The DDR Oberliga - 20 years on...
The final countdown…

Here is a record of this season’s games (in date order):

6 Home wins, 2 Away wins, 6 Draws, 31 goals, 72,765 supporters and 4702Km!

  • 03.09.10 Eisenhüttenstädter FC Stahl v Frankfurter FC Viktoria 91 Score: 2-1 Crowd: 400 Round-trip: 286Km
  • 18.09.10 FC Hansa Rostock v SV Wacker Burghausen Score: 1-1 Crowd: 12,000 Round-trip: 396Km
  • 02.10.10 FC Stahl Brandenburg v SG Blau-Gelb Laubsdorf Score: 2-2 Crowd: 246 Round-trip: 136Km
  • 16.10.10 FC Rot-Weiß Erfurt v SG Dynamo Dresden Score: 3-0 Crowd: 8,900 Round-trip: 564Km
  • 13.11.10 1.FC Magdeburg v Türkiyemspor Berlin 1978 Score: 1-1 Crowd: 2,915 Round-trip: 270Km
  • 20.11.10 Hallescher FC v RB Leipzig Score: 0-0 Crowd: 2,900 Round-trip: 310Km
  • 22.01.11 FC Energie Cottbus v DSC Arminia Bielefeld Score: 2-1 Crowd: 11,000 Round-trip: 292Km
  • 26.02.11 Frankfurter FC Viktoria 91 v Eisenhüttenstädter FC Stahl Score: 0-0 Crowd: 252 Round-trip: 246Km
  • 19.03.11 SG Dynamo Dresden v Rot-Weiß Ahlen Score: 3-0 Crowd: 13,400 Round-trip: 420Km
  • 26.03.11 FC Sachsen Leipzig v VfB Germania Halberstadt Score: 0-2 Crowd: 915 Round-trip: 332Km
  • 09.04.11 Berliner FC Dynamo v RSV Optik Rathenow Score: 1-0 Crowd: 366 Round-trip: 68Km
  • 16.04.11 FC Carl Zeiss Jena v SpVgg Unterhaching Score: 1-2 Crowd: 4,900 Round-trip: 480Km
  • 21.05.11 Chemnitzer FC v RB Leipzig Score: 1-0 Crowd: 12,837 Round-trip: 552Km
  • 29.05.11 1.FC Lokomotiv Leipzig v VfL Halle 96 Score: 2-2 Crowd: 2,534 Round-trip: 350Km
Tradition ist das was man nicht kaufen kann. The ‘gang’ outside the Bruno-Plache-Stadion and home to Lok Leipzig. I bet Bruno must be very proud…

Tradition ist das was man nicht kaufen kann. The ‘gang’ outside the Bruno-Plache-Stadion and home to Lok Leipzig. I bet Bruno must be very proud…

Lok Leipzig - A phoenix from the ashes. A place where, “Tradition can’t be bought!”

1. FC Lokomotive Leipzig v VfL Halle 96

30. Spieltag, NOFV-Oberliga Süd 29 May 2011

Thirteen clubs had been seen in their natural habitat which left us with just one more to go to complete our journey through the last ever DDR Oberliga season and there was some kind of symmetry as we were off to Leipzig to see Lokomotive play. The same Lokomotiv, we are sure you will recall, that we visited on that flood affected day back in August. After the raging success of our trip to Frankfurt a couple of months back we had WAGs (WAGs = wives, girlfriends/boyfriends, general free-loaders) clamouring for more. So, we were expecting company.

A less frantic than usual bicycle ride through the forest had Stinzi, Jonners and the Badger at Wannsee station in plenty of time but, unfortunately, our WAGS were not so punctual. Peter, he of the lost luggage fame, arrived and Laurel made it in plenty of time so we had the prerequisite ‘fab five’. But Brer Jeff and Yvonne were also expected to join us plus Jay and Squirrel Chris+1 had stated their intentions to join us. Time was ticking so Badger rang Squirrel only to get his girlfriend who informed us that the nocturnal one was still in bed so he and his mate were out. Jay wasn’t answering his phone but we assumed he was coming so Darren turned to his phone to calculator to see what tickets we needed. The cheapest ticket option; yes, ladies and gentlemen…that overrode comfort and speed again, needed five people to a ticket so we bought two of those and went to the platform to meet Brer Jeff, Yvonne and Jay. As one train arrived with no Jay we eagerly anticipated the arrival of Brer Jeff…not just because we love his company but we would have wasted our money without him. Brer Jeff duly arrived about two minutes before we were due to depart but minus Yvonne. Fortunately, Brer Jeff had gotten an earlier train just to be sure to get here, mistakenly thinking we were meeting at 9:15 not departing then.

So all was well as we started our final journey. Indecision, caused by Stinzi procrastinating, cost us a comfortable seat next to the toilet but being the martyr-type he then sat on the stairs while Badger stood and the others enjoyed the not-as-soft-as-the-intercity-train seats. The Badger did what he does best and pulled out the snacks but poor packing had meant that the chocolate and marshmallow ‘Top Hats’ (that look more like nipples) were packed too closely to the hot sausage rolls and resulted in a marshmallow, maltesers and chocolate gunge. Poor, poor show and a culinary disaster. After a fraction of a seconds deliberation Badger declared them good, started tucking in and was reminded to pass them around. Stinzi cursed his forgetful nature and hoped that Jonners might have remembered to bring some sliced cheese for Badger. Earlier in the year, you see, Badger had eagerly exclaimed that he had come up with a fabulous culinary discovery. Putting a slice of cheese on a boulette, he explained, was something special and we should market it. “Funny that,” commented Jonners at the time. “McDonalds call it a cheeseburger!” We have not let him forget it and had planned to make his dreams come true today.

Beer often follows, or accompanies, breakfast on these trips and Darren wondered aloud if it was indeed that time already. Brer Jeff put a bid in for stupid question of the day by asking Stinzi if he was drinking today and got the reply he had been thirsting for. As Jonners and Brer Jeff both won Badger’s Spoilsport Award by bringing bottle openers and robbing him of the search for a flat surface in the toilets Stinzi wondered whether 9:34am was the earliest we had started drinking on any of these trips. Brer Jeff reckoned he had started drinking a lot earlier than this, especially when he had a fridge in the bedroom in the days before Yvonne’s redecorating. We toasted Yvonne in her absence and inquired as to her whereabouts. “She’s still in bed,” explained Brer Jeff. “Hopefully not with Squirrel and Jay though.” As 10:000am ticked over, Peter declared that it was late enough for him to prove he doesn’t have a drinking problem and he reached for a beer. We started to think about our end of season dinner but nothing could be agreed upon past the fact that it must be done and done before the summer holidays begin in a few weeks time.

Whilst Peter was keen to prove he is free of a drinking problem, Badger unfortunately fell victim to the shaky train while answering the call of nature and returned with an embarrassing wet spot he claimed came from the tap. This only encouraged further scorn and Brer Jeff proposed the theory that the chances of post-urinal dribble are directly related to the colour of your trousers. He then went to answer the call himself and was labelled a ‘show-off’ by Jonners when he returned with splash marks on his shoulder. Brer Jeff claimed that the toilet wasn’t too bad, a claim that was ridiculed by Badger and we wondered what kind of state a public loo has to be in for it to smell better after Badger uses it.

