How a team of rejects and underdogs won the G.D.R. championship.
These days it might be Rasenballsport Leipzig’s fight for promotion grabbing the headlines with what is another failed attempt to gain promotion to the 3. Liga. Many editorials for and against RB Leipzig’s business model have been written, with the German press and fans mostly being critical towards the team being backed by a maker of gummibear like tasting soda drink.
However, if one goes one or two divisions below the German 4th tier, one will find a lot of footballing history, moments of glory or utter despair, in Leipzig. 25 years ago 1. FC Lokomotive Leipzig managed to eliminate French giants Girodins Bordeaux from the cup winners cup, after a dramatic semi final which ended in a penalty shoot out in front of the roughly 100,000 spectators who had filled the Zentralstadion in Leipzig on that historic day. These days Lokomotive are fighting to keep their head above water in the 5th tier of German football.
One division below Lokomotive Leipzig two teams from Leipzig are entangled in a bitter fight, both claiming to be the rightful successor of FC Sachsen Leipzig, who went bust last year. SG Leipzig-Leutzsch and BSG Chemie are both claiming to be the rightful successor of the team that started out as TuRa Leipzig in 1932, and celebrated its biggest wins under the name of BSG Chemie Leipzig during the days of the G.D.R.. Both teams play at the same stadium, have a white and green jersey, and both use the same locker room. BSG Chemie was established in 2008, when a number of fans felt a deep split between themselves and their former club(FC Sachsen Leipzig). SG Leipzig-Leutzsch was founded after FC Sachsen Leipzig went under.
The differences between the two sets of supporters are complex, and multi layered. BSG fans aren’t willing to make many sacrifices when it comes to their club, they knew how hard it was to start up their own team, and now they want to keep it. Whilst BSG’s set of supporters are left leaning, SG Leipzig-Leutzsch entertain fans who are a part of the far right. Furthermore, some supporters even believe that SG are secretly financed by the corporate entity which produces those gummibear drinks, in an effort to establish a farm team for RB Leipzig.
Early success for BSG Chemie
The casual onlooker might consider the thought of an Austrian soda maker secretly financing a 6th division tier team in order to establish a farm team somewhat ridiculous, however, the football history of the town has given the fans enough reasons to be sceptical, and maybe even slightly paranoid.
Let’s dive into the club’s history to understand why this is the case. SV TuRa Leipzig was founded in 1932, and started out as a club mainly for people coming in and from around the industrial area of Leutzsch. The club drew already in the 1930’s a reasonable following. In 1936 TuRa was promoted to the Gauliga Sachsen, the highest tier in Saxony. However, the club failed to achieve greatness during the nazi years, and TuRa’s fans had to be content with their team fighting relegation most of the time.
TuRa Leipzig’s successors SG Leipzig was equally popular with the locals from Leutzsch after the second world. The team was re-named in 1950, being from there on known as BSG Chemie Leipzig. It became quickly apparant that BSG had a decent team, when they finished a respectable 8th in their first season in the highest tier of G.D.R. football, the Oberliga.
The next season was special, a very tight finish at the end of the season saw BSG Chemie Leipzig and Turbine Erfurt finish equal on points at the end of the season, forcing a decider on neutral ground. Turbine Erfurt had the superior goal difference at the end of the season, but back then goal difference wasn’t taken into consideration. 200,000 people wanted to attend the match, but only 60,000 were allowed to watch the match in the Ernst-Thälmann-Stadion in Chemnitz. Turbine were missing two of their most important players for the match, Wolfgang Nitsche and Helmut Nordhaus, but were dominant for much of the game. However, Chemie managed to win the game scoring twice in the second half. Rudolf Krause played a lovely through ball to find Gerhard Helbig for the first goal, before Krause himself smashed home a beautiful volley from outside the box.
Watch the goals which saw BSG Chemie Leipzig win the championship in the 1950/51 season.
