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Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Tale Of Two Germanies (1945-1990)

Although things never really exploded, soccer matches between East Germany and West Germany were always something special for both teams. Teams from both countries met each other mostly in European or Intertoto Cup, friendlies were often forbidden between 1945 and 1990. I try not to give to much attention to all the political turmoil surrounding these games, but focus on the events on the soccer pitch.  


After the Second World War, Germany wasn’t allowed to compete internationally for a while. West Germany played their first match after the war against Switzerland, on November 22, 1950, winning 1-0. East Germany made their debut on the international stage two years later. On September 21, 1952 they lost 3-0 to Poland in Warsaw. In 1954, West Germany surprisingly beat Hungary to be crowned World Champion in Switzerland. In East Germany, people were also very excited about this.
That showed two years later, when a club from West Germany played a friendly match in East Germany for the very first time. 1.FC Kaiserslautern travelled to Leipzig to play champion SC Wismut Karl-Marx-Stadt on October 6, 1956. The Red Devils, with five ‘World Champions’ in their team, won 5-3. Captain Fritz Walter made a stunning goal with his back heel, while diving forward. No less than 120,000 soccer fans were delighted to see such a great team from West Germany, with no hostility at all. The friendliness surrounding this match sadly was an exception.

At the Olympics


As all the commotion regarding the Olympic Games proved. The IOC didn’t want two German soccer teams at the Olympics. They preferred one, if possible, combined team. As East-Germany declined in 1956, a West German team could compete that year in Melbourne at the Olympics. Unsuccessfully, as they lost 2-1 against the Soviet Union and were immediately out of the tournament. Four years later, both countries wanted to participate in Rome. Negotiations were fruitless, until the IOC ordered both countries to pick dates and venues for two matches in 1959, to determine who eventually could go to Rome. The West German Soccer Association was afraid for who knows what, and insisted both matches be played behind closed doors. The first was in East Berlin, which West Germany surprisingly won 2-0. There was an own goal by Dieter Fischer and a goal by Gert “Charley” Dörfel, who later had a brilliant career at Hamburger SV. The return saw West Germany winning again, 2-1 in Düsseldorf. This time the goals were scored by Joachim Thimm, Heinz Wilkening and DDR-player Günter Schröter. It was totally unexpected, as East Germany was allowed to use full internationals, while West Germany had to line up amateurs without any international experience. In the end, West Germany didn’t make it to Rome as they were clearly beaten by Poland during the regular qualification.
Still, it was slightly eerie, knowing that young men, who shared the same nationality until 1945, now played each other in two matches without having any contact whatsoever between them around those games. It was forbidden as their counties were enemies now.

Meeting in Munich


Hitzfeld scoring 2-2
Four years later, September 1963, the same procedure was held for the Olympic Games in Tokyo, luckily this time the matches were open for spectators. East Germany were the far better team in the match in Karl-Marx-Stadt (3-0), West Germany’s response, a 2-1 victory in Hannover, was to not enough.  From 1968 onwards both Germany’s were allowed to qualify for the Olympics. In 1972 they met again at the Olympic tournament in Munich. Host West Germany met East Germany in the second round, with both teams having a chance to qualify for the final. West Germany had a strong but young team with several players, like Heiner Baltes, waiting to sign a professional contract so they could compete at the Olympics. Still, the likes of Bernd Nickel (Eintracht Frankfurt), Ottmar Hitzfeld (FC Basel) and 20-year old star player Uli Hoeness weren’t strong enough to win this match. It ended 3-2 to East Germany, with goals from Jürgen Pommerenke, Joachim Streich and Eberhard Vogel for East Germany, and Hoeness and Hitzfeld for West Germany.

Big match at the World Cup


Two years later, the stakes were even higher at the World Cup 1974 in West Germany, East Germany was drawn into the same group as the hosts. It would be the first and last time the two would play a match at top level. On Saturday, June 22, they met at the Volkspark Stadium in Hamburg. Both teams had already qualified for the Second Round, there was only prestige at stake. First Jürgen Grabowski (West) and Hans-Jürgen Kreische (East) both missed a very big chance from a short distance, Gerd Müller hit the post. Overall West Germany was the slightly better team, but East Germany won the match 1-0 thanks to a goal by Jürgen Sparwasser in the 77th minute.
Hell broke loose in West Germany, after a rather disappointing first round. Bernd Cullmann lost his place in the starting eleven, Bernd Hölzenbein replaced him. But it also changed the attitude of the West Germans. They had to step up a little, and they did so in the next four games. Losing against East Germany might even have been a blessing in disguise for West Germany. Qualified as number two from the group, West Germany avoided playing the Netherlands, the superior team in the first round, and world champion Brazil. Meanwhile, East Germany was very pleased with their win. During the seventies, East Germany had a golden soccer generation, and winning against enemy West Germany was almost as important as winning the Olympic gold medal in 1976. After the match in Hamburg, both teams never met again. They were drawn together for the qualification for the European Championship in 1992, but those matches were never played, because the Wall came down.

