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No Club Left Behind

No Club Left Behind

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Published by Jude Ellery

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Published by: Jude Ellery on Oct 02, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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It’s been a difficult couple of decades for the football clubs of theformer East Germany. Take FC Loko-move Leipzig, a successful club inthe years of the German DemocracRepublic. They reached the CupWinners Cup Final in 1986/87, losingout to Dutch opponents Ajax, forwhom legendary striker Marco vanBasten scored the winner. In the1993/94 season Lokomove, re-named VfB Leipzig, were compengin the Bundesliga. By 2004 theywere bankrupt and the club was dis-solved.Reformed by fans, once again asLokomove Leipzig, the club has
since climbed back into Germany’sfih er. However, although thenew name invokes the heyday of theGDR era and though the club hascertainly retained a loyal fan base,these supporters cannot escape thefeeling that their team’s glory daysare not only over, but will never re-turn. Clubs rise and fall, but any fanof a ‘once great’ team will tell youthat 20 years is a long me for afootball club to fall, and fall this far.It is also worth remembering thatGermany’s biggest clubs have nottradionally come from the east.During the swi period of industri-alisaon its urban populaon grewrapidly, especially around the indus-trial Ruhrgebiet. The country’sbiggest clubs were born out of theRuhr and North Rhine Westphalia of western Germany, where the people – and the money – could be found.Even today, the best teams are sllfrom these areas, with clubs fromthe single state of North RhineWestphalia making up a third of teams in the top two leagues lastterm.But the plight of Lokomove Leipzigis symptomac of a much widerproblem in the former East Ger-many. Aer reunificaon in 1990East German clubs had to be imme-diately incorporated into an exisng,already highly compeve and suc-cessful capitalist sports system. Itwas inevitable that most clubs strug-gled in a system with which theirowners and administrators were notfamiliar and where they were at asignificant economic disadvantage.Saddest of all was the demise of suc-cessful GDR clubs Dynamo Dresden,Carl Zeiss Jena and FC Magdeburg,the Manchester United, Liverpooland Arsenal of a country which nolonger existed.Added to this, western clubs quicklysnapped up the best talent fromtheir defenceless eastern counter-parts, with players available at lowcost and keen to play at the toplevel. The German Football Associ-aon, the DFB, was parcularly keento see players like Jens Jeremies, Ulf Kirsten and Carsten Jancker move tothe bigger western clubs, somethingwhich became a feature of ‘90s Ger-man football. One of the latemovers across the erstwhile borderwas Bernd Schneider, who stayedwith hometown club Carl Zeiss Jena
unl 1998. Aer a year with Eintra-cht Frankfurt he signed for BayerLeverkusen, and, aged 25, made hisdebut for Germany. He went on towin 81 caps.Over the course of the ‘90s theonce-great teams of the East foundthemselves falling down the leaguesone by one. There have been a fewexcepons, with Hansa Rostock andEnergie Cobus pung up a fightaround the turn of the millennium,but 2010/11 was the third season inthe past six years without a clubfrom the former GDR in the topflight. There will be none next sea-son either.Not only have eastern clubs strug-gled on the pitch, there has alsobeen trouble in the stands. The riseof right-wing extremism among fansof eastern clubs became a worryingtrend, reflecve of a wider policalproblem, aer 1990. As these areasconnue to struggle with economicand social woes following the reuni-ficaon, eastern Germany has be-come ferle ground for Neo-Nazism,although both crics and club own-ers struggle to pinpoint exactly why.Several clubs have experiencedracist chants, polical demonstra-ons and fires atgames, parcularlyduring local derbies.This peaked aroundthe mid-Noughes, ata me when unem-ployment was sllaround 20% in some of the ‘new’states, more than twice the naonalaverage. The local derby betweenRot-Weiss Erfurt and Carl Zeiss Jenais oen marked by crowd troubleand an-Semic chants from Erfurtfans towards their rivals. Even re-cently, the ‘passion’ of some fans,largely, though not enrely, on theErfurt side, has seen opposion flagsburned.This hooliganism is by no means thefirst instance of violence amongfootball fans, and sadly, it won’t bethe last. Who can for-get England’s darkesthour, in the ‘70s and‘80s? Fan violence be-came characterisc of the English game, andwas oen nged withracial and polical movaons. Ser-bian football currently faces similarproblems. Economic and social
Who can forgetEngland’s darkesthour, in the ‘70sand ‘80s?

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