The bizarre world of East German football


One of the rarely mentioned stories of world football during the period of the Cold War was football in former communist East Germany.The former GDR national team was living in the shadows of the much more successful West German Nationalelf which played memorable matches in the FIFA World Cups in Bern,London,Mexico City,Munich,Madrid and Rome and conquered Europe twice in 1972 and 1980 while won three time the World Cup in 1954,1974 and 1990 just before the reunification with East Germany in the autumn that year.The Ossis never qualified for the European Championships and when it came to the World Cup they made only a single appearance in 1974 when West Germany organized the tournament and in the match between the two Germanies in the group stage the Ossis shocked the world by beating the star team of the Wessies in Hamburg by a single goal scored by Magdeburg’s striker Jurgen Sparwasser.However the Ossis had some success in the Olympic football tournament where they collected two bronze medals (1964 in Tokyo and 1972 in Munich,a gold medal at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal and a silver four years later in Moscow).That were the only successes of the Ossis when it cmae to their national team,but the East German football league-the DDR Oberliga was a much more different story,it was a bizarre world of a football league where the rulling SED Party together with the secret police Stasi had thew final word on everything.Starting in 1948 till the last season in 1991 the DDR Oberliga was just only but a normal football league,starting with the clubs.There were four types of football clubs in the GDR:1.The Dynamos-the clubs with the prefix Dynamo were connected to Stasi like Dynamo Dresden and Dynamo Berlin and they were directly answerable to the head of Stasi which was Erich Mielke,2.The Vorwarts-they were connected to the East German Army or the Volksarmee and they mostly dominated the DDR Oberliga in the 1960s when Vorwarts Berlin won five titles between 1960 and 1969 but because of the rising power of the Stasi they were forced to leave Berlin for Frankfurt an der Oder,3.Traditional clubs-they had no connection to any institution or factory,they were good old fashioned football clubs just like in the West and they were founded to improve the level of play and concentrate the best players in the GDR,those clubs still are in existence and they are 1.FC Magdeburg,Hansa Rostock,Carl Zeiss Jena,Union Berlin,Lokomotive Leipzig and others,4.The Industry teams-they were clubs which represented a specific industrial sector in the GDR-Stahl Brandenburg represented the steel industry,Chemie Leipzig the chemical industry,Traktor Gross-Lindau the tractor industry and so on.One of the characteristics of East German football was relocation of the teams,due to politics of the East German communist regime teams across the GDR relocated to other cities especially in the 1950s and 1960s,in 1954 Dynamo Dresden had to relocate to Berlin,so it became Dynamo Berlin which was heavily favored by Erich Mielke,while Vorwarts Berlin was forced to relocate to Frankfurt am der Oder.Another characteristic was changing the names of football clubs.Three time DDR Oberliga champios SC Wismut Aue was forced to change its name to SC Wismut Karl-Marx-Stadt besides it was never near the place,the same went for other clubs in the DDR.Another things was bribing players with with fruit and vegetables,as well as better cars and apartments for themselves and their families which the rulling regime tried to keep them happy.Besides all those characteristics which was a bizarre and strange world of football,East German clubs regurarly participated in European club competitions and built names for themselves.In 1974 1.FC Magdeburg has won the UEFA Cup Winners Cup against AC Milan 2-0 in the final in Rotterdam,while Carl Zeiss Jena and Lokomotive Leipzig reached the final of the UEFA Cup Winners Cup in 1981 and 1987 where they were beaten by Dynamo Tbilisi and Ajax Amsterdam.However when Dynamo Dresden won its sixth DDR Oberliga title in the 1977-78 season,Erich Mielke which was the head of Stasi and a huge football supporter stormed into the locker room and informed the players and the coaches of Dynamo Dresden that next season Dynamo Berlin would be crowned the new champion of the DDR Oberliga,what the players and the coaches didn’t knew is that Dynamo Berlin wouldn’t only just win the DDR Oberliga title in next 1978-79 season but thanks to Mielke and the Stasi the Winerot would establish a domination in the DDR Oberliga which would last for a whole decade until the 1988-89 season thanks to the engineering from Stasi which placed obedient referees and transfered the best players from other GDR clubs to Dynamo Berlin.The Winerot would become the record champions of the GDR only thanks to Mielke and the Stasi,but when their influence began to wane in the late 1980s then Dynamo Berlin began to fall in the DDR Oberliga.With a wind of change coming through Eastern Europe with Glasnost and Perestoika and the fall of the communist system so did in the GDR,with the fall of the Berlin Wall,the GDR disappeared,so did its national team when on the 12th of September played its final match against Belgium which the Ossis won 2-0 with goals scored by Matthias Sammer which would latter enjoy a great career in the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund,while the last DDR Oberliga season played in the 1990-91 season was mostly for the qualifications in the German football system and it was a hard fought one since the prize for the last champion in the DDR Oberliga was a direct place in the Bundesliga.In the end Hansa Rostock which would in the 1990s and early 2000 become a fixture in the Bundesliga became the last ever DDR Oberliga champion and made it to the promised land of the Bundesliga.Howver East German football only recently began its recovery since the problems of transition have plagued East German clubs in the 1990s and 2000s and for years the Bundesliga lacked clubs from the former GDR,but after all these years the future is looking bright for the clubs from the former  GDR.But the bizarre world of East German football is in the history books and won’t be forgotten.

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