Intertoto Matches


On club level, East and West met each other all the time. In the European Cups, and even more often in the Intertoto Cup. Although there was some prejudice and hostility from both sides during most of those matches. Both countries always emphasized the differences between the two countries, never the common ground they of course still had.
In the European Cup, it wasn’t until 1973, that teams from East and West Germany finally met. It could have been much earlier, but the city team of Cologne declined their participation for the first edition of the Intercities Fairs Cup (later UEFA Cup) in 1955, when they had to play Leipzig. This way, the Intertoto Cup had the honor of hosting the very first meeting. On July 9, 1961, Vfl Osnabrück played at home against Motor Jena. Motor Jena won 1-0 (goal by Roland Ducke), topping that at home with a 5-0 victory. East and West German teams met again in the Intertoto Cup on eighteen occassions, despite East Germany not competing in this cup during the seventies. This is a full list of all these matches, in bold the winner:


Season
Match (first team played at home first)
Result 1
Result 2
1961-62
Vfl Osnabrück (W) – Motor Jena (E)
0-1
0-5
1961-62
Lokomotive Leipzig (E) – Kickers Offenbach
2-1
2-1
1964-65
Hertha BSC (W) – SC Leipzig (E)
1-4
1-4
1966-67
Karlsruhe SC (W) – Hansa Rostock (E)
2-1
2-0
1966-67
Eintracht Braunschweig (W) – Carl Zeiss Jena (E)
2-3
1-2
1966-67
Vorwärts Berlin (E) – Borussia Neunkirchen (W)
2-1
4-2
1967
Lokomotive Leipzig (E) – Hannover 96 (W)
1-2
1-2
1984
1.FC Magdeburg (E) – 1.FC Nürnberg (W)
3-0
2-2
1985
Rot-Weiss Erfurt (E) – Fortuna Düsseldorf (W)
6-1
3-0
1985
Werder Bremen (W) – Carl Zeiss Jena (E)
3-0
2-2
1985
Wismut Aue (E) – Eintracht Braunschweig (W)
3-2
1-2
1986
Carl Zeiss Jena (E) – 1.FC Saarbrücken (W)
3-1
2-0
1986
Union Berlin (E) – Bayer Uerdingen (W)
3-2
0-3
1988
Bayer Uerdingen (W) – 1.FC Magdeburg (E)
2-0
2-1
1989
1.FC Kaiserslautern (W) – Carl Zeiss Jena (E)
3-1
3-1
1990
Energie Cottbus (E) – 1.FC Kaiserslautern (W)
4-0
2-2
1990
Karlsruhe SC (W) – Hansa Rostock (E)
4-1
1-2
1990
Chemnitzer FC (E) – Fortuna Düsseldorf (W)
2-0
0-2
1990
Bayer Uerdingen (W) – FC Berlin (E)
3-0
2-1

(W) = West Germany
(E) = East Germany

Of these 19 double meetings, nine were won by East Germany, eight by West Germany with no winner on two occasions. A great result for East Germany of course, who probably were also more eager to do well in these matches, as a win would give them a lot of prestige in their own country. For most clubs from West Germany, they were meaningful preparation matches for the Bundesliga season at the most.

European Cup


Uli Hoeness
While the Intertoto Cup matches hardly had value to West German teams, the European Cup of course is a whole different story. In 1973, Bayern Munich and Dynamo Dresden were the first two teams to meet, Bayern being the favorite. At home they won 4-3 win, after trailing 0-1 and 2-3. So it promised to be an close match in Dresden two weeks later. Lots of East German soccer fans were very excited thinking of the visit of Bayern Munich to Dresden and went to the hotel to catch a glimpse of the stars. But Bayern wasn’t there. They were afraid something would go wrong in East Germany, perhaps with the food, or with Dresden fans making noise during the night in front of the hotel. So they decided to travel to Dresden by bus on the match day, which was very rare and against UEFA relugations. Anyway, after 58 minutes in another close game (0-2 by two Uli Hoeness-goals, then 3-2 and an advantage on away goals for Dresden), Gerd Müller scored the all decisive equalizer: 3-3 and Bayern were through to the next round.

