Saturday, August 27, 2016

BFC Dynamo –VSG Altglienicke (15-07-2016)

There are few places in Berlin where the East still is alive but Sportforum, home to the Berliner Fussball Club Dynamo, is such a place. It’s situated in a part of East Berlin that is not yet gentrified, although that seems a matter of time, and where the past holds more allure than the present or future.

It is mid-July but the weather is grim: cold, grey and very windy. This is the first test game of the new season that BFC plays at home and some 200 people have come to see the “DDR Rekordmeister” play. BFC was founded (only) in 1966 in the communist German Democratic Republic (GDR; in German DDR) and was the team of the infamous Minister of International Security and its even more feared Stasi intelligence service. Not surprising then that Dynamo was record champion in the GDR.

Those glory days are long gone. Like other GDR teams Dynamo wasn’t able to make the transition to a successful (all-)German team in the Bundesliga. In fact, it suffered even more from the end of communism, in which it had such a privileged position. No longer able to draft the best players, or intimidated opponents and referees, and without a strong commercial and popular basis, BFC has become a minor team in the united Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), now playing in the Regionalliga Nordost (Fourth Division).

This friendly against a local team attracts some 200 people, all hardcore BFC fans, mostly sporting gear and tattoos of the old communist club logo rather than the restyled new one – even though several of them were too young to have known the old club. Almost all supporters are male and white, many look rough. While the younger try to act tough, some of the older have the confident swagger of former hooligans. Dynamo is said to be the favorite team of far right activists in Berlin but I see no far right symbols.

The game is played on a side pitch and not in the dilapidated main stadium (which is a very modest accommodation as it is. I pay 5 and get a “bracelet” rather than a ticket (just like with concerts). The fans stand on one long side of the pitch, at times two-three deep, and seem mostly concerned with catching up with their friends rather than watching the game. Everyone seems to know everyone.

Both teams are very young, mostly in early 20s, and mostly white with several Germans of Turkish origin – very common for Berlin. The BFC players are clearly better, although their pace and technique is not impressive. In the 5th minute a defender of the visitors makes a dumb foul and Dynamo easily converts the penalty: 1-0.

In the 18th minute the Dynamo striker shows nice control, but follows it with a bad shot. The next minute a Dynamo defender almost scores an owl goal through a terrible pass back at the goalie (who has left his goal). Five minutes later a corner is finished with an easy header: 2-0.

Even though the final result is clear, and it is a friendly game, the tackles are at times reckless – perhaps because many players on both sides seem to know each other. The referee stops the game for a bit to speak to the two coaches to tell them to calk down their players. After several minutes the game continues, less edgy, but still with some tough tackles. In the last few minutes of the first half Dynamo scores twice: 4-0 is also the half time score.

The first fifteen minutes of the second half are dominated by the visitors, who seem more inspired than Dynamo. Then the hosts wake up and have some decent chances but the goalkeeper saves them. In terms of football there is little to note, and few supporters seem to be watching it. The most notably moment is when Dynamo has a corner in front of two of the middle-aged (ex?) hooligans and one of them says to the player that he can take it better. The player says “do it” and he does – very badly but the referee, also a local, is smart enough to let it go and then simply repeat the corner.

I left the game 10 minutes early, which I rarely do, but it was cold and neither team seemed particularly determined to score an(other) goal. From the website I learned that the final score was 5-2.

Even though I feel I didn’t get the real Dynamo experience, I enjoyed the visit and at least saw the core of this unique club. I will definitely return to see a regular Regionalliga game. You should too!

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