Chemie managed to pull off a 3rd and 2nd place finish, and a mediocre 8th place finish inbetween those seasons in the next three seasons. However, the joy over winning the championship and the continuing good results was short-lived after the 1953/54 season.
The signs of what was to come appeared already in the 1952/53 season. Leipzig’s political establishment wasn’t in favor of Chemie being the best team in town. The upper echelons [the government] decided that Vorwärts Leipzig, a team closely tied to the army, were to be the best team in town. Chemie lost seven of their most important players over night, in order to make Vorwärts the best team in Leipzig.
Midfielder Rainer Baumann was amongst the players who had to switch sides, due to the pressure he and some of the other players were put under. Baumann still remembers the reaction of the general public. When questioned about it in a documentary about BSG Chemie Leipzig broadcasted in 1993 he answered:
… the experiment that followed, the transfer of half of Chemie’s team, of the most important players, it wasn’t agreeable to the population. It wasn’t tolerated! This gave a rise to an opposition, and the problematic issues from back then is what still holds back the football in Leipzig to this day.
Other players who wanted to stay at the club were more fortunate. Goalkeeper and fan favorite Günter Busch told in the same documentary why he got to stay at Chemie despite the pressure the players were put under:
My very understanding boss, who later on became a leader at the club, sent me away on business trip. He had smelled the coffee, and he hastily arranged a business trip for me, telling me: ’You shouldn’t come back before tomorrow.’ That kept me away from the action that was taken at the time.
Busch and other players might have been kept at the club back in 1952, but only two years later the players of Chemie had to make a tough decission by the political elite in Leipzig: Should they go to newly founded local rivals Sportclub Lokomotive, or should they join SC Chemie Halle-Leuna. The players opted for the first option, seeing Chemie disappear from the first tier of G.D.R. football.
The Leutzscher legend
Chemie might have fallen victim to the political officials back in 1954, but they arose again because of city officials meddling nine years later. The football clubs in city of Leipzig had for a long time failed to live up to the expectations from the officials, causing them to interfere once again before the 1963/64 season. The two Oberliga teams from Leipzig, SC Rotation Leipzig and SC Lokomotive Leipzig were melted into one unit: SC Leipzig. The best players from each team were combined into a super team, that should bring some footballing glory to the city of Leipzig.
Due to the merger of those two teams a spot opened in the Oberliga. The unwanted players from Rotation and Lokomotive were combined into one team as well, and they filled that spot as BSG Chemie Leipzig. Chemie had returned from the grave, and came to be known as ”The rest of Leipzig”, due to the circumstances of how the team was formed.
The fans were glad to have their team back, visiting Chemie’s home matches in large numbers. During their first season back in the highest tier of G.D.R. football, ”Die Chemiker” averaged 20.461 spectators who filled the seats at the Georg-Schwarz-Sportpark(SC Leipzig only managed to average 10.615 spectators during the 1963/64 season).
Whilst the newly formed SC Leipzig lost their first match 3-0 away to BSG Zwickau, BSG Chemie managed to get a good start to the season defeating BSG Wismut Aue 2-0. It was a sign of what was to come. Leipzig’s sporting officials and politicians had tried to create a team that could reach a European finish for the second time, and they failed, again.
After gathering seven out of a possible ten points after the first five matches of the 1963/64 season, the local derby between BSG Chemie and SC Leipzig would give a clear indication of who were the new kings in town. The rest of Leipzig won against the team who were supposed to be the best of Leipzig, sending them home(which wasn’t very far away, granted) with a 3-0 thumping.
So, how was this possible? Why could a bunch of rejects beat the supposedly best team in town. Legendary Chemie coach Alfred Kunze thought that his players had a point prove, after being rejected for the newly founded SC Leipzig:
The reasons for it were mostly psychological, the players wanted to defy what they had been reduced to, and it injected them with a lot of energy. ’We want to prove them wrong’ was one of their motives. Additionally, and that made the difference in the end: We had Bernd Bauchspiess.