No Super Cup in 1974


Still, not all was well between the two countries. Although everybody agreed to play European matches against each other, there still was a lot of animosity. After beating Dynamo Dresden, Bayern Munich was unstoppable and won the European Champions Cup in 1974, while 1.FC Magdeburg took the European Cup Winners Cup the same year. This meant they should meet to play for the European Super Cup, home and away. But somehow the two clubs couldn’t find dates for those matches and they were never played. Of course, this had everything to do with the cold war between the two Germanies, they didn’t want to play each other. 
It was also not done to arrange friendly matches between clubs. It was even prohibited from 1961 (the building of the Wall) onwards, until by 1975 tension had eased and 1.FC Kaiserslautern got the kick-off with a match at home against Carl Zeiss Jena, losing 0-1. East Germany officially didn’t call these matches friendlies - as West Germany still was very much the enemy - but Internationaler Fussball-Vergleich (something like International Football Comparison Game).

Looking at the European Cup history, West Germany clearly has the upper hand in meetings with East German Clubs. These are all the results, with the winners in bold:
 
Season
Match (first team played at home first)
Result 1
Result 2
1973-74
Bayern Munich (W)  – Dynamo Dresden (E)
4-3
3-3
1973-74
Fortuna Düsseldorf (W) – Lokomotive Leipzig (E)
2-1
0-3
1974-75
Bayern Munich (W) – 1.FC Magdeburg (E)
3-2
2-1
1974-75
Hamburger SV (W) – Dynamo Dresden (E)
4-1
2-2
1977-78
1.FC Magdeburg (E) – Schalke 04 (W)
4-2
3-1
1978-79
Carl Zeiss Jena (E) – MSV Duisburg (W)
0-0
0-3
1979-80
Dynamo Dresden (E) – VfB Stuttgart (W)
1-1
0-0
1980-81
VfB Stuttgart (W) – Vorwärts Frankfurt (E)
5-1
2-1
1981-82
1.FC Magdeburg (E) – Borussia Mönchengladbach (W)
3-1
0-2
1982-83
Dynamo Berlin (E) – Hamburger SV (W)
1-1
0-2
1982-83
Vorwärts Frankfurt (E) – Werder Bremen (W)
1-3
2-0
1983-84
Lokomotive Leipzig (E) – Werder Bremen (W)
1-0
1-1
1985-86
Dynamo Dresden (E) – Bayer Uerdingen (W)
2-0
3-7
1986-87
Bayer Uerdingen (W) – Carl Zeiss Jena (E)
3-0
4-0
1988-89
Dynamo Berlin (E) – Werder Bremen (W)
3-0
0-5
1988-89
VfB Stuttgart (W) – Dynamo Dresden (E)
1-0
1-1
1990-91
Borussia Dortmund (W) – Chemnitzer FC (E)
2-0
2-0

(W) = West Germany
(E) = East Germany

In total, only three wins for East German clubs in seventeen attempts. Their best performance was without a doubt the double victory against Schalke 04 by 1.FC Magdeburg in 1977. Again with Jürgen Sparwasser as the hero. At home he scored three goals in the 4-2 victory. Away in Gelsenkirchen (1-3) Jürgen Pommerenke was the star player with two goals.