Talk soon turned to football and the woes of Babelsberg03, who seem to following Sachsen Leipzig into finance-induced ruin. However, since our trip Babelsberg have met the financial requirements necessary to retain their licence and place in the 3.Liga. Hurrah!

On a brighter note, Badger and Jonners had enjoyed a good day out at Stahl Brandenburg and while the standard of football wasn’t brilliant at the end of the game it was announced that everyone was entitled to free beer. As one official wryly noted, “That’s why there are so many people here, today!”

The Champions League Final, of course, was debated. We were in general agreement that it was one hell of a Barcelona side that won it. The way they control possession and territory is astounding and how hard they work is beyond belief. Sure, Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Villa and Co. have an awful lot of skill but the fact that they just never stop must be suffocating to play against. There is no such thing as an easy pass against them and as for attempting to stop them pass the ball, just ask Manchester United how much fun that is. Jonners’ interesting stat for the day (via a kindly gentleman on twitter) was that if Ryan Giggs’ wife divorces him and gets half his league medals, she will have still have a bunch more than Steven Gerrard. We wondered if you took away the Manchester United team, and possibly Chelsea, if she would have more than most of the premiership players put together?!

Unfortunately, during the week Turbine Potsdam lost their Champions League Final, unable to obtain back-to-back wins. An unnamed member of the group (not, we might add, Andy Gray) took us back in time by declaring that the biggest revelation for him this season has been watching Turbine and discovering that, “Women can play football”. As we passed a train station advertising the approaching ‘Männertag’, or ‘Herrentag’ as it is known in our neck of the woods, we started discussing our options for one of our favourite days of the year. In a slight stretch on the traditional Father’s Day, instead of spending time with their loved ones at home, men gather in groups to spend the day at one with nature and at one with a large amount of beer. Wandering around in the woods with a wagon full of beer or cycling from place to place to enjoy that same refreshment is the most common form of celebration and we are planning a cycle around the Wannsee area. Stinzi’s wife has wisely opted to take their daughter and spend not just the day but the weekend at her mother’s leaving him to wallow alone in his own filth.

As we approached Roßlau station,Badger got a bit of a rough time when the Astra beer he bought for Laurel was judged to be less that brilliant but only voted the second worst gift of all time. Unanimous winner was any variation on the ‘My sister/brother/dad went to London/New York/Berlin and all I got was this stupid T-shirt’ T-shirt. It led to Jonners sharing the best T-shirt he has ever seen, a very buxom young lady wearing one that had ‘I wish these were brains’ emblazoned on the front. Another unanimous verdict of crapness was bestowed on the ‘Baby on Board’ signs in cars - OK, I will go and deliberately crash into someone else, then.

While we waited on the platform for our connecting train, a fox provided us with fleeting company as Badger started to do the toilet dance. This is always amusing for an onlooker and somehow led us into a discussion on the painfulness of getting a knock in the knackers. Brer Jeff and Stinzi agreed that a glancing blow is, actually, worse than a full on kick in that region but when a test was offered in the form of Laurel’s right foot followed by, after a period of recovery, a glancing flick with a right index finger they assured everyone that their word should simply be trusted instead.

Once the train arrived and Badger dashed for relief and we settled into a rather uneventful second leg of the journey. Stinzi reckoned that the recent rally in Melbourne which was to publicise the message that a woman is entitled to dress any way that she wants and not be subjected to sexual assault because she is wearing revealing clothing was strangely named. We all agreed that the message is a very good one but calling the rally a ‘Slutwalk’ seemed a bit odd to Stinzi and it was difficult to argue. We guess there is a good reason for calling it that and have since discovered that these marches have taken place in a number of cities across the world and we hope the message is heard.

After grabbing a beer at Leipzig station and finding a cash machine to fund the rest of the day, we headed out to find the tram to the ground. There were quite a lot of Lokomotive fans around, far more then on that first doomed trip, so we assumed no natural disasters had called too many police away and everyone was in good spirits. Badger complained again about being misrepresented in the blog and Jonners rebuffed him by exclaiming that while we do have the odd reader, “There is unlikely to be an uprising in Aberdeen over it.”

Brer Jeff’s hat was well received and after explaining that he got it at a tourist shop in Berlin, Laurel helpfully pointed out that it had Berlin written all over it and, in all seriousness, “Did you realize that?” This was taken as further evidence that she and Badger are indeed a very good match. After Badger declared that he wanted an Aussie bush hat, Stinzi bemoaned the fact that he had given his one away when leaving Tanzania a few years ago and had not replaced it. Upon questioning he revealed that he had given it to a mate because his mate complimented him on it and he was feeling generous. “Thank God he didn’t compliment your wife,” was Jonners’ sardonic response.

Against all the odds and all precedents from the season so far, we refrained from going from tram to pub and we followed the crowd through a park towards the stadium. Once tickets were procured and entrance gained we headed for the three usual targets and, very conveniently, the fan artikels, beer and food were all just a matter of metres apart. Badger wanted a scarf and like a true Scotsman got someone else to buy it for him. The wimples and pins were not the greatest on offer but we headed to the terraces in high spirits.

Lokomotive Leipzig, a club with tradition (courtesy of wikipedia): The club was formed on 26 May 1896 out of the football department of gymnastics club Allgemeine Turnverein 1845 Leipzig. However, they lay claim to an earlier date of origin by reaching back to a club that was incorporated into VfB in 1898 – Sport Club Sportbrüder Leipzig – which was one of four football clubs formed in Leipzig in 1893. The union lasted until 2 May 1900 when the two sides went their separate ways again. VfB Leipzig was one of the original eighty-six teams that came together in the city in 1900 to form the German Football Association. They were immediately successful at their chosen sport and made their way to the first German national championship final held in 1903.

In the aftermath of the war the club was dissolved by the occupying Allied authorities, like most other organizations in Germany, including sports and football clubs. Club members reconstituted the team in 1946 as SG Probstheida under the auspices of the occupying Soviets. After playing as BSG Erich Zeigner Probstheida and then BSG Einheit Ost, the club merged with SC Rotation Leipzig in 1954 and played in the DDR-Oberliga, East Germany's top flight league, but earned only mediocre results. In 1963 Leipzig's two most important clubs – SC Rotation and SC Lokomotive Leipzig – were put together resulting in two new sides being founded – SC Leipzig and BSG Chemie Leipzig (our very own Sachsen Leipzig – see earlier blog entry). Playing as Lokomotive, the club’s fortunes improved somewhat as they almost always finished well up the league table, but they were unable to capture the top honour in the DDR with losing final appearances in 1967, 1986, and 1988.

Lok earned a clutch of East German Cups with victories in 1976, 1981, 1986 and 1987 against failed appearances in the Cup final in 1970, 1973 and 1977. They also won the UEFA Intertoto Cup in 1966 and made an appearance in the 1987 final of the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup falling 0:1 to Johan Cruijff's Ajax Amsterdam after a Marco Van Basten goal.

Re-unification in 1990 was followed by the merger of the football leagues of the two Germanys. A poor season led to a seventh place finish in the transitional league, but an unexpectedly strong play-off propelled the club into the 2. Bundesliga.

1. FC Lokomotive made a grasp at their former glory by re-claiming the name VfB Leipzig. A third place finish in 1993 advanced the team to the top flight Bundesliga where they finished dead-last in the 1994 season. The new VfB began a steady slide down through the 2. Bundesliga into the Regionalliga Nordost (III) by 1998 and then further still to the Oberliga Nordost/Süd (IV) by 2001. They were bankrupted in 2004, their results were annulled and the club was dissolved.

