If you had to name the town with the most (European) Communist name, which would you choose? Leningrad? Stalingrad? What about Karl-Marx-Stadt? Like the first two (now Saint Petersburg and Volgograd respectively) Karl-Marx-Stadt only had that name for a short time, between the 10th of May 1953 and 1st of June 1990, and has since reverted to Chemnitz. It had been called something similar to that as far back as the 12th Century and was a center of commerce in eastern Germany, first producing textiles in the medieval period, then as an industrial center beginning in the 19th Century. Like near neighbors Leipzig and Dresden, Chemnitz is smaller today than it was at its peak (over 360,000 people in 1930) due in part to the impact of World War II, trials and tribulations faced during the East German period, and large-scale movement to the west after reunification.
Like the city it represents Chemnitzer FC is a football club with an interesting history. Originally formed in 1899 as Chemnitzer SC Britannia, financial difficulties saw them bankrupt and liquidated in 1933 at which point they reformed as Chemnitzer BC 1933. Post World War II they went through a series of name changes, first in 1945 to SG Chemnitz Nord, then BSG Fewa Chemnitz in 1948 and BSG Chemie Chemnitz in 1951. Upon the renaming of the city to Karl-Marx-Stadt in 1953, the club also renamed themselves SC Motor Karl-Marx-Stadt, which was in turn changed to SC Karl-Marx-Stadt in 1963 before becoming FC Karl-Marx-Stadt between 1966 and 1990. One can only speculate as to why lots of the merchandise in the club shop still references that period in their history, when the club badge bore the legend FCK.
This confusion over names probably did not help their case when the East German government decided that the city with the name of the founder of Communism needed a football club that would be one of the best in the league. Rather than move the best players to Chemnitz, they simply changed the name of the team in nearby Aue to SC Wismut Karl-Marx-Stadt and made sure that it was one of the strongest teams. That club never actually moved the 37 klm [23 miles] to Karl-Marx-Stadt; it just held the name until 1963 when it reverted back to BSG Wismut Aue. Now known as FC Erzgebirge Aue they have spent 12 of the last 15 seasons in the Bundesliga 2 without ever really looking like being promoted to the Bundesliga (their best finish was 5th back in 2010-2011). They are, however, local rivals with the modern-day Chemnitzer FC.
Like a number of sides in the former East Germany, Chemnitzer FC (as FC Karl-Marx-Stadt) got to play some European football. In the 1967/68 season they were knocked out in the first round of the European Champions Cup by Anderlecht. After beating Boavista (Portugal) and FC Sion (Switzerland) they were defeated by the eventual winners, Juventus, in the third round of the 1989/90 EUFA Cup. However, in the junior ranks of the club during that season was Michael Ballack, who began his career with Chemnitzer FC before going on to play for 1. FC Kaiserslautern, Bayer Leverkeusen, Bayern Munich, Chelsea and 98 times for the German national team. He started with the club at the age of 7 and even today Chemnitzer FC has a young talent center certified by the DFB (German Football Association).
Even the club’s home ground has identity issues. Currently it is called the community4you ARENA because of the sponsorship of a local software and fleet management company. However street signage (including the bus stop name) knows it as Stadion an der Gellertstraße. In 1950 it was renamed after an East German politician (who had recently died) as the Dr. Kurt-Fischer-Stadion and that goes some way to explaining why it is still known by the nickname, the ‘Fischerwiese’. Chemnitzer FC, no matter what they or the stadium were called at the time, has been playing here since 1933 when it was first converted from horse riding grounds. It is very easy to get to, an approximately 15 minute walk north-east from the main station will do it, alternatively you can catch Bus 51 heading toward Zeisigwald to the stop “Stadion Gellertstraße”, or the Bus 21 heading to Ebersdorf until you reach the stop “Palmstraße”.
Both Chemnitzer FC and VfL Osnabrück (their opponents today) have had indifferent starts to the season in the 3. Liga. On Matchday 1 Chemnitzer FC won their local derby with FSV Zwickau 1:0, but followed that up with two high scoring losses and a 1:1 draw with FC Carl Zeiss Jena. On the other hand VfL Osnabrück have had two high scoring draws sandwiched around two rousing defeats. However, the DFB-Pokal matches last weekend could not have been more different. Chemnitz went down 0:5 to Bayern Munich, while Osnabrück were able to defeat Bundesliga side Hamburger SV 3:1. Even though they were further down the table, on that form it seemed like Osnabrück would be brimming with confidence.
Indeed, that was how it started. The relatively small group of VfL Osnabrück supporters who had made the 500 km trek to Chemnitz got to see their side dominate the opening part of the game. Osnabrück were using their attacking players to get in among the defense and pressure them into mistakes. In the first 6 minutes there were two good shots at Chemnitz’s goal, first from Sangaré and then from Sušac. Indeed, in the first 25 minutes Chemnitzer FC barely made it into the opposition half. They struggled under the VfL Osnabrück press, struggling to find their own players with passes and having to resort to thumping balls up the field. However a fairly strong southerly breeze even kept those hanging in the air. It seemed like only a matter of time before Osnabrück would convert one of their many chances.
Perhaps they would have, if it had not been for the performance of Kevin Kunz in the Chemnitzer FC goal. His distribution may be problematic (at one point he managed to stop a back pass then roll it under his foot and out for a corner) but he can stop shots. In particular Danneberg and Savran were denied by excellent saves during the first half. This frustrated the VfL Osnabrück players, causing them to occasionally try to be too tricky in the hope of getting past Kunz, and also to start talking back to the referee, Patrick Ittrich, which eventually led to a yellow card for Groß. By half time Chemnitzer FC had finally managed to get up to the other end and get some shots on target, but Osnabrück were dominating with nothing to show for it.
After half time the fans of both teams made their dissatisfaction with some of the actions of the DFB (German Football League) felt. There were banners at both ends of the field, mutual chanting, and applause for each other before the banners were lowered and they resumed their rivalry. Meanwhile, on the pitch the game continued much as it had in the first half, although this time it was VfL Osnabrück players who had to contend with the wind blowing toward them and the sun in their eyes on high balls, which led to some occasionally comical moments in defense. It was obviously warm out there, on a couple of occasions when players were injured or substitutes were coming on almost all the other players moved to the side where there was some shade and grabbed water bottles.
Both sides recorded some good shots on goal in the second half, although it was still Kunz who was doing most of the work to keep VfL Osnabrück from scoring; including one astonishingly good save early in time added on at the end of the game. Of the 5710 spectators (just over a third of the capacity of the ground) the ones who were supporting Chemnitzer FC will have been relieved to have escaped with a point. On another day, or with a different goalkeeper they could easily have lost badly. Schalke 04’s Ralf Fährmann is a former Chemnitzer FC goalkeeper; on this display it would not surprise me if a bigger team also picked up Kunz, especially if he can improve his play with his feet.
As 0:0 draws go this was still a very entertaining game. The point has at least moved VfL Osnabrück out of the relegation places and, if they continue to play like this I would be really surprised to see them down there for much longer. Chemnitzer FC have a good stadium with some awesome fans and helpful ground staff. Hopefully I will get a chance to go back at some stage in the future and see more of the city.
Wayne from Chemnitz!
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