Crazy match in Krefeld

The two most exciting clashes were both won by West German teams. In the spring of 1986 Dynamo Dresden met Bayer Uerdingen for the quarter finals of the European Cup Winners Cup. The home match was won by Dynamo, 2-0. A good result to travel to Krefeld. It promised to be a close game, if Bayer Uerdingen would score an early goal. They didn’t. In fact at half time Dynamo Dresden was leading 3-1, and 5-1 on aggregate. During the break, Uerdingen coach Karl-Heinz Feldkamp asks his team to try ending their European adventure with their heads helt high, not to make it any worse. And Uerdingen did show character. They attacked relentlessly and pulled two goals back in the 58th and 63th minute, 3-3. With only 27 minutes left, they still had to score three goals. But surprisingly, they did. Uerdingen was on a roll, and Dresden just tried to hold on, but were incapable of doing so. “It was pure fear”, coach Klaus Sammer said after the game. And the miracle happened. Wolfgang Schäfer scored 4-3 in the 65th minute, Dietmar Klinger made it 5-3 thirteen minutes later. Another minute later Uerdingen got a penalty, which Wolfgang Funkel put behind goalie Jens Ramme, who’d replaced the injured number one, Bernd Jakubowski, after halftime, but acted very nervously. The match was won, and Schäfer made another goal to make it 7-3. To make things even worse, Dynamo attacker Frank Lippmann ‘escaped’ from the underground garage into the city centre of Krefeld, to start a new life in West Germany.

Televisions and stereos



Karl-Heinz Riedle (Werder) scoring
Two years later, the difference in standard of life between West and East Germany was influential in the European confrontation between Dynamo Berlin and Werder Bremen. Dynamo Berlin trashed Werder Bremen 3-0 in their home match, presuming nothing could go wrong in Bremen. But Werder Bremen officials had a trick in mind to make the Dynamo players thinking even less about the game. They organized some kind of auction at the hotel on Tuesday, the day before the match. The players could buy western consumer goods if they wanted: televisions, vcr’s, hairdryers and stereos. And they eagerly did. To finalize the deals, they had to come back to the hotel lobby on Wednesday afternoon, very close to the start of the game. So with their minds on the goods they just bought and carried to their bus, combined with the arrogance that a 3-0 lead was more than enough to go through to the next round, the Dynamo Berlin-players walked on the pitch.To be beaten by a highly motivated Werder Bremen squad, 5-0.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Biri Biri, The Legend From Gambia

Thinking about great African soccer players, Alhaji Momodou Njie ‘Biri Biri’ doesn’t automatically come to mind. That might be, but in Gambia he is considered a better player than Diego Maradona. Sevilla-bron Spaniards agree, although they know they are stretching the truth. But nobody will argue that Biri Biri was more instrumental in his Sevilla-years than Maradona was during his season at the same club.

Eugene Njo-Lea
After the Second World War, it became more and more obvious that Africa was a great market for soccer talents. Portugal and France quickly saw this potential and hauled some great talents to their league. Portugal for instance had Lucas Matateu, Mario Coluna and Eusébio from Mozambique, and lesser known players from Angola (Santana and Yaúca (both Benfica)) and Guinee-Bissau. France did even better. Hundreds of African players came to French league. Just mentioning Salif Keita (Mali), Rachid Mekhloufi (Algeria), Eugene Njo-Lea (Cameroon), François M’Pele (Congo Brazzaville) and Sekou Touré (Ivory Coast) says it all.
Back in England, everything remained quiet. Although soccer was immensely popular in for example Tanzania, Zambia, Nigeria and Rhodesia, English scouts were not looking for local talents in Africa to play in their league. Probably because the clubs thought those players wouldn’t never be good enough.
Salif Keita

Let alone if such a player was from Gambia, the smallest country on the African continent with a population way under one million back in the sixties. Alhaji Momodou Njie ‘Biri Biri’, was born in Banjul on March 30, 1948 and considered the best player in the country by far. There was some sort of national league in Gambia in those days, but it still was a miracle how the word got out to England that there was a potentially great soccer player in that country. Anyway, Biri Biri was allowed to travel to England for a trial at Derby County. The deal fell through as manager Brian Clough, who was always right about everything, didn’t think he was good enough. So Biri Biri went back to Gambia, continuing to play in the Gambian league. Of course he also played for the national team - losing nearly every single match as the team was very weak.
Then, in 1972, 24-year old Biri Biri finally got his break. Danish club B 1901 from Nykøbing Faster came to Gambia for a tour and Biri Biri’s club Wallidan FC was invited to play against them. The match ended 5-4 in favour of B 1901, but Biri Biri managed to score three goals. Danish coach Kurt Nielsen then asked Biri Biri to play with his team against another Gambian opponent, which he did. This time Biri Biri scored four goals, and he was asked to join B 1901 and play in Denmark.

