Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sweet is hardly the word coming to mind when thinking of East German football. Boring would be the natural choice. Unlike the West German cousins, the East Germans inhabited the lower regions of European football – even among the countries behind the Iron Curtain they ranked low – only Albania was considered below them. Apparently, the East Germans thought their football lowly too – they run small 14-team league, as every other country at the bottom of European football: the Scandinavians, Malta, Albania, Cyprus, Luxembourg, you get the picture. Even by East European standards, East German clubs sounded extremely industrial and serving not the game, but Communist propaganda – various Dynamos, Motors, Chemie-s (Chemists), Lokomotives, Turbines, Stahls (Steel), Energie, with additional Vorwarts (Forward!) and bested by Second Division club named ‘Aktivist Schwarze Pumpe’, which does not need translation in my opinion. All of it bringing imagery of mechanic puppets.
Lowly football, but unlike most East European countries East Germany was not dominated by two big clubs – rather, everybody was equally lowly. Carl Zeiss (Jena), Dynamo (Dresden), Lokomotive (Leipzig), and 1.FC Magdeburg (Magdeburg) were consistently at the front of the table, but champions varied – until 1979, when the Secret Police – the Stasi - decided to really step in and established the hegemony of their own club Dynamo (Berlin) pretty much until the Berlin Wall fell down. As a whole, East German football was not glorious, yet it had golden years – beginning in 1973, reaching the peak in 1974, and fading away after that. Dynamo (Dresden) won their third title in 1973.

Sitting, left to right: Heidler, Richter, Hafner, Sachse, Boden, Fritsche, Urbanek, Dorner, Riedel, Watzlich, Sammer.Standing: Meyer – administrator, Seidel – accountant, Hanel – president, Geyer, Schmuck, Rau, Kreische, Ganzera, Kern, Schade, Helm, Lichtenberger, Muller, Fritsch – coach, Prautsch – assistant coach, Gumz – administrator.

This squad is curiously anonymous for champion team: apart from two high-ranked East German players, Dorner and Kreische, the rest consists of journeymen, although few were occasionally included in the national team. Hans-Jurgen Kreische was the League’s top scorer for third consecutive year with 26 goals. The squad of the champion does not suggest sudden rise of the East German football, but this is misleading. However, Dynamo (Dresden) is interesting in another aspect – their intricate relation to Dynamo (Berlin) and Secret Police, and their eventual good luck after 1989.