In 2004, the club was re-established by a group of fans as 1. FC Lokomotive Leipzig. The renewed side had to start in the lowest league eleventh-tier 3. Kreisklasse, Staffel 2 in 2004–05. Even so, they continued to receive solidly enthusiastic fan support: their game against Eintracht Großdeuben’s second team in the Leipzig Zentralstadion on 9 October 2004 broke the world record for lower-league attendance with an astounding 12,421 spectators in the stands. Thanks to a merger with SSV Torgau, the club could play in the seventh-tier Bezirksklasse Leipzig, Staffel 2 in 2005–06. Finishing this league as champion, the team qualified for the sixth-tier Bezirksliga. In 2006 Lok Leipzig qualified for the Landespokal 2006–07 by winning the Bezirkspokal. Lokomotive Leipzig finished as champions of their group and promoted to fifth-tier Landesliga Sachsen Group for 2007–08 season. The club finished 2nd and missed out on direct promotion to NOFV-Oberliga Süd by 2 points in 2007–08 season. It still had the chance to regain Oberliga status through a relegation play-off with FC Schönberg 95, winning game one 2–1 at Schönberg. In the return leg, in front of almost 10,000 spectators, the club lost 0–1 but still gained Oberliga promotion on the away-goal rule. Lokomotive Leipzig finished Oberliga as 3rd in 2008–09, as 12th in the 2009–10 and as 8th in the 2010-11 seasons

The stadium, like so many others we have seen this year has certainly seen better days but is not in bad condition at all. The bright yellow and blue paintwork on the grandstand gives it the look of an IKEA store but with the exception of one section the terraces look well maintained if not all open. The pitch looked reasonable and the customary gravel running track was there, of course. As Jonners said, “It will be nice when it’s finished”. Brer Jeff’s response of, “It was nice when it was finished,” was probably more accurate.

Most of the crowd were to be found along either touchline and as the Halle side was announced fans competed between shouts of “fussballgott” or “arschloch” depending on which team you were supporting. The home fans then began shouting, “absteiger!” at the Halle fans and after a quick check on Badger’s sexy iPhone we realized that the visitors could actually get relegated if they lost today. So this wasn’t the meaningless game we thought and we were excited by the prospect of another pitch invasion at the end of the game if Halle confirmed their safety. The pre-match music featured such football ground favourites as Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best”, some Queen and even a rendition of “Highway to Hell”. It inspired Badger to comment that it reminded him a bit of Ibrox, “…Just without the sectarianism”. We were surprised that he would have experienced that as we didn’t realize that Aberdeen inspired that kind of treatment from the Rangers faithful.

The stadium was filling up a bit and the home fans were finding their voice, chanting to each other across the pitch. We were listening out for some original chants but were a bit disappointed so Brer Jeff tried to get us to join him in his favourite chant from Wigan which goes, “Meat pie, sausage roll, come on Wigan, give us a goal!” We did chuckle but thought we didn’t need to make a spectacle of ourselves but Stinzi was happy to give the old Tottenham, “Nice one, Cyril” chant an outing if someone scored. Thankfully, after twenty minutes we hadn’t seen an opener and Stinzi forgot all about it. One figures he would have been on his own, anyway.

On twenty-five minutes Halle grabbed the opener and the scorer raced over to the away fans, climbed up onto the fence and really gave it some. Yes indeed, this game certainly meant something alright. The home fans were getting restless and a little unhappy with some of the refereeing and when a Halle player went down a touch easily and was given a serve by the crowd Laurel was moved to comment, “Get up, even my six year old could handle that!”

Ten minutes after conceding, Lokomotive got themselves an equalizer and what a goal it was. The scorer took the ball down about 25 yards out and lashed it first time into the top corner. An absolute screamer! It would take some beating for the Goal of the Year crown. Badger had just left to visit Mother Nature and Jonners had just remarked that seven more goals would give him 200 for the season and so the timing added that extra little something.

On half-time, a terrible back header from a Lokomotive defender dropped off the crossbar into the shocked goalkeeper’s arms which saved the home side the honour of best and worst goals of the season in a single half. Half-time brought refreshment and sunscreen was called for. When Stinzi tried to inspire the rest of the gang with that old Aussie advertising classic jingle, “Slip. Slop. Slap” he was rebuffed by Badger with the comment that, I’m Scottish – I just get burnt.” He then explained that somewhere in his family there is the suspicion that one of his ancestors had got intimate with a Spaniard off the Armada and so he was therefore safe from skin cancer. Laurel quickly added that there is a story in her family that a Spaniard was involved in some of the child production and we only then noticed a slight resemblance. Brer Jeff then started a lively incest-related discussion on the insufficient closure to the Luke Skywalker/Princess Leia kiss at the end of Star Wars.

As half-time scores from around the league were announced, Laurel displayed her understanding of everything football by asking if these were the “raffle numbers” but we can certainly forgive the mistake as some of the team names were less than immediately recognizable and loudspeaker announcements in a foreign language are never easy to understand. Brer Jeff saved her from a ribbing by announcing, in a return to discussing the state of lavatories, that the toilets here reminded him of Bolton. When Badger asked him if that was before the Reebok Stadium was built, he replied, “No, just Bolton.”

The second half commenced again and on the hour mark Lokomotive were ahead. A cracking free kick hit the crossbar and was bundled in to send the home crowd into delirium and the Halle fans into despair. Once the celebrations had subsided, Badger inexplicably spat a mouthful of beer over the guys in front of us. They turned with dirty looks on their faces but were placated when we explained that Badger was Scottish and he would never deliberately throw anything away, let alone beer, and they were satisfied that it was just an unfortunate accident and/or lack of general coordination.

As Halle searched for an equalizer to potentially save their season, the time ticked away and an incredible miss from the home side kept them in the hunt. Out of nothing, in the last seconds, a Halle attacker flicked a ball with the outside of his foot from just outside the box and in it went. Unbelievable! The Halle bench emptied and it was unrestrained joy in the form of a massive pile-up. This might well have saved them from the drop. There was barely a murmur from around us and the final whistle blew very shortly after.

We had to dash to get to the train station but as we left we saw the Halle players sitting on the ground, either waiting for the results from other games to come in or having heard that their last minute goal had not saved them. Although, Halle did finish in the relegation zone they were saved due to the untimely demise of Sachsen Leipzig who went bust and fell to last place in the Oberliga Süd pushing everyone else one place up the league. The loss of Sachsen Leipzig has caused us great stress but their story will have to be told another day.

We made the tram and got to the train station in enough time for Brer Jeff to accidentally smash a beer bottle in the bottle shop and we had to run for the train. Family duties awaiting many of us meant that it was a pretty sedate journey home. Perhaps we were all reflecting on this wonderful season that was. We’ll save those recollections for another blog post…post our end of season dinner.

Let the party begin. Fans of ‘Himmelblau’ Chemnitz FC celebrate promotion to the Bundesliga 3.Liga.

Let the party begin. Fans of ‘Himmelblau’ Chemnitz FC celebrate promotion to the Bundesliga 3.Liga.

Vierte Liga, Nie Mehr. Nie Mehr, Nie Mehr!