Playing in Europe


At B 1901
Biri Biri was the first African player to play in Denmark. Because the Danish league was only semi professional at the time, he got an extra job washing clothes at the Nykøbing Faster hospital. Biri Biri didn’t stay long at B1901, although he was a regular on the team and did well. B 1901 wasn't making headlines in the league, but did reach the Danish Cup final. They lost 2-0 to Randers Freja and it was the closest Biri Biri would ever come to any cup. Then a club from Spain showed up and put him on a plane to Sevilla. Rumour has it, at first it was Real Betis who wanted him. But during the flight and the stop over Biri Biri was convinced by board members of Sevilla FC to join their club. Both clubs played in the second division, so in sporting terms there was no difference. Things are very blurry concerning what really happened, it is clear though that Biri Biri said yes to Sevilla. For Biri Biri and Sevilla the first season proved to be a troublesome one. As rival Real Betis were crowned champion and got promoted back to the Primera Division, Sevilla came in ninth. Famous coach Ernst Happel failed and was fired in January 1974. Biri Biri hadn’t played much under the Austrian coach (five league matches, one goal). After his departure, he performed a lot better (twelve matches, eight goals) in the second part of the season.
The team that won promotion in 1975
The next year, 1974-75 probably is the best of Biri Biri's career. Under new coach, Argentinian Roque Olsen, Sevilla finished third and gained the awaited promotion to the Primera Division. Biri Biri played nearly all matches and scored fourteen goals. He missed some matches because he would stay too long with his family in Gambia, for instance after spending Christmas there. Biri Biri mostly played as a right winger, using his speed and his skills. He could shoot with both legs, was a good header and full of tricks. And above all, he also was a charismatic man. No wonder he was a crowd favorite.
By gaining promotion Biri Biri, the player from tiny Gambia, was now playing at the highest level in Spain, one of the best leagues in the world. He played against Johan Cruyff on day five of the 1975-76 season, and six weeks later scored in the match against Günter Netzer’s Real Madrid (1-1). Sevilla FC finished eleventh, Biri Biri scored three goals and had a fanatic Sevilla suporters group named after him, ‘Biris Norte’
Biri Biri dind't play at all during the 1976-77 season, due to a broken leg. For the 1977-78 season he was fit again. It was going to be his last season in Spain, collecting 28 league matches and six goals. Sevilla FC finished in eight place, but Biri Biri was left out of the team more and more as the season progressed. So during the summer, he was prepared to listen to new options.

Somehow, there weren’t many, so Biri Biri came back to familiar grounds: with B 1901 Nykøbing he played a few matches of their remaining 1978 season. He stayed in Denmark for a couple of seasons, also being reunited with his old coach Kurt Nielsen, now at Herfølge BK. With him Biri-Biri had one last success: scoring five goals during the season he helped Herfølge BK to gain promotion back to first level in Denmark in 1980. He played there for another season, then returned home to Wallidan. In Gambia he hung up his boots in 1987, 38 years old.

The Legacy


Jatto Ceesay (left) as captain of Gambia
More than twenty five years later, Biri Biri is still considered the best Gambian soccer player ever. Duirng the early nineties, the first players from Gambia, definitely inspired by Biri Biri, found their own way into European soccer leagues. Like Jatto Ceesay, who had a great career mainly in the Netherlands with Willem II, later in Cyprus. Or Ebrima Sillah, with a career at Club Brugge (Belgium) and Rubin Kazan (Russia) and Njogu Demba-Nyrén playing in Sweden (BK Häcken) and Denmark (Esbjerg fB).

Demba Savage
Nowadays Gambian players can be found all over the world. Ebrihima Ibou was third on the list of goal scorers list in Belgium last year, Ousman Jallow had some fine years (2008-2011) in Denmark with Brøndby and Demba Savage scored 38 goals in the last three seasons in Finland.

Gambia is on the rise and Biri Biri is still involved. By his youngest son, Yusupha Njie, who has inherited some talent from his father. Travelling with the national youth team, Yusupha already had a trial at Norwegian club Brann Bergen and in 2010 his father gave him another change, at his old club Sevilla FC. But just like Biri Biri himself was sent away at Derby County, 17-year old Yusupha wasn’t given a contract at Sevilla FC. So he kept on playing for Real de Banjul, waiting for another chance. That chance came early 2013, as his club met Moroccan champion FUS Rabat  in the first round of the African Champions Cup. Real de Banjul narrowly lost on away goals, but FUS Rabat signed him four months later. So now Njie is playing in Morocco with FUS Rabat. Still only twenty years old, the midfielder might be able to take another shot at Europe. Just like his father did.