the first round and comprehensively beating HJK Helsinki over two legs in the second round, Dynamo Dresden soon found themselves in the quarter final accompanied by teams such as Athletico Madrid, Dukla Prague, Dynamo Kiev and, most importantly of all, Bayer Uerdingen.
Bayer Uerdingen had been a relatively good second tier team through the 1970s who had spent a couple of years in the Bundesliga. Then, at the beginning of the 1980s, the club backed by the chemical giant Bayer and based in Krefeld became Bundesliga regulars and even took home the DFB-Pokal in 1985 after coming from behind to beat Bayern München. This meant, of course, participation in the 1985/86 European Cup Winners’ Cup. Like Dynamo Dresden, Uerdingen reached the quarter final of the competition, beating Żurrieq FC of Malta and impressively knocking out Galatasary. Sure enough, as the draw for the quarter finals was made on 9th January 1986, Dynamo Dresden and Bayer Uerdingen would meet.
There was lots of excitement about the meeting of the two sides, as there was every time two teams from either side of the inner German border met. In 1973, Dynamo Dresden lost to Bayern München over two legs in the European Cup by the odd goal in 13 (Bayern went on to win the trophy that season) whilst Lokomotive Leipzig met Fortuna Düsseldorf in the UEFA Cup of the same season. A season later, 1.FC Magdeburg narrowly lost in the European Cup second round to reigning champions Bayern. It was Magdeburg who were involved in the first East German victory over a team from the West, as a Jürgen Sparwasser hat-trick helped them knock Schalke 04 out of the 1977 UEFA Cup. Further meetings followed between Magdeburg and Mönchengladbach Dynamo Berlin and HSV, Lok Leipzig and Werder Bremen. None of these (not even the Dresden-Bayern game) had anything on what was to come between Uerdingen and Dresden.
This football match was, of course, important for many other reasons above and beyond football. The East German government saw the tie as a chance to show its prowess over the West and indeed the Stasi ordered Dynamo to reach the semi-final of the European Cup Winners’ Cup. It was an obligation, alongside winning the FDGB Cup and fighting for the league title, and all members of Dynamo Dresden were aware of the consequences of failure. The Stasi didn’t want to leave anything to chance and made it their responsibility to fix any problems that there might be with the Dresden team and general set-up. An official memo declared: “…with regard to the realisation of these performance goals, the regional state security administration has been made aware of a range of problems, the remedying of which is being worked on…”. This included influencing team selection. Before the first leg in the Rudolph-Harbig Stadion in Dresden on 5th March 1986, the Stasi decreed that top player Frank Lippmann remain in the team against the wishes of Dynamo manager Klaus Sammer, father of Matthias Sammer. Sammer had wanted to leave Lippmann out of the squad due to the latter’s active social life and “evening escapades”. After 50 goalless minutes of the first leg, it seemed that the Stasi’s decision had been vindicated as Lippmann turned in a rebound to open the scoring on an absolute quagmire of a pitch. 12 minutes later in the 62nd minute, Hans-Uwe Pilz showed impressive skills on such a surface to increase Dynamo’s lead to 2-0. Uerdingen were beaten, but not disheartened. “I am disappointed that we held Dynamo during their stronger phase (during the first half), only to then throw everything away in a matter of a few minutes,” said Uerdingen manager Karl-Heinz Feldkamp after the game. “But when I say everything, I don’t mean the tie, I merely mean this match.” Indeed, Dynamo still bore the wounds from their bitter defeat in the previous year’s Cup Winners’ Cup where they had taken a 3-0 home lead to Vienna against SK Rapid Wien and then promptly lost 5-0.
On 19th March 1986, the return leg took place at the Grotenburg-Kampfbahn in Krefeld in front of 22,000 fans. German national broadcaster ZDF decided to broadcast the match over Bayern München’s European Cup tie in Brussels against Anderlecht. However, due to te result of the first leg, it wasn’t a sure bet that Uerdingen would come through the tie and there was even talk of switching to the Bayern tie if the Uerdingen-Dresden game was all over at half-time. The game kicked off in front of 22,000 fans and what followed was quite possibly the most exciting 90 minutes of football ever seen.
It took Dynamo Dresden all of one minute to achieve their main target for the night, an away goal. A free-kick over on the left flank was sent in deep and centre-back Ralf Minge rose highest to nod home the goal that put the tie at 3-0 in Dynamo’s favour. The Uerdingen players were shocked as, not even a minute into the match, their task had just become twice as difficult. Even an equaliser, a towering header by Wolfgang Funkel in the 13th minute, didn’t really seem to be of any importance. Uerdingen still pushed forward, but this inevitably left gaps in the defence. In the 36th minute, a scramble in the Dresden box led to the ball being cleared to Ulf Kirsten on the right-wing who sprinted into the box and put the ball on a plate for that man Frank Lippmann again to put Dresden in the lead once more. Just before half-time, Dynamo extended their lead even further after Lippmann fed Ulf Kirsten in the box and Kirsten’s shot took a wicked deflection of defender Rudi Bommer and nesteld in the back of te net.