”He posses the lungs of a horse” was one of many positive reviews about Bernd Bauchspiess’s qualities as a player by the G.D.R. media. The medicine student from Zeitz knew how to run all right, but he also knew how to finish of a move, making him one of the most valuable assets in Kunze’s team. Bauchspiess managed to score 13 of Chemie’s 38 goals in the 1963/64 season, making him Kunze’s most valuable asset. In addition to Bauchspiess, Wolfang Behla and Dieter Scherbarth both managed to score 8 goals for the team.
However, before the last game of the season against already relegated Turbine Erfurt, Chemie couldn’t rely on the services of their most dangerous goal scorer. SC Empor Rostock was two points behind the table, and a loss would have given Rostock the opportunity to be crowned champions provided they won. Chemie prepared, as always, for the game in the Waldhaus hotel in Colditz, only this time around Kunze had asked the players wives to stay away from the team. Kunze later said he wanted to avoid ”everybody wanting to hold their spouses hands before the match”.
Maybe the lack of holding hands with the opposite sex helped, or the fact that Turbine was already relegated and had nothing to play for played into Chemie’s cards. Wolfgang Behla got the first goal of the match with a blistering shot in the 11th minute, Kunze himself couldn’t quiet believe that championship was already won, and lit a cigarette on the Chemie bench. Kunze had barely taken a couple of puffs, before Chemie was given a penalty. 60 seconds after Behla’s opener, sweeper Manfred Walter got his first goal of the season from the spot, giving Chemie a 2-0 lead.
The match finished 2-0, crowning a team of rejects champions. The prolific goalscorer Bauchspiess told German broadcaster MDR 29 years after Chemie won the championship that it had been the team spirit within the Chemie squad that had made the difference:
The best players, from a footballing point of view, should play for Lok. The top brass of the sporting and political scene in Leipzig wanted to create a good team, that could play against the best sides in Europe, with Leipzig’s best footballer. However, 11 good footballers aren’t necassarily bound to become a good team.
Bauchspiess should go on to score another 61 goals for Chemie after his first season for the club from Leutzsch. Bauchspiess and his team mates managed to win the FDGB-Pokal two years after their surprising championship. Legendary Alfred Kunze left the team after four years, staying true to his philosophy(”A coach should never be with a team for more than 4 years”).
BSG Chemie didn’t manage to stay a successful team after the end of the 60s. A life between the first tier and the second tier of G.D.R. football was as good as life got for the team from Leipzig from the early 70s and onwards.
Traces of the past
In 1992 the Georg-Schwarz-Sportpark was re-named Alfred Kunze-Sportpark. The legendary man himself went to the games in that very stadium until the very end of his life. Kunze died in 1996, 86 years old. The team from the championship winning season of 1963/64 have been immortalized in front of the Alfred Kunze-Sportpark: with concrete statues.
The corporate backer of the soda team might have bought an Austrian international and former Hannover 96 player for their team, but the acceptance of the BSG Chemie and Lokomotive fans in town they haven’t managed to purchase. It simply isn’t for sale for most of the these fans. The first team the Austrians wanted to buy was actually FC Sachsen Leipzig(BSG Chemie’s successors, and the team that went bust last year, remember?), but the take over failed mainly due to the protest of the fans. The goal scoring machine from the 60s, Bernd Bauchspiess, became quickly unpopular amongst many Chemie fans when he opted for the move, saying:
There is a lot of chemistry(Chemie) in that drink. It fits.
The fans of BSG Chemie and SG Leipzig-Leutzsch have been torn apart into two factions. It might seem ridiculous to the outside observer, but as BSG Chemie blogger Bastian Pauly put it:
The fact of these two clubs existence is a logical consequence arrived from within. Why should something, which is divided into two factions which have radically grown apart, both philosophically and culturally, be put together again?
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