Chemnitzer FC v RasenBallsport Leipzig

33. Spieltag, Regionalliga Nord 21 May 2011

It had seemed like a lifetime ago that we were living it up in Jena Paradies but as we made our way to Wannsee station to pick up the first link in the chain that would take us to Chemnitz we realised it was only a matter of three weeks. We were excited as to what lay ahead today as we hoped to be part of a Chemnitzer FC promotion party, with our team for today gaining a spot on the 3. Bundesliga with a win but even a draw would see them go up if their nearest rival in the league was to lose. The fact that they were playing Red Bull Leipzig added a little more spice to it, we hoped, considering the ill-feeling towards the energy drink backed team and the pleasure beating them would give the home side. Over 9000 tickets had been pre-sold so we were preparing for a grand day out.

So as we settled into our seats on the S-Bahn into Berlin Hauptbahnhof, we started to mull over various footballing bits and pieces that had arisen over the last week or so. Badger was a little down in the mouth after West Ham were relegated last weekend. He did derive some mirth from the stunt pulled by a group of Millwall fans after Wigan had scored to seal the Hammers fate. A light plane flew over the Wigan stadium trailing a banner which read, “Avram Grant – Millwall Legend”. We reflected on West Ham’s recent glory days which was obviously a short conversation but it did bring up that FA Cup final goal by Steve Gerrard against them…one of the great goals. The tightness at the bottom of the Premiership in England meant that two of five teams would go down this weekend but we preferred to pour our own scorn on the English top-flight by congratulating the three richest clubs for finishing in the top three spots and the fact that we cannot see anyone winning the league in England outside of these three plus Arsenal for the foreseeable future. Who said money doesn’t matter? This led us to laud the Bundesliga again…a tired point we guess but who would have predicted that Dortmund would be champions? That Hannover and Mainz would finish fourth and fifth after battling relegation a year ago? That Wolfsburg, champions two years ago, would only survive on the last day? Now the Bundesliga….THAT is a league! We did also dip our hats to the Dutch…they also know how to have a tight finish (insert own Amsterdam related joke, here). The English FA did earn some praise for their decision not to vote in the FIFA presidential election because they don’t think either option is a good one. Principles have not been lost even if unpredictability at the top of the league table has.

As we boarded the Intercity train (very fast ICE version), cue intake of breath at the shock of us splashing out, Badger informed us of his plan to clear a seat for Stinzi. Due to booking late, Stinzi’s reserved seat was some way from Jonners and Darren but it wouldn’t be for long. As we settled into our seats, Badger did what he does best…produced the snacks. His pride in the role of snack provider has seen him scale greater heights with each trip and his marshmallow ‘Top Hats’ looking more like nipples, of which we all had a third, were joined by a batch of cookies and an aluminium foil packed pile of sausage rolls. Yes, Snack of the Year was back and was greedily scoffed. A couple of bags of crisps and beer rounded off his goodies. Unfortunately, he had neglected to bring a bottle opener and the posh furnishings of the intercity train were too good to open our beer bottles on with Jonners accusing him of being ‘as common as muck’. As thirst began to drive he and Stinzi mad, Badger went to the toilet to look for a fitting that would do the job. Thankfully, he returned a short while later with the job done and informed us proudly that he had given his better half a couple of bottles of beer as a welcome back present after she had been away. Who said romance is dead?

As we browsed through the Deutsche Bahn onboard magazine, we came across an article on the upcoming Women’s World Cup which featured pictures of the stadiums being used for the tournament. Apart from Wolfsburg’s stadium bearing a striking resemblance to a petrol station there was nothing too earth shattering in it but it did prompt Jonners to share a short story of indignation. When reading the online version of the Ex-Berliner magazine he came across a story about Dresden which made reference to our now promotion-seeking friends at Dynamo. It had a picture of their stadium and gushed about it, strangely finding the floodlights particularly praiseworthy. The trouble was that it was actually a picture of the Jena stadium that we went to recently and so Jonners wrote in to correct them. It also prompted Stinzi and Badger to ask Jonners to pass his final judgement on whether Jena was, in fact, paradise. He reflected for a moment and then explained that while it is a nice place, paradise might just be stretching it. A bit like, he went on, the way good players such as Gareth Bale get elevated to ‘legend’ status in some quarters after a couple of big games.

Indignation was quickly becoming the norm as Jonners revealed that he has started his own Twitter campaign against Red Bull Leipzig. This stems from a genuinely sad tale that surfaced during the week. Sachsen Leipzig have gone bust and that beautiful stadium that we visited a short while ago will no longer house the boys from the green side of Leipzig and this has us genuinely upset. The story that Red Bull Leipzig are going to buy their license so their second team can jump a couple of divisions was the salt in the wound and the straw that broke Jonners’ back and got him tweeting.

A baby sitting across the aisle brought us out of our misery and when she made a grab for Stinzi’s beer we were somewhat cheered up. The fact that we have all the divisions covered next season in our immediate area was also good news. Hertha in the top flight, Union Berlin one league below and Babelsberg in the 3rd see the top tiers sorted and there are a myriad of options in the levels below. We do hold our breaths somewhat as we fear there might be more ‘going bust’ stories yet to surface. Our good mood continued with Badger informing us that Celtic are courting David Goodwillie. When he mentioned this to Jeff during the week, Jeff recommended that Badger check Goodwillie’s Wikipedia entry. The section on the footballers’ criminal record was submitted by Jeff and we found it highly amusing that a man with a name like Goodwillie is in trouble for actions of a sexual nature.

When we changed trains at Leipzig, a station we are becoming very familiar with and equally fond of due to its wonderfully stylish brickwork, we boarded a regional train for Chemnitz. As we settled into our seats a group of five young blokes sat down near us, hands full of beer and seemingly already having whet their whistle. Stinzi and Badger had reached the point where a new beer and a lack of bottle opener was going to cause frustration so they asked the likely looking lads for some help. This was happily given, thankfully not by the one who happily used his teeth on number of occasions to open his own beer, and led to an interesting and rather amusing journey.

These boys were football fans from Erfurt who spend their weekends travelling to places like Leipzig, Chemnitz and Jena to watch football. One of them was particularly talkative and keen to use as much English as he could and he was certainly not lost for words. Their passions, he eagerly explained, were simple. “Beer, football and hot bitches!” He and his mates were highly amused by this statement of fact and we wondered how long he had been waiting to use this expression on an English speaking audience. Our laughter was reward enough, we assumed, as he repeated this simple ideology a few more times with equal enthusiasm. They earned Badger’s ire by proclaiming Scottish football ‘rubbish’ but earned some of our sympathy when they bemoaned the lack of respect given to German league football, something we are certainly not guilty of.

Accompanied by the occasional but extraordinarily loud belch, the train wobbled its way to Chemnitz. The leans and turns made us feel like we were on an aircraft instead of on terra firma and we needed to be alert to stop our beers sliding off the table and had us looking for sick bags. A Red Bull fan joined the train and was saved from verbal abuse by our new mates because he had his kids with him. We wondered what it must be like to be a Red Bull fan, being hated seemingly everywhere you went. Some less than pleasant odours began to waft our way as we approached our destination and some hard looks were given in the Badger direction. Considering the enthusiastic belching from the friendly five nearby we were perhaps being a little unfair but thankfully we arrived in Chemnitz quickly enough so that singed nostril hair and eyebrows was the only damage done.

