The 50th birthday of any football club is an occasion to celebrate, but the festivities on Friday 15th January of the former East Germany’s most successful club side will stir up mixed emotions for fans from a bygone era.
Formed in 1966, Berliner FC Dynamo became the GDR’s premier club side racking up ten successive league titles between 1979 and 1988. Their coach during that period, Jürgen Bogs, can point to a record which under most normal circumstances would place him as one of the most successful coaches in European football with a CV that would stand up against more recognisable names.
The fact is though, Berliner FC Dynamo were no ‘normal’ side and were not operating under what can be considered as ‘normal’ circumstances. Dubbed the Stasi side, the ‘Wine Reds’ were backed by the East German state’s secret police with the chief of the Staatssicherheit Erich Mielke their biggest fan and political backer.
Despised by rival fans due to their benefactor, there were other reasons for the unpopularity the capital club faced. It was claimed that their continual level of success was not solely down to having the best team. A whole raft of referees were believed to favour the Stasi club being either Stasi officers themselves or Inoffizieller Mitarbeiter (informal collaborators). Displeasing Erich Mielke was not an option for any match official with any ambition of carrying on a comfortable refereeing existence.
There was also the fact that Dynamo were able to requisition the best players from other sides in order to provide Jürgen Bogs with the best squad. The star currently displayed on the club’s logo is testament to the ten titles duly won with the talented squads at his disposal.
However, like the former East Germany, that all seems an eternity ago as the once great side now languishes in the Regionalliga Nordost. Where once Berliner FC Dynamo were competing with the likes of Liverpool, Nottingham Forest, Roma and Hamburg in the European Cup, they are now drawing crowds of just over a thousand against the likes of FC Oberlausitz Neugersdorf at the Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn-Sportpark.
The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the process of ultimate unification saw the club’s best players lured to the West by big money, with Andreas Thom (to Bayer Leverkusen) and Thomas Doll (to Hamburg) the most high-profile departures. The club failed in its attempt to qualify for either the newly unified Bundesliga or the second division and so began their life removed from the spotlight.
Financial woes and crowd trouble have blighted the club in the past few years, but this weekend will prove a special time for those with an affection for the club. Others meanwhile will not be sending much in the way of birthday cheer to a club that represented the dark side of GDR football.