Dynamo Dresden won promotion to the second division in a skin-of-their-teeth play-off last season, after five years in the doldrums. But like a nasty virus, the club cannot shake the violent element among their fans.
Dresden's ultras have gained a bad reputation
What was supposed to be, in the words of Dynamo Dresden's general manager Volker Oppitz, "a real highlight, combined with a return to the big stage of German football," turned into what the Dortmund police director Peter Andres described as "massive attacks" on his officers.
"I've never experienced such massive attacks on the police in my career as director of police operations for football matches," Andres told reporters after the Tuesday night DFB Cup fixture.
Organized ultra groups are gaining notoriety in German football
Fights broke out before the game even began, as some of the 12,000 traveling Dresden fans caused huge disruption outside Dortmund's Signal Iduna Park stadium. BVB players spoke of the surreal situation of being prevented from entering their own stadium as crowds blocked the team buses, forcing referee Peter Gagelmann to delay kick-off by 15 minutes.
Inside, fans ran amok. Fast-food kiosks, toilets and seats were set alight or smashed up. The match had to be stopped three times as missiles were thrown, or fireworks launched, onto the pitch. There were also reports of racist chanting. And after the game – a tame and routine 2-0 win for the home side - finished, Dresden fans overran the outnumbered stewards and began attacking Dortmund fans in the home section.
In the end, the human cost amounted to 17 injuries, including two policemen, and 15 arrests. The financial cost was 20,000 euros ($27,800) in fines for Dresden, handed out by the German Football Association (DFB).
But the damage to Dynamo's reputation was immeasurable. This was already the fifth time this season (from 14 games) that the club has had to answer to the DFB for its fans.
Coach Ralf Loose sounded almost resigned to the image the club has developed over the years. "That's Dynamo, I suppose," he said in a post-match interview. "Of course it's not justifiable, but our fans were being provoked by the BVB side too."
The official club statement was much less conciliatory. "In the name of the club and the majority of peaceful Dynamo fans, those responsible for Dynamo Dresden apologize unequivocally to Borussia Dortmund and all parties for the unacceptable behavior of a group of incorrigible and intolerable people," the statement read.
Last season ended in unlikely and dramatic triumph for Dynamo
Telling apart 'real fans' and hooligans
The statement - particularly the word "incorrigible" - reveals that the club management is running out of patience. While Dynamo continues to make a distinction between the majority of "real" fans and the hooligans, it seems that the lines are blurring a little. As Dortmund Director Michael Zorc commented on Tuesday, "We always talk about 'a few' that disrupt the game. But for me they didn't look like a few."
Dynamo's invocation of the "peaceful majority" is also belied by the fact that they are calling fan representatives to account for the violence. "We expect the representatives of the Dresden fan scene to take a clear position soon on the incidents in the current season, and particularly to the absolutely unacceptable events at the Cup game in Dortmund," the press statement says.
Though they don't mention who these representatives are, it seems clear that management is pointing a finger at Ultras Dynamo, that ever-problematic organization of hardcore fans who have a counterpart in almost every Bundesliga club.
Relations between Dynamo and their ultras are very poor. "What happened in Dortmund destroys our trustful cooperation," said Oppitz, and the club has already turned to punitive measures. As a direct result of Tuesday night, Dynamo has now officially withdrawn its support from the "Legalize pyrotechnics" campaign, an initiative devised by a group of fans to allow the responsible use of fireworks in football stadiums.
Dresden have not had a bad season on the pitch
For some time, Dynamo Dresden’s bad-boy ultra scene has enjoyed a higher profile across Germany than the football club itself. That’s sad, not only because it's a club with a rich tradition and eight DDR-Oberliga titles under its belt, but also because the well-behaved among the Dresden fans really have cause to celebrate at the moment. Their 2010/2011 season in the 3. Bundesliga was an incomparable rollercoaster ride that ended in improbable and dramatic triumph.
Having started shakily, Dynamo managed to consolidate their position by Christmas, and ended the first half of the season in a respectable fifth place. The second half was then an agony of joy and disappointment as the team repeatedly failed to capitalize on slip-ups going on all around them.
Three consecutive defeats in March and April prompted the club to take the nuclear option, sacking coach Matthias Maucksch and replacing him with Loose all in one day. Loose teased ten points from four matches, and Dynamo were suddenly in third place – the promotion play-off spot – for the first time in the season, with two matches to go.
They held onto that thanks to a 3-2 nail-biter against Offenbach on the last day, and then faced second division Osnabrück in the play-off. The first leg, in Dresden, ended 1-1, which meant they had to go to Osnabrück and win. Which they did. But only after extra-time.
Since those heart-stopping adventures, Dresden have proved that they belong in the second Bundesliga, and are settling comfortably in mid-table. They have already claimed the notable scalps of 1860 Munich and Union Berlin, not to mention Bayer Leverkusen in the first round of the DFB Cup. Boosted by these successes, Dresden recently posted a new membership record, breaking 10,000 for the first time in their history.
If only their ultras - or a "violent minority" of them - would learn to appreciate the achievements of this history-rich club, perhaps they can go further.
Author: Ben Knight
Editor: Matt Hermann