So we arrived in the former Karl Marx Stadt train station which certainly lacks the charm of its Leipzig counterpart and perhaps this is why it is being renovated. We followed a crowd out a side entrance to find our friends from the train in a discussion with some Red Bull fans that had a bit of an edge to it. Why you would want to needle a bunch of guys who look considerably larger than you and some of whom are wielding large sticks was beyond us and we hung back to let any possible drama happen at a safe distance? As we got nearer to the stadium the streets were filling and the bar on the corner to the stadium was packed which made us very glad that Jonners had thought to pre-book our tickets.

Inside the stadium we were given a free ‘himmelblau’ or white, hankie-sized material presumably meant for waving in a choreographed show of fan loyalty on the terraces and we split up and joined three different queues. Stinzi went for the catering stand and some beers, Jonners for the fanshop and some pins and wimples and Badger the toilet and some relief. There were loads of people in each line and we were really excited about the atmosphere that was building. Badger and Stinzi reached their goals in time to join Jonners for a perusal of the fan artikels on offer. Jonners warned Stinzi not to get him started on the ‘freundschaft’ scarf topic when he spotted on celebrating the Chemnitz v Stuttgart Cup game earlier in the season. Badger offered to buy Jonners a scarf as a late birthday present but was politely refused and so he bought the fetching light blue and white number for himself.

FC Chemnitz has gone through so many name changes, you need a roster to keep track. In 1945, it was founded as SG Chemnitz Nord, changing it’s name three years later to BSG Fewa Chemnitz. In 1951, they became BSG Chemie, and in 1953, the city was renamed to Karl-Marx-Stadt. After a few more minor changes, they ended up in 1963 as SC Karl-Marx-Stadt, in 1965 as FC Karl-Marx-Stadt and they became GDR champions the next season. Until reunification in 1990, the club competed as FC Karl-Marx-Stadt, until the city’s name was restored to Chemnitz. When CFC was reintegrated into German soccer, they were seeded in the 2nd division, and remained there in the middle for several seasons before finally dropping down (courtesy of the Abseits Guide to German Football)

We purchased our fan artikels and headed to the home kurve terraces to find a spot to stand. It was packed but we managed to settle in a good spot half a dozen steps behind the standard high wire fence. In front of us were a group wearing anti-Red Bull T-shirts but there was blue and white everywhere and reasonably decent pre-game music, until the airing of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” which we took exception to, had us in an even more buoyant mood. A banner in front of the modest grandstand read, “3. Liga, we can see you” and the Red Bull side was announced. We didn’t catch any of the names simply because it was drowned out by the familiar singing of “Red Bull Schweine”. After every name from the home side was announced the crowd shouted, “aufsteiger!” (translated as “promoted”) the feeling of expectancy was further rammed home.

The game began and one difference from the game at Halle when we saw Red Bull was quickly apparent. Although there was a good smattering of anti-Red Bull chanting this was a crowd that was well and truly behind their team. Chants that included the FC Karl Marx name was something that surprised but satisfied us and this was really the type of game, as Jonners eloquently put it, “that people would climb trees to see”. Although a fair bit of pollen drifted down off them, not one fan was seen climbing the tress that surrounded parts of the stadium. We think that was the only disappointing thing about the crowd and stadium on this day.

The first fifteen minutes saw the fair share of possession for the home side but no real goal threats and it was Red Bull that forced the first save, a punched clearance from a free kick. The away fans, about 100 of them we guessed, seemed to be in a fine mood and were certainly animated from where we stood even though their chanting was inaudible above the home singing. The Red Bull subs came to warm up in front of us and the fence was mounted and they were made less than welcome. If it isn’t much fun being a travelling fan, what must it be like being one of the Red Bull subs having to go through this every second weekend? Can’t do much for your self-image, we figure, and you would want to have a thicker skin than most players.

A Chemnitz free kick went close on about half an hour while Badger was getting some beers and Jonners was given some grief due to the Red Bull fans wielding an English flag. He defended himself by correctly pointing out that it wasn’t actually the flag of St. George but when he tried to land the scorn and abuse at Malta’s door he lost all ground gained. It certainly wasn’t their flag either and if you don’t know whose it is, why pick on someone harmless like Malta? Very poor.

Halftime arrived and Stinzi went for relief. Joining like-bladdered fans, he ducked out of the stadium to use the nearby bushes and had a panicky moment when he couldn’t find his ticket to get back in. Ticket recovered and freshly patted down by security, he lined up for some beer. The sound of the second half getting underway unnerved him and when the crowd erupted a couple of minutes later he knew he had missed the opening goal. The singing of, “Vierte Liga, nie mehr. Nie Mehr, nie mehr” confirmed that Chemnitz now led 1-0. We will have to go through our records to see where that places him on the goals missed table but he was confident that he is not going to have to buy a round of beers next week for taking that title.

Red Bull had the better of the next twenty minutes but Chemnitz were looking potentially dangerous on the break and when the Dortmund-bound winger/playmaker Löwe went down with an “outrageous” dive we hoped that the Bundesliga champs would teach him the value of staying on your feet when you have the chance to run through on goal. Chemnitz were under pressure but were coping with it pretty well and chances were few for the visitors. With ten minutes to go a large banner was hung along the fence in front of us presumably announcing promotion but was quickly pulled down as all it did was block the view of the first ten rows and the resulting mounting of the fence by these fans meant the rest of the terrace could also no longer see.

As the final whistle loomed, the fans got ready to clear the fences and so seeing the ref blow was impossible but we all heard it and the crowd exploded with delight and the fences became more of a hurdle than a barrier. We saw the home keeper go down under friendly fan embraces and as a steward calmly opened the gates we took the chance to join the fans on the pitch to celebrate this marvelous occasion. Stinzi asked a young lady to take a photo of the three of us and got a look which suggested that he had instead asked to fondle her breasts. Thankfully, her friend obliged instead (for taking the photo!) and we then savoured the atmosphere on the pitch as the crowd sang and danced and we caught glimpses of players doing likewise in among the front rows of the grandstand. We had enjoyed the Hertha Berlin promotion party a week earlier but this beat it hands down even though there were 60,000 less people. On days like this, nothing beats football.

After leaving the stadium we killed time waiting for the train by visiting the enormous statue of Karl Marx’s head that still stands on one of the main thoroughfares in the city. It is a cracker and we wondered whether he would be adorned with blue and white before the evening was over. We hope so.

An ‘action shot’ from the game between Carl Zeiss Jena and the bobsleigh team from Unterhaching (see below)

An ‘action shot’ from the game between Carl Zeiss Jena and the bobsleigh team from Unterhaching (see below)

A(nother) Day in Paradies - An account of our trip to Carl Zeiss Jena

Carl Zeiss Jena v SpVgg Unterhaching

35. Spieltag, 3. Bundesliga 16 April 2011

We know that we say this for every game but this was one that we had been looking forward to for a long time and for a couple of reasons. On our ill-fated trip to Leipzig for the flood affected Lokomotiv v Sachsen derby we had discovered that Jena was in fact referred to as ‘Jena Paradies’ and the curiosity as to why this is had been threatening to kill these particular cats. Were we to be greeted by bikini-clad young ladies with complimentary pina coladas? Were we going to be garlanded with leis? Jonners had reserved the right to judge on whether this was indeed paradise or not and we looked forward to helping him make a decision. The Unterhaching badge also intrigued us as it seemed to be half emblem and half bobsled. We know that many football clubs in Germany are part of a wider sports club but had not seen this before. The amount of time we spent hypothesizing over the implications of playing a team of four men in Lycra and crash helmets was certainly disproportionate to how humorous our observations actually were.

