When Alex Ferguson and his Aberdeen side touched down at Berlin’s Schönefeld Airport on Tuesday 2nd October confidence in progression had been high. Aside from a defeat to FC Porto in April during the semi-final stages of the previous seasons ECWC the Dons had not lost in UEFA competition for almost two years. In late 1982 a SV Hamburg side including ‘Der Kaiser’ Franz Beckenbauer had knocked Ferguson out of the UEFA Cup.
Dynamo Berlin were an equally experienced side; whom could call upon experience from match ups against both Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa in the European Cup. By 1984 the side included a number of established East German internationals including Rainer Ernst, tall goalkeeper Bodo Rudwaleit and a young Andreas Thom.
Dynamo’s home territory was located in the East Berlin district of Pankow - the Friedrich Ludwig Jahn Sportpark being an open bowl named after a man who had been the inspiration behind gymnastics. Officially Dynamo were East Germany’s best side due to having the pick of East German football talent. Unofficially success was due to patronage from its secret weapon, the Ministry for State Security (Ministerium für Staatssicherheit) or as it is was commonly known - ‘the Stasi’.
Dynamo’s patronage came from Erich Mielke, the top stasi official in East Germany and a figure who had been key to organising the Soviet Zone in Germany into a socialist dictatorship. Crucially though, Mielke was the powerful body behind FC Dynamo Berlin and he would use his powerful status as a means of manipulating the outcome of games in the DDR Oberliga.
Football in East Germany became less and less competitive during the 1980’s. Players were ordered to play for Dynamo Berlin at the behest of Mielke whilst referees knew that a penalty for Dynamo would result in a foreign trip to officiate. As Rainer Ernst pointed out in Ulrich Hesse-Lichtenberger Tor!:
‘We had the best players, but when the decisions continually went your way you began to questions things’.
Players who dared to break free from Dynamo and defect were followed by undercover agents called ‘informelle Mitarbeiter’ (informal collaborators) whom would spy on players on behalf of the Stasi. One player who did escape was Lutz Eigendorf; a Dynamo Berlin player who defected during a club trip to Kaiserslautern. On March 5th 1983 he was killed in a mysterious car crash with evidence suggesting he was being followed by numerous Stasi agents.
It is now acknowledged by many that Dynamo won ten consecutive Oberliga titles from 1979 to 1988 thanks to decisions from bribed referees, illegal player transfers and numerous illegal practices. The most blatant act had been the alleged manipulation of the referee Bernd Stumpf during the 1986 championship decider match between Dynamo Berlin and Lokomotiv Leipzig; a game which ended in a 1:1 draw.
With Lokomotiv winning 1-0 and heading for a Championship win, a 95th minute penalty was given to Dynamo following a challenge on Schulz. It was eventually learned that the referee Stumpf had been a Stasi informant under the cover name of ‘Peter Richter’.
With over 200,000 informants the Stasi had effectively permeated every aspect of life for the hapless residents of the communist state for over four decades. But whilst the stasi could influence and dictate football results domestically where success was most craved - in European competition things were different.
Between 1980 and 1988 Dynamo played host to the cream of European talent in its yearly trips into Europe. Amongst its scalps had been Ruch Chorzow, Servette, St.Etienne and Partizan Belgrade but the side never got any further than the quarter finals losing at this stage to eventual winners Aston Villa in 1982 and finalists AS Roma in April 1984.
With the DDR Oberliga title secured again in May 1984 next up for Dynamo Berlin came Alex Ferguson’s Aberdeen FC. On Wednesday 19th September Ferguson welcomed Dynamo to Pittodrie in his programme notes. His notes included mention of Dynamo being ‘organised’, ‘methodical’ and made reference to the ‘patience of Dynamo’s play’. But no mention was made of the referee - Mr Marcel Van Langenhove from Belgium.
The 2-1 win for Aberdeen in that first leg could and should have been more convincing than the scoreline suggests. Only a cruel slip had allowed Schulz to score the crucial away goal making the trip to East Berlin a fortnight later a very nervous one.
On Tuesday 2nd October Aberdeen’s club charter flight to East Berlin touched down at Berlin Schönefeld Airport. In tow were a 17 man squad as well as manager Alex Ferguson along with his assistant Willie Garner. 75 Dons supporters from Aberdeen has also paid to be on the charter flight.
In his programme notes Dynamo Berlin Chairman Manfred Kirste gave a warm welcome to all visitors to East Germany including Aberdeen FC, top Italian referee Luigi Agnolin and UEFA Observer Wilhelm Bak:
“ Willkommen in Berlin “Dons” - ‘Verehrte Gäste!, Liebe Fußball-freunde”
As Alex Ferguson and his side stepped onto the Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn-Sportpark at 5pm on 3rd October 1984 it was hoped previous tactics used in Hamburg and Munich (where 0-0 draws had been attained) would be repeated.
The first half ended 0-0 with the Dons seemingly heading for the second round. Then on 49 minutes 18 year old striker Andreas Thom gave Dynamo the lead before an equalizer was scored by Scottish left winger Ian Angus on on 67 minutes and Ferguson’s side was in the driving seat..
Rainer Ernst, who would later become one of the first to move to the ‘west’ at Kaiserslautern then made the tie all square when he scrambled home on 84 minutes and the tie entered extra time.
Ferguson’s Aberdeen were eventually undone on penalties after a gruelling encounter. Dynamo ran out 5-4 winners with captain Willie Miller missing the crucial final penalty.
Success in Europe yet again was very short lived for Dynamo Berlin; defeat being tasted in the second round against Austria Vienna. That defeat again being all too indicative of the story of Dynamo were European success without stasi patronage could not be replicated.
By the time the Berlin wall came down Ferguson was finding his feet at his new home in Manchester and in his first season in Europe with United would lead the side to ECWC glory. Dynamo by then were on a steep decline, as despair turned into bankruptcy, and shame as the crimes of the hated Stasi began to come to light.
In the new Germany with the western streams of sponsorship sweeping in, Dynamo became an uninteresting and toxic brand to all. The stark transition from communism to capitalism hit the club and its cultural foundations hard. With its history tarnished it began to struggle and found it impossible to live down the burden of its history.
By the time of the death of its once patron Mielke in May 2000 Dynamo Berlin were a shadow of their former selves. Immediately after the folding of the Oberliga the club had attempted to repackage itself as FC Berlin but by then the club was down in the lower third tier.
Eventually Dynamo went back to being BFC Dynamo but the club have struggled ever since; continually loitering around the Regionalliga structure. As other former GDR clubs like Dynamo Dresden and Hansa Rostock participated in the Bundesliga and rebuilt club foundations, so the fans of Dynamo Berlin disappeared, drifted off and lost interest.
The colours of Dynamo live on as does the club but the once communist heavy club logo has gone instead now dominated only by one where the bear of Berlin dominates. The club now lurk in the fifth level ‘NOFV Oberliga Nord’ and no longer play regularly at the ‘Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn-Sportpark; with games instead occurring at the much smaller Hohenschönhausen.
Dynamo: Rudwaleit, Ksienzyk, Trieloff, Backs (Grether) Rohde, Trappa, Schulz, Maeck, Pastor, (Terletski) Ernst, Thom
Aberdeen: Leighton, McKimmie, McQueen, Cooper, McLeish, Miller, Stark, Simpson, Black, Angus (Porteous), Falconer (Hewitt)
FT: 2-1 Aggregate (3-3:Dynamo win 5-4 on penalties)