The East German National Football Team, A Brief History…

Right then, the late 1980’s. It was a time when the wheels were beginning to come off for Margaret Thatcher’s position of Prime Minster of the United Kingdom, despite her recent election victory.  It was a time when the BBC Radio One playlist was full of shite (and yes it still is), and it was when Liverpool still knew what it was like to win a title. It was a time when the world said a final goodbye to Andy Warhol and Liberace.  It was also a time when there were calls for the sacking of Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. It was also a time when the East German national team was coming to the end of its playing days.

                    For those people that can remember, they will tell you it was also a time when the reunification of Germany was still yet to happen, Europe still had a West Germany and an East Germany. Until that reunification, which was only a few short years away, East Germany was a member of the Warsaw Pact. A communist country, East Germany’s strings were being pulled by their puppet masters in Moscow. The Warsaw Pact was a group of communist countries in Europe that had signed a pact in 1955, essentially a defence treaty, it was the military arm of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance and it was also Eastern Europe’s answer to NATO’s military might. The Deutsche Demokratische Republik, DDR, or East Germany was a member state of the Warsaw Pact. On the surface the East Germans had a rich sporting heritage, but yes indeed, they were doping the heck out of their athletes. The most well known athlete of the East German doping scandal, a doping regime run by the secret East German police, was Heidi Krieger.  Krieger used injected hormones too such a degree Frau Krieger is now Herr Krieger.

East Germany, World Cup 1974.

For the vast majority of the time that they were still active, the East German national team escaped any doping controversy. I think it’s fair to say that this might, just might, have been down to the fact that until 1985 there wasn’t an active anti doping program for the national team, why? Well, the powers that be didn’t deem East Germany successful enough to warrant an anti doping program, kind of strange but kind of true. However there was one little incident that I want to mention. Back in 1983, Manfred Höppner, who was the then head of the East German Sports Medicine Department, pointed the finger at Dynamo Berlin and Lokomotive Leipzig, two of the DDR’s top sides, of doping their players. Apparently, after the two clubs came back from playing away games in European competition, urine tests indicated high levels of Methamphetamines and Amphetamines in no less than thirteen of Dynamo Berlin’s traveling squad, taken less than three days before they took to the pitch. Too a much lesser extent, so said Höppner’s report, they were also found in Lokomotive’s players. Much later, one of Dynamo Berlin’s former players, Falko Götz, had claimed he and his team mates had no idea what they were taking, and assumed they were just “vitamins”. Make of that what you will.

                    The team colours of East Germany was blue and white, the home kit consisted of blue shirts with white shorts with blue socks, the away kit was white shirt, blue shorts with white socks, blue and white were the colours throughout the thirty eight years that they were active. From the word go, they would chop and change from vee necks to polar neck shirts. The 1987 home shirt was supplied by Adidas and sported the classic Adidas trefoil design, the shirt was an attractive dark blue design, with the three Adidas stripes running down the sleeves.

The first East German national football team emerged into the world of sport in 1952. As you can imagine, only a few years after the end of the Second World War life in East Germany was pretty bleak, under Soviet occupation, pretty much every activity for people to enjoy themselves was banned. Around that time the DDR (East Germany) applied for membership to FIFA. The application was opposed by the then German Football Association, which was already a full participating member of FIFA. However, eventually, FIFA granted the East German Association provisional membership in 1951 and a year later, during the July of 1952, East Germany became full members of FIFA. Back then the governing body of East German football had the name of the GDR Football Association, it would later be known as the DFV, or the Deutscher Fußball Verband der DDR. The first ever match for East Germany was against Poland during the September of 1952, a friendly, a gesture of goodwill as the press were reporting back then. This led the East Germans to be given the nickname of the “Weltmeister der Freundschaftsspiele” or the “World Champion of Friendly Games”.

Getting back to the football, that first game against their Polish neighbours finished in 3 – 0 defeat for the East Germans. Their first home game wouldn’t happen until almost a year later when they entertained Bulgaria at the Heinz-Steyer-Stadion in Dresden on the 14th of June 1953. The stadium was first opened in 1918, it has hosted athletic meetings as well as football matches and is still in use today. It’s the home stadium of Dresdner FC, a founder member of the German Football Association. That first home game for the East Germans against Bulgaria ended on a 0 – 0 draw, in front of 55,000 fans. Only days after that the 1953 Uprising in East Germany occurred, understandably after eight years after the end of the war, East Germany was still a very volatile place. Again, it would be almost a year before the East German national side played in another game, this time they lost to Romania 1 – 0 during the May of 1954. Because of all the unrest and upheaval in East Germany during the early 1950’s they didn’t even bother putting together a squad that would try to qualify for the next world cup, which was won only a tad over two months later by West Germany. East Germany was forever in its western neighbour’s shadow, football-wise it could never hold a candle to West Germany.

The East Germans failed to qualify for a European Championship and only managed to qualify for one world cup, the world cup of 1974, however at that tournament they beat West Germany 1 – 0. They were to experience a lot more success in Olympic football, even putting their western neighbours in the shade in the “amateur” game. 1964 saw East Germany defeat West Germany in order to qualify for the Olympic competition, in Japan they won the Bronze medal. They won another Bronze at the 1972 Olympics and four years later in Canada they picked up the gold medal, and a silver four years later in the Soviet Union. As I mentioned earlier, East Germany have only managed to qualify for one world cup tournament, in 1974, but they almost made it to Italia ’90. Unfortunately for them, a 3 – 0 loss to Austria scuppered that endeavour. As most people know, literally millions of East Germans made attempts to leave the East for the West, among them many East German international footballers. One such player was Lutz Eigendorf. Eigendorf played for a number of clubs including Berliner FC Dynamo and Eintracht Braunschweig. He was successful in fleeing the east for the west in 1979, following a friendly game between his club Berliner FC Dynamo and West German club Kaiserslautern. On the way home the East German team bus made a stop in Gießen, central West Germany, Eigendorf quietly slipped away, caught a taxi and had the taxi driver drive him back to Kaiserslautern. Because of this defection, FIFA banned him for one year, he spent that year as a youth coach for Kaiserslautern. His defection did have its repercussions, his wife Gabriele had remained in East Germany, Eigendorf was planning for her to join him in Kaiserslautern, unfortunately the East German secret police, the Stasi, had Gabriele watched 24/7 and so it turned out impossible for Eigendorf to be reunited with his wife. The tragic end came in 1983 when Lutz was killed during a car accident, the West German authorities, the media and everyone else convinced the Stasi had had a hand in it.

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