So Jonners and Stinzi cycled that familiar path through the woods to Wannsee station to meet up with Badger. We had decided to go with the regional train again and as we purchased our return ticket for the grand total of 30€ between us, Jonners pondered aloud whether it was because we were tight when it comes to our pennies that we chose to take a four-train, four hour journey each way instead of the faster and more comfortable intercity version. When he stated in an anguished tone that we could have saved 2€ by booking online, we had our answer.

Darren had taken the bus to the station instead of cycling because his bag of snacks was too heavy and as Jonners and Stinzi hopped into him about that, he excitedly exclaimed that these were indeed, the best snacks of all time. He also informed us that he had brought beer with him and unlike on a previous trip, this was “not cheap beer this time”. When Stinzi reminded him that on that occasion he had brought some good beer with him but kept that for himself while off-loading the cheap stuff to others he had to furiously back-peddled.

The first train was jam-packed but thankfully most people got off a couple of stops along so we happily settled into our seats and began the routine into which these trips have developed. Darren dipped into his bag and produced the opening snack. Unwrapping some aluminium foil, he revealed a pile of….*drum roll*….sausage rolls…that were still warm! As we hopped into them, it was breakfast time after all!, they were unanimously acclaimed ‘Snack of the Year’. Jonners offered to take out all the bad things we had written about Badger in the blog but then Stinzi pointed out that there wouldn’t be much left if we did.

D’s phone beeped at 9am to signal “beer o’clock” and he produced one for he and Stinzi. Unfortunately, he had not brought a bottle opener and after eventually deciding not to ask a fellow passenger if he had one, they tried to find a flat surface in which to open them on. Germans are incredibly good at opening bottles of beer using anything from a lighter to a stone to another beer bottle but we just haven’t quite mastered this yet. Finally Badger used the edge of the table to his advantage and managed to open them without smashing half of the neck off like the last time he tried it. He had seriously considered still drinking it on that occasion but thought better of it and while we thought this was the sensible option, we did pour a little scorn on Jay for refusing to drink from a very slightly chipped bottle. When Stinzi commented that getting glass in your backside isn’t something that should be recommended, Badger declared that he usually used a bottle opener to open his beer.

After a change of train at Magdeburg we settled into a rather empty but very comfortable second leg of the journey. Although the fluorescent lighting reminded Jonners of a cheap Chinese restaurant, the world was well and we continued to enjoy the snacks and beer readily produced by the Badger. He really was outdoing himself today. The ticket inspector came around and her look at D and his beer bottle followed by a glance at her watch suggested that this might be a bit early for this kind of refreshment. We took out the last blog entry that had still remained unpublished and did a spot of editing and discussion turned back to football.

As the train slowly approached Halle, Badger’s love affair with the town was rekindled and although Stinzi tried to put forward the idea that it is not a bad place and he had heard good things about it there was nothing doing. We went through a tunnel and Jonners exclaimed that this was the only way to see Halle and Badger concluded this train of thought by remarking that the best part about Halle was leaving it.

The third train on this epic journey saw us back on the regional train as we would expect it…not necessarily uncomfortable but lacking some of the trimmings of its Intercity posh cousin. After the delightful sights and smells of a sewerage plant, a couple of desperately empty looking stations and what we thought might well be the first train spotters we have seen in Germany…there seems to be more of an obsession with car/truck spotting from bridges spanning autobahns…we settled into an incredibly nice journey and the slower speed of the regional train was a blessing. The train followed the River Saale through Thuringia and meandered past some lovely villages, a couple of castles and an advertisement in large white letters on the side of a hill which prompted Badger to wonder whether we had found East Germany’s version of Hollywood. Some Jena fans joined the train and the day was getting even better than it already had been.

After our final train change we were approached by a young man wearing a Jena hoodie. His way of introducing himself to us was to advise us to use the handicap toilet instead of the regular one after hearing Badger point the way to the bog to Stinzi. While this might have been a slightly unusual way to introduce oneself, we are mighty glad that he did. David turned out to be an absolutely top bloke. He spoke little English but our collective German skills were good enough to explain what the hell we were doing travelling from Berlin to Jena and when Jonners broke out the “Welcome to Paradise” accessories…a couple of fluorescent plastic leis and a hat that looked suspiciously like the one Gilligan wore on his island…he probably regretted approaching us!

When we arrived at Jena Paradies, David offered to show us the way to the ground and he provided the answer to the whole ‘Paradies Question’. The park next to the train station is called Paradies and it is, in fairness, a nice spot. It wasn’t the warmest of days and so the ‘beach bar’ he took us to for an amber refresher was empty and was certainly not the Caribbean. However, it definitely seemed like a decent spot to while away a summer’s afternoon. As we wandered to the stadium after our beer and use of the ‘luxus dixi klo’ (luxury portalooo!) David told us that while not exactly being a paradise, Jena is a lively student town but, strangely considering that fact, an expensive place to live and part of the reason he does not live there.

The club and our team for today, like our friends from Optik Rathenow, have a connection with opticians in that it was founded in 1903 by workers at the Carl Zeiss AG optics factory. As with almost all DDR clubs, Jena underwent a number of name and affiliation changes during the years of German separation sporting such titles as SG Ernst Abbe Jena, SG Stadion Jena and BSG Mechanik Jena. In 1966 it was re-founded as Carl Zeiss Jena as a football club which sounds a bit silly but many of the East German clubs were not freely operated football clubs but required an affiliation with a government organisation. Hence, as we are sure we have mentioned, you had a number of ‘Dynamos’ which were affiliated to the Interior Ministry and therefore the secret police, ‘Vorwärts’ who were aligned with the Ministry of Defence and BSG who were supported by government owned companies. So Carl Zeiss Jena was a football club given the task of developing young players for the national side and after 1966 saw them enjoy their most successful period, winning league titles in 1968 and 1970 to go with their 1963 championship and cup wins in 1972, 1974 and 1980 to add to a win in 1960. They also made the 1981 European Cup Winners’ Cup Final, losing 2-1 to Dinamo Tbilisi. Reunification saw Jena given a spot in the 2.Bundesliga and they survived for a season before being relegated. Since then they have hung around the third and fourth tiers of German football.

Returning to today, we entered the stadium after purchasing our home kurve tickets and were greeted by “Paradise City” blaring over the loudspeaker which made us giggle. David led us to the fan shop for a wimple and he joined a reasonable queue to renew his season ticket. The fan shop, while not the largest we have seen had a good range of fan artikels and Stinzi was tempted by the girls polo shirts…for his wife, of course. We chose our wimpels and after farewelling David, trotted back outside for a bite to eat before kick-off. As Jonners inspected his wimple he discovered that Jena were DDR champions in 1663 which gave us another giggle and later had David promising to go to the fan shop and point out the misprint. Jena lies in the state of Thurigen which, apart from the beautiful countryside we had seen, is famous for its bratwurst so God only knows why we stopped at a pizza van to get our grub. Shameful, truly shameful, but we have never claimed to be on the top rung of the ladder of humanity. As Jonners and Stinzi savoured their second bites, Darren was licking his fingers after inhaling his and we were once again in awe of this man’s ability to devour. We found a beer stand and occupied a place on the home terrace.

