European football · Football history

Clubs Of The Former East Germany

Wednesday (19 August 2009) was the 20th anniversary of the Pan-European Picnic in Hungary which led to the fall of the Berlin Wall less than three months later.

According to Wikipedia:

The DDR-Oberliga (English:East German Premier League or GDR-Premier League) was, prior to German reunification in 1990, the elite level of football competition in the DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik or German Democratic Republic, commonly East Germany), being roughly equivalent to the Oberliga (1945-1963) or Bundesliga (1963-1990) in West Germany.


After German reunification the last regular DDR-Oberliga season was played in 1990-91 under the designation NOFV-Oberliga (Nordostdeutsche Fußballverband Oberliga or Northeast German Football Federation Premier League). The following year the East German league structure was merged into the West German system under the DFB (Deutscher Fussball Bund or German Football Association) and the top two NOFV-Oberliga clubs – F.C. Hansa Rostock and Dynamo Dresden – joined the first division Bundesliga.

The Wikipedia article lists the fourteen Oberliga clubs as going into the following leagues in 1991 (spread over three tiers):

Tier League Clubs
I Bundesliga Hansa Rostock, Dynamo Dresden
II 2nd. Bundesliga Nord Stahl Brandenburg
2nd Bundesliga Süd Lokomotive Leipzig, Hallescher,
Rot-Weiß Erfurt, Carl Zeiss Jena, Chemnitzer
III NOFV-Oberliga Nord Stahl Eisenhüttenstadt, Vorwärts
Frankfurt/Oder, Dynamo Berlin
NOFV-Oberliga Mitte Magdeburg, Energie Cottbus
NOFV-Oberliga Süd Sachsen Leipzig

Former East German clubs have had the following spells in the Bundesliga since 1991:

Former East German club Seasons in the Bundesliga
Dynamo Dresden 1991-1995
Hansa Rostock 1991-1992, 1995-2005, 2007-08
VfB Leipzig 1993-1994
Energie Cottbus 2000-2003, 2006-2009

For only the second time since 1991, there is no former East German club in the Bundesliga this season. The previous occasion was in 2005-06.

The Wikipedia article goes on to state:

In 1994, a new third tier division was established in the area that formerly made up East Germany. The Regionalliga Nordost was made up of most of the big names of the DDR-era alongside clubs from West Berlin. The only clubs from the final season of the old DDR-Oberliga not to appear here were F.C. Hansa Rostock, which was competing at the Bundesliga level, and Hallescher FC which had fallen on hard times.

The league was disbanded again in 2000 and its member clubs were spread between the two remaining Regionalligas (III) and the NOFV-Oberligas (IV), effectively ending the history of the all-East German leagues.

Most former East German clubs had slipped into the lower regional leagues before the 3rd Liga, the national third division in Germany, was created in 2008.   A number of former East German clubs have now established themselves in the 3rd Liga.

Below is a list of former East German champions, and the level they are playing at this season.

East German Clubs Current Name Number of East German titles Current League (Tier)
Dynamo Berlin 10 NOFV-Oberliga Nord (V)
Dynamo Dresden 8 3rd Liga (III)
Vorwärts Berlin FC Viktoria 91 Frankfurt 6 Verbandsliga Brandenburg (VI)
Magdeburg 3 Regionalliga Nord (IV)
Carl Zeiss Jena (Motor Jena) 3 3rd Liga (III)
Wismut Karl Marx Stadt Erzgebirge Aue 3 3rd Liga (III)
Chemie Leipzig Sachsen Leipzig 2 NOFV-Oberliga Süd (V)
Turbine Erfurt Rot-Weiß Erfurt 2 3rd Liga (III)
Turbine Halle / Union Halle Halle 2 Regionalliga Nord (IV)
Planitz / Horch Zwickau FSV Zwickau 2 NOFV-Oberliga Süd (V)
Hansa Rostock 1 2. Bundesliga
Karl-Marx-Stadt Chemnitz 1 Regionalliga Nord (IV)

The East German authorities often used sport, including football, to further their political agenda. Football clubs were re-organized, re-located and re-named to serve political ends.

Dynamo Berlin were particularly tainted:

In late 1954 the team members of Dynamo Dresden, one of the better teams in East Germany at the time, were ordered to leave for the capital to establish a competitive side in Berlin while the Dresden club was left to carry on using its second team players. Initially a local side, the team was promoted to the DDR-Liga (II) in 1957 and captured the division championship that year to immediately advance to the DDR Oberliga. Dynamo enjoyed some success in the late 50s and early 60s with a number of top-three finishes and an East German Cup win in 1959. However, by 1963 their play had fallen off and they had become a lower table side leading to their relegation in 1967.

The club was re-established on 15 January 1966 as BFC Dynamo Berlin when the football department was disassociated as a football club in a general re-organisation of football in the country. Dynamo Berlin quickly returned to first division play after a single season’s absence and would soon become infamous under the patronage of Erich Mielke, head of East Germany’s Stasi (the secret police), for the various means used to manipulate the outcome of the team’s games and ensure its dominance.

Playing in the DDR-Oberliga BFC won ten consecutive titles from 1979 to 1988 assisted by crooked referees, unfair player transfers from other teams and assorted other unsportmanlike practices. Dynamo was reviled by many of the citizens of Berlin and the cheating was so blatant that it incurred the unofficially expressed displeasure of the country’s ruling Politburo. Manipulation of the 1986 championship match between Dynamo and Lokomotive Leipzig which ended in a 1:1 draw that handed Dynamo its eighth title led to nationwide protests, but resulted only in sanctions against referee Bernd Stumpf.

After German re-unification in 1990 the side was re-named FC Berlin in an attempt to re-package it and distance it from its unsavory past, but in 1999, they again took up the name BFC Dynamo.

Several former East German clubs have returned to more traditional names.  In several cases, the clubs have been re-incarnated after bankruptcy and dissolution.

The political influence did not extend to European competition, with less powerful clubs performing better in Europe than more powerful clubs.  However, East German clubs managed to reach the finals of European competition on only three occasions, each time in the now-disbanded European Cup Winners’ Cup:

  • In 1974, Magdeburg beat AC Milan in the final.
  • In 1981, Carl Zeiss Jena lost to Dinamo Tiblisi in the final.
  • In 1987, Lokomotiv Leipzig lost to Ajax Amsterdam in the final.

The 3rd Liga could serve as a launchpad for the former greats of East German football to return to 2. Bundesliga or even the Bundesliga.

In the meantime, the two Leipzig sides of the former East Germany, Lokomotive Leipzig (previously also known as VfB Leipzig) and Sachsen Leipzig, play this season in the NOFV-Oberliga Süd (5th tier), alongside Red Bull Leipzig.   Red Bull Leipzig purchased the Oberliga licence of SSV Markranstädt, a club based in a town near Leipzig, in June 2009, and moved their home ground to Zentralstadion in Leipzig, a stadium that hosted group matches in the 2006 World Cup in Germany.  The previous tenants of Zentralstadion were Sachsen Leipzig.


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