Saturday, July 31, 2010

Up the scale a notch? Hard to tell… Sweden had reputation as a national team; East Germany did not register in neither club, nor national teams football. Not until 1974, that is – perhaps the finest year of DDR football. It is also the only success the comrades enjoyed during their existence. Back in the fall of 1973 there was gloomy business as usual – the domestic championship did not attract due or undue attention. And it is safe to say that apart from two teams, the East German football continued its lowly uninteresting presence in European football in 1974 and after. Once again, here is a case of championship without clear dominant clubs. A group of 4-5 clubs was relatively equal and the champions were one or the other, but hardly constant. 1. FC Magdeburg were one of those clubs, so for them to collect the national title was not exactly big news. However, the club is young and a result of politically motivated restructuring: in the mid-60s the lowly quality of East German football became a concern (no doubt, because of the constantly increasing quality of the ‘class enemies’ in West Germany) and it was proposed to create football-only clubs (as opposed to traditional all-sports clubs with football section) with the goal of achieving higher standards. 1. FC Magdeburg was the very first club of the new breed – founded in 1965. And because of that previous merged, split, and renamed clubs of Magdeburg do not count in the history of this one.
The scheme seemed to work – 1.FC Magdeburg won its first title in 1972 and doubled it in 1974. And not only that, but more – later.
Top, left to right: Heinz Krugel – coach, Jurgen Sparwasser, Manfred Zapf, Wolfgang Seguin, Wolfgang Abraham, Hans-Jurgen Herrmann, Gunter Konzack – assistant coach, Hans Weber – masseur.
Middle: Klaus Decker, Ulrich Schulze, Werner Heine, Jurgen Pommerenke.
Bottom: Detlef Enge, Helmut Gaube, Martin Hoffmann, Detlef Raugust.
As common in countries without dominant clubs, Magdeburg was not star-studded squad. It had 4 regular players of the national team – Sparwasser, Zapf, Pommerenke, and Hoffmann, all of whom generally emerged in 1973-74. Sparwasser particularly acquired bigger fame during the World Cup 1974 finals, and eventually defected to West Germany – curiously, well after he retired from football. As a whole, it was tough, disciplined, and excellent physically team, lacking imagination and compensating for that with constant running. Good enough to win the East German championship, although not impressively – the usual rivals Carl Zeiss (Jena) and Dynamo (Dresden) finished second and third, bith three points behind the champions. Lokomotive (Leipzig), another of the better clubs, ended 5th – not major ups and downs really in the small 14-team league. Down at the end of the scale Chemie (Leipzig) and Energie (Cottbus) were relegated, not a surprise either. As for the champions, they had the most wins (16) and the least losses (3) during the championship, but neither the best attack (scoring 5 goals less than the 2nd and 3rd placed), nor the best defense (Carl Zeiss had better one, and the 4th placed Vorwarts received the same number of goals as Magdeburg). The Cup went to Carl Zeiss, beating 3-1 Dynamo (Dresden) at the final. At the end, the East German football was pretty much the same as ever, and because of that a little doubt may be cast on the surprise European success of Magdeburg and the national team in 1974. Those were the prime years of East German doping of sportsmen. Nothing ever was said about football players, but neither Magdeburg, nor the national team repeated their performance of 1974. It was just a solitary year in the whole history of East German football. Suspect may be; successful surely.
And the Cup winners Carl Zeiss (Jena)

Sitting, left to right: Klaus Schroder, Rainer Schlutter, Helmut Stein, Peter Ducke, Konrad Weise.
Middle: Hans-Joachim Meyer – coach, Dieter Freund, Harry Kunze, Andreas Wachter, Norbert Schumann, Gert Brauer, Gunther, Bernd Stange – assistant coach.
Top: Brunner, Ulrich Gohr, Goebel, Harald Irmscher, Hans-Ulrich Grapenthin, Wolfgang Blochwitz, Lothar Kurbjuweit, Eberhard Vogel, Peter Rock – administrator.
Slightly more impressive squad than the champion one, with plenty with current and future national players – Ducke, Weise, Irmscher, Grapenthin, Blochwitz, Kurbjuweit, Vogel. Few East German football legends too: Peter Ducke, Eberhard Vogel, Konrad Weise, particularly Weise, who played impressive 86 matches for DDR. And one more famous man here: so far only assistant coach, but Bernd Stange will be long time national coach of DDR in the 1980s and Stasi paid informant under code name IM Kurt Wegner. When lustration came after 1989, Stange was fired and black listed – he cried in protest: he was not sorry for anything, the past was just alright, the present, however, was unfair and discriminatory. Bitter and unapologetic to this very day, Stange followed his moral convictions… coaching Iraq, when Saddam Hussein was still the ruler, and currently Belarus, the most stubbornly Marxist former Soviet republic.