Dynamo Berlin, a GDR powerhouse between past and present

Dynamo Berlin

Germany is united, the Wall has fallen. And Mauerpark (the Park of the Wall) is there to testify to it.

A death strip transformed into a green area, literally reborn.

The concrete that once divided Berlin is now limited to protecting an immense expanse of grass. Every Sunday, in Mauerpark, there is the most popular flea market in the city, a place out of time where you can find frying pans, slippers, vinyls, Polaroids and Celtic scarves. And karaoke, the emblem of the new Berlin. Joe Hatchiban, an Irishman living in Berlin, every Sunday between March and October (weather permitting), brings a computer, an amplifier and a parasol to the center of the stage of a small amphitheater below the Wall. Anyone can sing, and anyone, regardless of the quality of the performance, should applaud.
The Wall, full of graffiti, merely adds color to the background and separates the park from the “Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn-Sportpark”, the stadium where BFC Dynamo plays (only) the most important matches.

One of the many places in the German capital where, as Guccini would say, “plots of the past are joined to shreds of the present”.

Because the past in Berlin is not so easily erased. Especially in the eastern part of the city, especially in Alt-Hohenschönhausen. There, in the neighborhood where in June 1953 more than 1000 workers went on strike during the workers’ uprisings, suffocated in blood by the authority of the newborn East Germany. There where the Ministry of State Security, the Stasi, established its main detention center since 1951. A secret place, so much so that it was not marked on maps at the time of the GDR. A place that has now become a memorial to remember the victims of the regime and its oppression.
A monument that is located a few kilometers from another piece of history, this time sporting, of Berlin: Sportforum Hohenschönhausen, the true home of Dynamo. It is the second largest sports complex in the German capital, commissioned in the mid-fifties by the authorities of the former East Germany. The center is spread over almost 50 hectares and surrounded by long streets and gray avenues.

Dynamo Berlin

Concrete arteries that still bear the names so dear to the revolutionary rhetoric of the GDR: Sandinostrasse, Simon-Bolivar-Strasse, Konrad-Wolf-Strasse, the latter brother of Mischa, the faceless man, one of the masterminds of the German Democratic Republic’s espionage.

BFC, in the days of the GDR, was a powerhouse: a team capable of winning ten Oberliga titles and two national cups.
Today he plays in the Regionalliga Nordost, the fourth tier of German football, and is preparing his ascent to professionalism. It is doing so through a thriving youth sector, in which coaches such as Sven Franke play a fundamental role. With a Berlin accent and an easy laugh, Sven greets us immediately after directing a training session, sitting on the bleachers of the Stadion im Sportforum, a 12,000-seat stadium that oozes history.

He, as a fan and then as a coach, lived the last thirty-five years of the club, at the time of the GDR linked to the state security apparatus. “After reunification, everything changed. The best players, like Andreas Thom, were sold and the club was reborn.” The past, however, is there and it is lived above all by the fans “For the most part ,” says the technician our fans are those of the East German times and the new culture has also developed always with a look at the past.”

The first to remember what Dynamo was and represented are the opposing fans:

Especially when we play against the other big names of football from the former GDR, the chants are often about that past – explains the coach a little disconsolately”.

But today’s Dynamo is trying to change that. “We work to always offer beautiful and correct football from the very beginning ,” he says. In recent years we have raised several boys who then made their debut in the first team. In the next few years, we are aiming for the 3. La Liga: growth takes time”.

Far away are the European nights, played at the “Stadion im Sportforum” and at the “Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn-Sportpark”, the facility that stands next to Mauerpark, where the old Dynamo played between 1971 and 1990 and where it now plays only the “high-risk matches”.

Gala evenings in which Jörn Lenz, the club’s current team manager, was on the pitch. He receives us in his office, on the first floor of the club’s headquarters, one of the few rooms where the trophies of the old Dynamo are left. He opens a small display case and indulges in memories, showing us some medals and some cups. “What you see are the only things that are left. I arrived here in 1985, at the time of the youth sector –Explains. And in 1989, after some training with the first team, I made my debut in the Cup Winners’ Cup.
A goal-scoring debut against Valur Reykjavík and the beginning of a long experience at the club.

It was a structured and very organized club,” says Jörn. And about the relationship with the Stasi, I can say that, for sure, the players didn’t know anything. We try to teach respect to the guys who come to us and give everything for the club, always and in any case.

says the team manager, surely.

And so, in the incredible history of Dynamo, contradictory values coexist: great companies, failures and a very strong bond with the GDR.

Because behind the kaleidoscopic graffiti of Mauerpark, under the dust that covers the trophies in Jörn’s office, above the bleachers on which Sven sits, there is a past that cannot be erased.

texts by Roberto Brambilla and Davide Zanelli
photo © Carlo Cosio/MondoFutbol