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East German Soccer's Talent Drain

The plight of soccer in eastern Germany is worsening with each day. Former German international Lothar Matthäus wants to help the cause of clubs from the former GDR.

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Matthäus, in his Leipzig debut, just wants to help

The fate of teams in eastern Germany has become a personal mission of former German international midfielder and current coach of Hungary's national side, Lothar Matthäus.

Matthäus is as Bavarian as lederhosen and beer steins, but the desolate situation of professional soccer in the east has aroused his interest. The only club in the first division, Hansa Rostock, has been relegated.

None of the four teams in the second league successfully made the jump up. At one point in the season, all four squads were hovering near the relegation zone but with one game remaining, only Erfurt looks to face demotion.

How to stop the movement West

In his weekly article with the Sport Bild magazine, Matthäus decided that Lokomotive Leipzig, once a top team in East German soccer, would receive his help. Due to licensing infractions, Lok now rest (in peace) in the 11th division of German soccer.

More than 6,000 fans packed the small stadium to watch a player who at one time, according to Matthäus, had been booed by the fans. Now he was their hero.

But the marketing gig can't take anything way from the catastrophic state of affairs in east German soccer. Young talent are leaving the east clubs in droves to sign more lucrative contracts with western teams.

For Ulf Kirsten, former national striker with both the GDR and then reunited Germany there is only one solution.

"Youth players from east clubs have to be prohibited from transferring," said Kirsten recently.

But convincing German soccer authorities to restrict player movement at a time when globalization has brought Africans to Ukrainian leagues and Brazilians to Scandinavian teams, could prove impossible.

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