Last week kicked-off the first round of the 2011/12 DFB Pokal competition including 64 German professional and amateur football teams. The German Cup, equivalent to other countries’ domestic competitions such the FA Cup (England), Copa del Rey (Spain) and Coppa Italia (Italy), lasts 10 months culminating in the cup final in Berlin on May 12, 2012.
To me, the coolest thing about this competition is the many ‘David vs. Goliath’ scenarios that unfold, especially during the early rounds. One such match-up last weekend included 5th tier BFC Dynamo vs. top flight Bundesliag club 1.FC Kaiserslautern. My dear friend, fellow Speyer Boy, and German football rowdy Wolfie D. braved the elements and attended the 1st round match-up which ended up with a lot more action than ‘just’ 9o minutes of cup football. This is much less a football match review but an eye-witness report of goonish rowdies looking for ‘aggro’.
Here’s Wolfie D. … The German Cup, like almost all national cup competitions in Europe, often provides great drama opportunities, especially in the early rounds. The early match-ups are often replays of old rivalries or like this one, brand new, never before played ones. This match featured the former serial champion of the GDR Oberliga, East German secret police Stasi backed Berliner FC Dynamo, which racked up an unbelievable 10 championships in series thanks to successful match-fixing commissioned by Stasi chief Erich Mielke between 1979 and 1988. On the visitor’s side, the glorious 1. FC Kaiserslautern, in no need of further introduction (at least I hope, as the merits of this club from deep in the Palatine Woods easily fills a proper book!).
Right after the 1st round draw, I absolutely knew this would be a big one! It’s no wonder BFC Dynamo’s luck went down the drain after the wall came down. With the Stasi (officially) disbanded, Erich Mielke behind bars, and all the best players hitting the exits for the wealthy clubs in the West, the club didn’t even make it into the combined German second division in 1991 and had to start again in the regional Northeast division, a league they have not been able to be promoted out of since. Money was tight with crowds getting smaller and smaller, and having probably one of the most violent and right-wing followings in Germany, didn’t really help acquire lucrative sponsorship deals. You might now rightfully ask why a communist secret police backed club attracted a bunch of right-wing violent loonies from the worst tower block areas of East Berlin?! Simple answer: they chose to support the most-hated club in the country because aggro following the club was almost guaranteed!
Which brings us to the present day, where the club plays in a lowly fifth division in the northern part of the German East in front of a couple of hundred fans at average games against teams who have only a handful supporters let alone hooligans. To put it bluntly, they’re in deep shit and qualifying for the national cup brings them BACK WIV A BANG on the big German football stage, prime-time TV coverage included.
Thanks to having resided in Berlin for quite some time now, this 1.FCK-BFC Dynamo match really wasn’t an away game, just a fifteen minute car ride and a ten minute walk and we were in the thick of things, literally! Making our way towards the away-end in the pissing rain – almost constantly pouring down for 36 hours at that point – we walked down the street where hundreds of proper hard-hitters, a lot of them in their forties, were boozing it up in front of a few pubs, closely monitored by a serious police presence, all with worried looks on their faces.
Entering the away-end and definitely feeling a lot safer (for the moment) it was a nice surprise to see almost 2000 FCK fans who had made their way to Berlin, sadly only about 20 who would be willing to have ‘a go’ if push came to shove. Violence would of course not be a smart move on a day like this, but that’s not what this whole game is about anyway.
Oh yeah, there was also a football game played that day, a quite uneventful 3:0 win for an FCK side which didn’t do more than they had to, but this was not what the majority of the spectators had come for on that day anyway. The away end consisted of one half of the stands behind one goal, separated by a large empty block towards the covered main stand, filled with 4000 to 5000 BFC supporters. The locals put on a good show singing and celebrating and started to let off smoke bombs during the second half, which led to a break by the referee trying to achieve the impossible: get things in order again… Not with this lot, my friend!
About five minutes before the end, we had already talked about leaving early to not get cordoned in for an hour until the police had cleared the surrounding streets, it was clear that something was seriously happening on the other side. People were leaving the covered stand towards our end although there wasn’t even an exit for them on that side. So we thought we better have a look what was going on outside while the majority of the all too care-free FCK supporters celebrated the team after the game had finished. Walking down the steps behind the end it was pretty clear what was going on; we basically walked in the middle of about 60 BFC boys on the right opposite of 10 K-Town lads on the left, with the police standing 30 meters behind looking away and unbelievably having no clue what was happening right in front of their eyes. This was the same police who had manned the separating block during the whole game but had mysteriously disappeared five minutes before the end of the game!
All hell started breaking loose after hundreds of BFC hooligans now made their way over the empty separation block abandoned by the police ten minutes earlier, chasing away families, kids, dads and younger FCK supporters, punching everyone in their way. Outside the grounds, the police were a sorry sight, with everybody, BFC and FCK, mingled together. It was sheer luck K-Town only had a small crew and BFC was too surprised about the ease of ‘infiltration’, that nothing more happened. BFC were now swarming in from the streets on all sides as well, but so were the police reinforcements so we got the hell outta Dodge and starting drinking to having gotten away…
The whole incident was all over the TV in the evening and the newspapers in the following days, with the police blaming the stewards for not having followed protocol. Apparently, they really had opened the gate between home and away ends, either because they were incompetent, scared of getting leathered by the big boys, or simply in on the whole goddamned thing! I just have a sneaking suspicion that the truth will somehow never come out. Aside from this black mark, things might not be looking too good for BFC Dynamo’s footballing ambitions. Berlin suburb club Lichterfelder FC, the hosts of their first away game this coming weekend, have already announced that they’re not willing to play BFC under these circumstances. Stay tuned how another eventful 5th division season unfolds for BFC Dynamo.