The Ernst Abbe Sportfeld is a reasonable place to watch football. A modest grandstand on one touchline, low seating on the other and terraces at the ends are fairly typical at this level and this was tasteful with the running track almost unobtrusive which is uncommon. We are strong believers that a running track does nothing for a football stadium but this was not too bad. Our view of the away support was blocked by a very tall steel fence and as the players came out, the ground announcer called for a round of applause to mark the passing of a former player who, incidentally, also played for Jonner’s and Badger’s beloved TeBe and this was generously acknowledged by all. The very rapidly speaking announcer then urged the “loudest and sexiest” haupttribune (main stand) to find its voice and we were ready to go. As we expressed disappointment that the club mascot was not a tropical bird we noticed a rather unusual sight at European football…American style cheerleaders. Suffice to say they stayed in front of the grandstand and avoided what we guessed would be a rather interesting time in front of the home kurve.

So the game began and the home keeper, Nulle, was forced into a couple of good saves in the opening fifteen minutes. We had been tipped-off by David that there would be a chant of “Nulle! Nulle!” after any decent save and so we heartily joined in at each opportunity. We wondered whether David told us this because he expected the chant to be required a number of times during the match. Roughly twenty minutes in and the ‘bob-sleighers’ scored. A free header from a corner. Too easy. There was little reaction from the fans and we mused whether this was because they expected it or had just seen it too often before. As the half wore on the visitors were having by far the better of it and Jonners felt comfortable enough to predict a home loss after only twenty-five minutes.

Five minutes later and it was 2-0! A through ball subsequently played across the face of goal for a simple tap in and the fan reaction was a little more feisty. Chants of “absteiger” which roughly means ‘going down’ and “wir haben die schnauze voll” which is about the same as shouting out ‘we’ve had enough’ were among the more easily recognized and the rowdier element were climbing /mounting the safety fence to make their displeasure even clearer. A penalty and resulting goal ten minutes before the break from the home side was celebrated almost like a consolation goal but we loved the ground announcer’s call of “We have a new score in paradise….2-1”.

Just before the break an unfavourable decision from the referee prompted more fence mounting and one of the security guards moved slowly in that direction. The rough looking fan and security exchanged a pleasant smile that said, “We both know that would be a silly thing to do” and a dismount was made with ego and facial bones intact. Then some rather entertaining and certainly unmistakable goading from the fence-mounting element in the our vicinity was, presumably exchanged with the away support but due the steel fence we can’t be sure if they gave as good as they got.

During the break we were entertained by a couple of fans nearby. As Stinzi checked an Aussie Rules footy score on Badger’s iPhone, an old guy asked what he was doing. Stinzi’s German is passable but whether it was the accent, the speed that the words were being strung together at or the impression that this man was a screw or two loose meant that a polite nod and smile was all that he returned. The fellow then proudly took out his phone and proclaimed it the oldest phone in Jena and all we could further ascertain was that he didn’t think much of this modern technology. A young guy in front of us decided that a wind up was in order and started chatting, laughing and joking with him. We couldn’t follow exactly what they were saying but with the help of some wonderful nodding, winking and head-shaking from the young bloke we were thoroughly entertained by the light-hearted conversation. When one of the rougher brigade fell while going down the stairs, the old fella commented that, “This will happen when you are pissed up” we couldn’t help but laugh some more.

Jena made a bright start to the second half and wasted a great chance about fifteen minutes in, the man put through on goal taking too long to bring the ball under control and then poking it wide. The home side did play a more enterprising second half but the result wasn’t ever really in much doubt and it ended 2-1. With about ten minutes to go, David appeared at our side and although obviously disappointed by what the home team had produced, was interested in how we enjoyed the game and the atmosphere. We had to honestly say that it compared well to many of the places on our travels this season and we had certainly been entertained both by events on the pitch and off it.

As we wandered back to the station David lamented the fact that this game played out an all too familiar script for a Jena fan…a poor start and goals conceded followed by a brighter second half but with too much to do and an unsatisfactory result in the end. We ducked across to an imbiss at the station for a couple of beers and although David tried to teach us how to open them with a lighter ourselves, it was he who ended up doing the job.

We said goodbye to David a short while later, promising to email him and hoping that we will be able to return his hospitality one day next season when he hoped to visit Berlin and go to the Olympic stadium for the first time. As the train rumbled on Jonners exclaimed that, considering the day we had had, “You’d have a hard time convincing me that the Germans don’t have a sense of humour or aren’t friendly”.

We think we will leave it at that.

Fraktion H I - The Ultras from BFC Dynamo Berlin

Fraktion H I - The Ultras from BFC Dynamo Berlin

Once accused of being ‘the most hated team in the world’, how could we resist a trip to East Berlin to check out BFC Dynamo Berlin

Berliner Fussball Club Dynamo v FSV Optik Rathenow

24. Spieltag, NOFV Oberling Nord, 9 April 2011

We have enjoyed our travels around the now non-existent DDR Oberliga and the trip to Dynamo Berlin is one that we had looked forward to with both excitement and trepidation. Excitement because this is perhaps the most famous and almost certainly the most controversial of the DDR teams we are visiting this year. Trepidation for a couple of reasons. Firstly, an acquaintance of Stinzi, who is also a big football fan and a Berliner, had said that we should not go to a Dynamo game alone but should have a German with us – although, we are still a little confused as to why the suggestion was made. Secondly, Badger and Jonners had seen the Dynamo fans at their best…or worst depending on your view. After the loss in the Berlin Cup Final last year, the fans rioted at the final whistle after their defeat to the Turkish side AK07and so we were unsure how welcome our obviously foreign voices might be.

Being a local game, we made our separate ways into town to meet at Alexanderplatz to catch a tram to the ground. We joked that the schedule for the day would include:-

*13:27 Arrival at ground

*13:30 Beer and bratwurst

*13:45 Racist chanting

*13:50 Fascist slogans

*13:55 Skirmishes amongst fans

*14:00 Kick-off

Fortunately, our experiences were very different from our perceptions.

Stinzi’s brother and nephew joined us for the for the fun, having arrived from Australia the day before. Jonners and Badger D rounded of a Fab Five of a different make-up to the usual and our spirits were high as we rattled into deep ‘Ost Berlin’. The tram ride provided some time for the usual chit-chat and, as usual, we had much to discuss. Jonners’ Babelsberg03 must have heard his cries as they have gone on a run of four consecutive wins to drag themselves out of the relegation spots but still with work to do to maintain their position in the 3.Bundesliga. Jonners regaled tales of Dynamo Dresden’s midweek game of which the highlight was the need for the stewards to shield the opposition corner-takers with umbrellas to keep beer and spit from splashing down on them. Stinzi’s brother described the remarkable climax to the Australian A-League Grand final where Brisbane, who were undefeated for something like an eternity, came back from two goals down with a couple of minutes left in extra time to take the title in a penalty shootout.

As we neared the tram stop our discussion turned to today’s game and the opposition in particular. A number of corny jokes about them being a team of opticians and the effect this might have on their football prowess weren’t exactly world class but Stinzi’s brother’s managed to take us on a tangent to at least get a laugh with an unprintable joke about a man, his wife, a pig and a duck. When our stop arrived we debated whether to take the next tram or walk. The tram would be another eight minutes and we only needed to go one stop so surely we could find our way by foot. Once Joinners had established the direction we needed to go, cunningly suggesting we just follow the tracks, we discovered that the walk was maybe 500 metres so we were glad we had not waited as we had become very thirsty indeed.