As the half-time whistle blew, the game was surely over. Uerdingen needed to score five in the second half to win and hope that Dynamo didn’t find another goal. Dynamo’s rapid counter-attacking in the first half had already demonstrated how dangerous they were on the break so if Uerdingen pushed too many men forward, they were leaving themselves open for punishment at the other end. With a 5-1 aggregate lead (plus the three away goals they had scored), Dresden looked to be home and dry. There was, however, a glimmer of hope.
An innocuous incident just before Dresden had scored their third proved to be the turning point. Goalkeeper Bernd Jakubowski ran straight into Funkel whilst trying to collect a high ball into the box and suffered a significant shoulder injury (which ended up actually ending his career). In the changing rooms at half-time, he wanted to receive painkilling injections so that he continue but he had already been administered with the highest dosage. He had to be substituted. On the bench, Dynamo had a young goalkeeper in the shape of Jens Ramme. Ramme had no league or European experience and was only 22 years old. Sammer came to him with five minutes of the break left and said, “you’ll keep goal second half”. Four years earlier, Aston Villa’s Nigel Spink had come off the bench, making only his second first team appearance, to replace injured goalkeeper Jimmy Rimmer and subsequently kept a clean sheet and help Villa win the European Cup. Jens Ramme’s debut was not to be so glorious.
Perhaps driven by the fear of failure and the repurcussions at home if the team lost the tie, and also haunted by the events of the previous year in Vienna, panic filled the Dresden dressing room. Ramme was understandably nervous, but Dresden started the second half confidently and dealt with Uerdingen’s attacking threat relatively comfortably for the first 15 minutes. However, on 60 minutes Ramme was called into action for the first time. He made a fantastic save low to his right but was only able to parry in the direction of the Uerdingen attackers. Dresden defender Ralf Minge leant in to try and clear the ball and the referee’s whistle blew: penalty.
The penalty was duly dispatched by Funke and this seemed to give Uerdingen the lift they needed. An own goal from Ralf Minge shortly afterwards brough the match to 3-3 on the night, 3-5 on aggregate. Only two minutes later in the 68th minute, Uerdingen were suddenly in the lead. Dresden were defending desperately, but couldn’t get out of their own half. Wolfgang Schäfer picked the ball up on the right of the box and lobbed it over the onrushing Ramme in the Dresden goal. 4-3. In the 78th minute, Dietmar Klinger picked up the ball on the halfway line and the Dresden players backed off. He let fly with a low right-footed shot and it flew into the bottom right-hand corner of the net. Suddenly it was only away goals that were the difference; Uerdingen needed one more.
From now on, there was only ever going to be one outcome. Uerdingen attacked “like waves”. And barely a minute after the 5-3 had been scored, they had another penalty. Following another scramble in front of the Dresden goal, an Uerdingen shot was blocked on the line by the hand of Dresden captain Dixie Dörner. Wolfgang Funkel stepped up again and confidently sent the ball into the back of the net for his hat-trick. Uerdingen had the lead at 6-3 on the night, 6-5 on aggregate, and the atmosphere in the stadium was electric. That being said, there were still 10 minutes to be played and Uerdingen keeper Werner Vollack produced two fantastic saves to keep Uerdingen ahead. With Dresden pouring forward, all it took was a strong defensive header from the peerless Funkel and one quick touch from Schäfer to send the latter clean through and with all the time in the world to put the game well and truly beyond doubt.
Five minutes later and the referee blew the full-time whistle, Uerdingen were through. The fans in Krefeld partied through the night but the Uerdingen players had still not fully grasped what had happened. “We had promised ourselves at half-time that we would go out of the cup with our heads held high,” said Uerdingen manager Feldkamp. Nothing had been put in place for any kind of celebrations. In the Dresden dressing room, on the other hand, there was deadly silence. Everyone was aware of the repurcussions.
One of the most consequences of the game took place later that night at the hotel. At some point in the night, Frank Lippman slipped out of a back entrance at the hotel and never returned to the GDR. Due to the standing of footballers and how well-known they were around the country, this incident was highly embarassing for the state. Sammer was held responsible and promptly lost his job. Endless reports had to be written and interviews had tobe conducted by Dresden players and directors. Lippmann went on to play in the Bundesliga with FC Nürnberg and Waldorf Mannheim. Jens Ramme, the substitute goalkeeper who had conceded 6 goals in the second half never got a chance to fight for the number 1 shirt, his career quite possibly tarnished by that one night in Uerdingen.
Since that famous night, both clubs have fallen on hard times. Dresden finally won another DDR Oberliga in 1989 and reached a UEFA Cup semi-final in 1989. They also managed a 4-year stay in the Bundesliga during the early nineties, but since then mostly been downhill. They currently play in the third tier of German football but still attract crowds of over 15,000 on a regular basis. Uerdingen, on the other hand, have perhaps suffered even more. They were relegated from the Bundesliga in 1995 and have made the gradual fall form grace into the 6th tier Niederrheinliga along with giants of the modern game such as Rot-Weiss Essen’s reserve team and SV Hönnepel-Niedermörmter. But however low Uerdingen fall, there will always be a special place in the hearts of many for that fantastic night in 1986.