Keir RadnedgeComment


Keir RadnedgeComment

Dynamo Dresden, banned from Europe for two years, may never be seen again on the international scene. They may hold on to a top-two place in the last East German championship and earn a Bundesliga place next term. But the bankruptcy of the old Oberliga means they will struggle to survive in competition with the likes of Bayern Munich, Kaiserslautern, Koln and Stuttgart.

The Germans hope that the old East German clubs will be allowed one last hurrah in European competition next season. But the crowd violence that brought Dresden's Champions' Cup beating by Red Star Belgrade to a premature end also may have fatally holed a campaign appealing to sentiment and based on financial fright.

The hooligan explosion in East German soccer is a manifestation of the political and social unrest which became inevitable once the romance had been stripped away from the process of political reunification. Not only were 1,500 security men unable to prevent trouble inside the ground, but East German football out on the pitch was unable to cope with a game striding away into the future. Dresden had been outclassed by Red Star in Belgrade, and coach and former international Reinhard Hafner had no doubts about the facts of football life. He said: "ln the return we will attack from the start to try to keep our hopes alive. You can't roll over and give up in a European quarter-final.

"But we have no illusions. Anyway, if we do lose it won't be the end of the world. The important thing is to qualify for the Bundesliga." 

Dresden is one of the great traditional homes of German football. It was there, in 1890, that the first German club to adhere loyally to the formal laws of association football the English Football Club, was set up. It was in Dresden, on April 30, 1898, that one of the most famous old German clubs was founded, the Dresdner Sport-Club. Pre-war greats such as Willibald Kress and Richard Hofmann built their reputations there. The great English soccer missionary, Jimmy Hogan, coached the club and his influence rebounded in later years when a Dresden graduate, Helmut Schon, became world-beating manager of West Germany. 

Kress was an outstanding goalkeeper who joined Dresdner SC in 1935 after spells with FSV Frankfurt and Mulhouse in France. He played 16 times for Germany between 1929 and 1934. But even his formidable reputation never matched that of Hofmann - nicknamed King Richard and one of Hogan's most famous discoveries. He was one of the greatest German centre-forwards in the inter-war years, joining Dresdner SC in 1929 and playing 25 times for his country.

Hofmann scored a famous international hat-trick in a 3-3 draw against England in Berlin in May, 1930. It wasn't his first, either. A year earlier Hofmann had got the ball into the net six times against Sweden but three goals were disallowed by a referee who felt sorry for the Swedes.

But while Hofmann stayed on in Dresden after retiring, youthful teammate Helmut Schon did not. Schon played for Dresdner SC from 1933 until 1950, when he took advantage of Berlin's then open status to slip from East to West.

But while players moved on, Dresden the city remained fixed at the cultural and social heart of the new East German state. As such it unfortunately has lost ground as one of the bastions of central European soccer.

In the post-war reorganisation of life in the German Democratic Republic there was no place for anything linked to the disgraced years of national socialism and before. Dresdner SC carried on at the old Heinz-Steyer-stadion until 1950 under the title of SG Dresden Friedrichstadt. But life was tough for individuals and the club. Several players left for Hamburg and joined forces again at the St Pauli club. A number of officials moved west to Heidelberg and tried to run a Dresdner SC "in exile." The club they left behind virtually disbanded, then was reinstated in 1950 as the Dresden police team - SG VP (Volkspolizei) Dresden. In 1952 came another name change, to the current SG Dynamo.

In 1954 the club's future was again thrown into doubt when a delegation of first-teamers were despatched to form the nucleus of the new Dynamo Berlin side. The bitter irony has not been lost on Dresden fans. "Their" club created the Berlin side who have dominated, some would even say suffocated, the GDR championship for ten years. Dresden have been left behind just as Dresden have, in their turn, left behind all tenuous links with the old Dresdner SC. Even the colours have changed. Dresdner SC used to wear a red shirt and black shorts: today's Dynamo wear yellow.

But it was years before that yellow shirt meant anything on the domestic or international scene. In the mid-1960s Dynamo were relegated and, apparently, on their way - again - towards oblivion. Then they engaged veteran manager Walter Fritsch, whose experience and eye for talent turned Dresden around. In 1969 they were promoted as Second Division champions and the following season they finished third in the Oberliga thus earning a European debut in the Fairs Cup. Just as the 1980s have been dominated by Dynamo Berlin, so Dresden were the major East German football force in the 1970s. They were champions in 1971, 1973, 1976 and 1977, and captured the league and cup double in 1971 and 1977 under the inspiration of sweeper HansJurgen "Dixie" Dorner, midfield general Reinhard Hafner and inside forward Hans-Jurgen Kreische. Dresden also competed in Europe every year through the 1970s. They had made a false start in 1967-68, falling to Rangers in the first round of the old Fairs Cup. But throughout the 1970s they proved awkward opponents m the Champions' Cup and Fairs/UEFA Cups. They reached the UEFA Cup quarter-finals in 1976 and their victims in this decade included Partizan Belgrade, FC Porto, Juventus, Moscow Dynamo, Honved, Moscow Torpedo, Benfica and Atletico Madrid.

The 1980s were not so kind to Dresden. They won the East German Cup in 1982, 1984 and 1985 but in the League they were repeatedly in the shadow of Dynamo Berlin. European competition almost brought them more to celebrate as they reached the quarter-finals of the Cup-winners' Cup in 1985 (losing to eventual runners-up Rapid Vienna) and in 1986 (losing to Bayer Uerdingen). That was the beginning of the end. As soon as the Berlin Wall went down Dresden lost a string a fine players - the best of them, midfielder Matthias Sammer, joining Stuttgart and becoming, last December, the first ex-East German international to play for the new, unified Germany. Dresden also lost the last East German Footballer of the Year, striker Uif Kirsten. Now their own fans may have put the last nail in the coffin.

This article originally appeared in the May 1991 edition of World Soccer. Subscribe here for a limited time offer. 

Thanks to Bilderkiste for the image.