BFC Dynamo Berlin were once the top soccer team in East Germany. Now they want to be honored appropriately for its success. Yet the club's demands raise a few questions about fairness -- both on and off the field.
Are western clubs the only ones worthy of championship stars?
BFC Dynamo Berlin felt they had waited long enough. The fourth-division German side had made their application for recognition in the summer of 2004 but had received no reply. So on the Easter weekend this year, they took matters into their own hands.
The squad trotted onto the field in Hohenschönhausen, a quarter in eastern Berlin, with three stars decorating the Dynamo jerseys. The three stars symbolized the ten top division titles the club won in the 1970's and 80's. While the top side in the East at the time, their success was not the only reason they were disliked. It was rumored at the time that the championships that led to these three stars appearing had much to do with East German Stasi head, Erich Mielke -- the club's mentor -- and his blatant yet tolerated manipulation of games.
Erich Mielke's own stars
However, while the Berlin side took great pleasure in sporting their stars, it was a move that sparked a greater controversy than even Mielke -- a firm fan of stars -- could have engineered.
The German Soccer League (DFL) introduced the star system to honor the most successful clubs in Bundesliga history -- one star for three titles, two stars for five, and three stars for ten. Yet the Bundesliga has only been in existence since 1963. And was naturally a product of West Germany.
Dynamo Berlin is a club from the former East Germany and under the DFL's rules, they do not meet the criteria for earning the stars. The DFL has proclaimed that teams under its jurisdiction, namely in the professional first and second leagues, would only receive credit for championships won since the league’s start. It also does not recognize GDR champions. The DFL decision doesn’t sit well with other German soccer officials.
"The star system isn’t right,” said German Football Association (DFB) vice-president Hans-Georg Moldenhauer, who is from Magdeburg in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt. For him, no champion, be it the title holders from before 1963, or those from the former East German top division, should be excluded. The DFB, however, is not directly responsible for professional soccer in Germany.
Dynamo officials and fans have been more vocal, venting the collective spleen at the DFL and speaking of arrogance on behalf of the "wessis,” the not-so-loving term for Germans from the west by East Germans.
"For the people of the former GDR, this is without question a further symbol of a matter that merits discussion, namely the very real triumphant attitude [of West Germany] that cuts down traditions and achievements without any consideration," said the club's press spokesman Yiannis HD. Kaufmann.
Fußball: Sterne über dem BFC-Logo Drei Sterne sind über dem Vereinswappen des BFC Dynamo auf einer Werbebande mit der Aufschrift. "Wir sorgen für Sternstunden" angebracht. Der Berliner Viertligist verliert am 25.03.20005 im Berliner Sportforum das Fußball-Meisterschaftsspiel der NOHV-Oberliga (Staffel Nord) gegen die Amateure von Energie Cottbus mit 0:1. Trotz ungeklärter Sachlage läuft der BFC erstmals mit den drei Sternen über dem Vereinsemblem auf. Nach der derzeit noch gültigen Regel werden ein Stern für drei Meistertitel, zwei Sterne ab fünf und drei Sterne ab zehn Meisterschafts-Gewinnen ausschließlich für die Zeit der Bundesliga vergeben. Der BFC Dynamo gewann zwischen 1979 und 1988 zehn Meistertitel der ehemaligen DDR in Folge. Marco Kohlmeyer
Wall still exists in people’s heads
The “know-it-alls” from the western part of Germany don’t have a good reputation in the east. Now and then, the debate is rekindled in the media or in politics about how after the political reunification in 1990, the people can be reunified.
Prof. Hans Joachim Teichler, director of the Sports History section at the University of Potsdam, thinks the “star” question and some of the reactions are indicative of the mental divide in Germany.
“In the various collective mentalities, the wall in some people’s heads seems to be growing higher,” said Teichler.
BFC Dynamo Berlin could compromise and sport the stars on this proposed new badge
Germans in the west view the East German sports achievements, with its notorious doping programs, with skepticism while people from the former East Germany dislike the arrogant attitude of the westerners. Getting the two to understand each other has been no easy undertaking.
The Sports and Olympic Museum in Cologne, which opened in 1999, is an example of the unwitting failure to find the proper mix. It is true that the successes of both West and East Germany are equally represented on the sports timeline. Yet in the memorabilia section, a locker room of sorts with uniforms and sporting equipment, not just from famous athletes, but also from amateurs, referees or sports officials, not one East German article appears in the 30 to 40 lockers.
The idea for the museum came up in 1972, so we of course could only collect West German items,” explained collection director Jörg Weck. He also said that being in Cologne, there are naturally more connections with athletes from the west of Germany. Many from the region decided to donate items upon hearing of the museum. Weck did, however, admit that the acquistion of GDR items was a matter that should be considered.
Politics in Dynamo affair?
Although Dynamo Berlin officials have tried to play the discrimination card against the DFL, they don’t find much sympathy or solidarity from soccer fans of other eastern clubs. The memory of fixed games sits deep. Expletives for Dynamo are common in Web site forums of these clubs. One 1. FC Union Berlin fan though is divided.
“BFC doesn’t deserve any championship stars. But to write off East German soccer as a whole doesn’t satisfy me either,” wrote Lemur.
Bernd Heynemann, currently a member of the German parliament, was a former referee in East Germany. In his recently printed recollections as a ref, he recalled how Mielke had also tried to buy him but he resisted. Asked about the DFL decision, he thinks it has gone halfway.
“Player caps, like Matthias Sammer’s with East Germany, were recognized by the DFB. Magdeburg’s UEFA Cup Winners' Cup (in 1974) victory also stands. The championships from the East German top division, as well as titles before 1963, should all be recognized,” the parliamentarian said.
The DFL views the matter pragmatically. The star system is purely a marketing measure. DFL spokesman Tom Bender told the Berliner Zeitung that if clubs like fifth-division Victoria Frankfurt/Oder (six DDR titles) were granted stars, in their case two, it would be like “inflation.”
Try telling that to the disgruntled fans of BFC Dynamo Berlin. For them, the three stars represent honors won -- and that isn't inflation, that's money in the bank.