The SportForum is an impressive enough complex with a bunch of football pitches surrounding the actual stadium used by the Dynamo first team as well as what seems like the home of an ice-hockey team. An outdoor roller-skating track complete with skaters clad in either too much or too little lycra depending on your viewpoint greeted us and we thought for a moment that the action on one of the outside pitches might indicate that the main stadium might not house today’s game in an Eisenhüttenstadt kind of way. Thankfully, it turned out to be a Dynamo youth team and we purchased our tickets for the home kurve and wandered in.

The security pat-down was either more vigorous than in other places or the proliferation of shaven heads around us had made us a little more alert but Stinzi’s family had not come across it before and seemingly enjoyed the experience. We wandered onto the terrace behind the tribune on the touchline but quickly went behind the VIP section to look for some fan artikels and refreshments. The unofficial fan shop, an old guy with a couple of tables, had some very interesting pins from seemingly everywhere and a selection of foreign football scarves. Perhaps foreigners are welcomed with open arms here and our preconceptions were way off base. We passed on making any purchases and went for the official gear. They had some great stuff and the Dynamo scarves and T-shirts sorely tempted us but we settled for a couple of pins and a wimple to add to our collections.

After poking our heads into the clubhouse which was decorated on the outside with giant photos of some images of past glories, we grabbed a beer and settled down at one of the dozen or so tables where pre-match drinks were being enjoyed by a number of fans. There was a kiddies playground and it all seemed like a pretty nice, family friendly atmosphere but we admit to harbouring stereotypical views of young men with heads of hair that short and they were certainly in the majority.

A quick search on Wikipaedia brought about the following potted history: The club started in 1949 as Sportgemeinde Deutsche Volkspolizei Berlin (translates as Sport Community German People Police Berlin). In 1953 the team took over from SC Volkspolizei Potsdam in the DDR-Liga (2nd Tier). This resulted in a merger into SG Dynamo Berlin. After relegation in 1954 the team was sent down to the Bezirksliga Berlin which resulted in another name change it to Sport Club Dynamo Berlin in October of that year. Also in 1954 team members of Dynamo Dresden (one of the best East German teams at the time) were ordered to leave for the capital to establish a competitive side in Berlin which resulted in Dresden been left with their second team players. This resulted in Dynamo Berlin being promoted to the DDR-Liga in 1957 and immediately advanced to the DDR Oberliga the next season. They enjoyed some success in the late 50’s and early 60s with some top 3 finishes and an East German Cup win in 1959. However by 1963 their play had fallen off and they had become a lower table side leading to relegation in 1967. This led to another name change and they were now called Berliner Fußballclub Dynamo (BFC Dynamo). When East German football was reorganised Dynamo Berlin quickly returned to the Oberliga and under the patronage of Erich Mielke (head of East Germany’s Stasi – secret police) who manipulated the outcome of team’s games to ensure Dynamo’s dominance. Dynamo then went on to win 10 consecutive titles from 1979 to 1988 helped by crooked referees, unfair player transfers from other teams and assorted unsportsmanlike practices. Dynamo was detested by many Berliners and the cheating was so blatant that it, unofficially, displeased the ruling Politburo. Manipulation of the 1986 championship match between Dynamo and Lokomotive Leipzig led to nationwide protests but resulted in sanctions against only the referee, Bernd Stumpf. After reunification the side was renamed FC Berlin to avoid its unsavoury past but less than 10 years later they reverted to BFC Dynamo. Without its manipulation and the crowds that went they have fallen into the 4th and 5th tier where they have remained ever since. In 2001-02 they went bust and the DFB forced them to play out their remaining games as friendlies with the results not being counted towards the league. Controversy has never been to far from Dynamo and in 2004 after the DFB introduced thee Verdiente Meistervereine to honour the most successful teams, awarding 1 star for teams with 3 titles , 2 for 5 titles and three stars for 10 allowing teams to display them on their jerseys. Dynamo wanted their East German titles recognised but no reply came so they did it anyway. This also affected over DDR teams like Dresden, Jena and Magdeburg. The Logo of Dynamo also has controversy as it was never copyrighted and in 1999 when they tried to recover it they had to share it with sports souvenir seller who claimed the image in 1997. The image has since passed hands and which results in the owners of the image getting 10% of all fan articles sold.

Back to the game at hand as the away fans, all five of them, were led past us by a couple of security guys much to everyone’s disinterest and they took up their places on the terrace behind the home tribune with nothing to separate them from the home fans and we were a little surprised by this. If we were feeling a bit uncomfortable then we imagine these guys were felling a bit edgy as well. There was a fair sprinkling of riot police scattered around the ground but to everyone’s relief (except Stinzi’s nephew) they were not needed on the day. We eventually decided to go and take our places in the sparsely populated home kurve and wait for the game to begin.

As we settled in a security guy decided to move us along, explaining that this section was closed and with the other dozen or so people to the next block which was in the same state of semi-neglect. Badger Darren was disappointed that the ultras, Fraktion H, were in fact standing in Section I. They were an interesting lot. About 25 young lads with four flags and a megaphone who did their best to clap,sing and chant their team on. It was a bit strange really and unlike similarly sized fan groups we have encountered. They tried hard but there was something not quite right about them. Jonners pointed out that at TeBe there is at least some humour in it because, “they know they are a small club”.

The football itself was not particularly inspiring and Stinzi made a pretty big call on 15 minutes by suggesting it was a bit dire. Jonners confessed to thinking the same and we hate to say it but it didn’t get much better than that all day. A couple of half chances were about all that was offered up in the first half and after declaring that there is no wonder people riot at these kind of games because it is so dull, Stinzi’s brother and nephew looked for a place to go for a walk. Indeed, when you have fans in the home kurve sharing duck calls and this is more entertaining than the football you know you are in trouble.

Half time treated us to some truly terrifyingly bad music which while obviously being the music of choice for the skinhead element, it didn’t do it for us. Jonners reckoned he could sing better and that says something. Stinzi’s brother thought that the last tune saved it but Rammstein wasn’t enough for the rest of us to give a pass mark. We had a further discussion on the state of the stadium and Jonners thought it had a bit of Stahl Brandenburg about it, just without the charm. The playing surface didn’t necessarily promote a fluid passing game but the home tribune looked a decent spot and the VIP lounge interesting. Our friendly security guard sent Stinzi and family back from whence they came when they dared try to use the staircase behind the closed terrace block when going for a beer which seemed petty at best. Give a man a fluorescent jacket and you create a monster only slightly less self absorbed and self righteous than a man with a whistle.

The second half produced little more in terms of entertainment but Dynamo did get a goal even though Stinzi confessed to seeing it in slow motion as if an unmissable chance was about to be wasted and that would have pretty much summed up proceedings. The ground announcer gave us the crowd figure, a just about average for Dynamo - 366. As the game petered out he provided us with a real highlight for the day. When announcing a late substitution, he managed something like, “Number 8 (pause), oh hang on I have lost my paper (longer pause), replaced by (another pause) I still haven’t found my paper”. This too might give you an indication of the state of play.

As we headed home, happy to have ticked another game off our list, Jonners discovered that his iPhone (other smart phones are available) via the app had the result as a 2-1 win to Dynamo. Either we missed a couple of goals or the Stasi is alive and well and still influencing BFC Dynamo Berlin’s results!

"The stadium [Sachsen Leipzig] looks just like a dog track….without the track….or the dogs!”

"The stadium [Sachsen Leipzig] looks just like a dog track….without the track….or the dogs!”