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Turbine Potsdam celebrate 50th anniversary

March 3, 2021

Founded as an East German works team in 1971, Turbine Potsdam have since become one of the top women's football clubs in Germany and Europe. This year, a piece of German sporting history celebrates its 50th birthday.

Turbine Potsdam badge
Turbine Potsdam started out as a works team and became Germany's bestImage: Martin Hoffmann/imago images

Anja Mittag, Svenja Huth, Ariana Hingst, Nadine Angerer — the list of players who have worn the famous blue and white jerseys of Turbine Potsdam is an illustrious one.

There was a time when the club from Potsdam, Brandenburg, on the southwest edge of Berlin, was the best that German and European women's football had to offer. From 2004 to 2012, Turbine were crowned German champions six times, won three consecutive German Cups and even won the Champions League twice, in 2005 and 2010.

"I wouldn't change anything about those times; they made me the player I would later become," recalls legendary former Germany striker Mittag, who scored 116 goals in 165 league appearances for Turbine between 2002 and 2011.

"Those successes will always remain a huge part of me and I enjoy looking back on them," the 35-year-old, who retired in 2020, told Kicker magazine.

"They were fantastic times with fantastic players in our squad," remembers Bernd Schröder, speaking to fussball.de. "We worked hard and were rewarded with great successes."

Former Turbine Potsdam coach and manager Bernd Schröder
Bernd Schröder was the main man in Potsdam for 45 yearsImage: Camera 4/imago images

Now 78, Schröder pulled the strings in Potsdam for 45 years from its foundation as BSG Turbine Potsdam in 1971 — 40 as head coach, five more as general manager. Yet his initial involvement was as unspectacular as the creation of the team itself.

'Sucess story' 

"Starting women's football team. Please register. March 3, 1971. 6 p.m. in the clubhouse," read a note on the message board of the local energy company's sports group – hence the name "Turbine." On that evening, Schröder happened to be eating dinner in the clubhouse.

Schröder's own playing career had been unspectacular, having spent much of the 1960s as a goalkeeper for Lokomotive Leipzig's reserve team. He had no coaching experience but, when he was asked if he could imagine coaching the new women's team, he immediately agreed.

Founded as "BSG Turbine Potsdam," Schröder led them to six East German titles – the start of an unparalleled success story.

Against all odds

Schröder retired in 2015. Turbine are still a good Bundesliga side, but they no longer belong to Europe's elite, or even Germany's, having been overtaken by Bayern Munich and Wolfsburg.

The biggest names in the women's game play elsewhere, and the best Turbine can realistically hope for these days is fourth place. Nevertheless, the club's 50th anniversary is a chance to celebrate a story of success against all odds.

Even in the comparatively progressive German Democratic Republic (GDR), Turbine Potsdam had to battle with resistance and opposition to women's football. And following German reunification in 1990, the club faced an existential battle to stay afloat without the backing of the state energy company which had supported it.

Unlike other top women's sides, Turbine didn't have a rich men's Bundesliga club to help them.

Turbine Potsdam players lift the Champions League trophy in 2010
Champions of Europe: Turbine Potsdam won the Champions League in 2010, their second triumph after 2005.Image: Oliver Schneider/imago images

A small fish in a big pond

Bayern Munich and Wolfsburg can comfortably outspend them, as can the newly formed women's teams at Hoffenheim, Freiburg, Werder Bremen and Bayer Leverkusen. Even 1. FFC Frankfurt, another traditional giant of the women's game, are no longer independent, having been amalgamated into Eintracht Frankfurt in 2020.

And it's only a matter of time until RB Leipzig's women's team — where Mittag is now assistant coach — is promoted from the second division.

And so, in order to compete, Turbine have entered into a three-year cooperation of their own with Bundesliga side Hertha Berlin, based in the nearby Berlin suburb of Charlottenburg and now backed by millionaire investor Lars Windhorst.

But Turbine Potsdam remain an independent women's football club with a few hundred members. They're a small fish in an increasingly large pond, but a fish with a 50-year history that their new competitors cannot match. Their story is the story of women's football in Germany, and it's a success story.