Dynamo Berlin, a journey between past and present

The Berlin Wall, erected in 1961, was torn down in November 1989 paving the way for German reunification, occured on October 3rd 1990 . Mauerpark (Wall Park) is a living proof of that historic event. A “death’s strip” converted into a green area and totally regenerated.
The Wall that had been dividing Berlin for decades now protects an endless stretch of grass. Every Sunday, in Mauerpark takes place the most popular flea market of the German capital. It’s a place out of time, where you can find pans, slippers, vinyl records, polaroid cameras and Celtic scarves. There you can see a symbol of the new life in Berlin: karaoke. Every Sunday between March and October, Joe Hatchiban, an Irishman relocated in the German metropolis, brings a computer, an amplifier and puts a beach umbrella in the centre of the amphitheater in front of the Wall. Everyone can sing and, regardless of whether the performance is good or bad, you have to applaude the singer. The Wall, full of graffiti, just adds colours to the background and separates the park from “Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn Sportpark”, the stadium where BFC Dynamo now only play the most important matches.

One of those places in Berlin where, as Italian songwriter Francesco Guccini says, “pieces of the past are mixed with shreds of the present.”

Because in Berlin the past isn’t so easy to erase. Especially in former East Berlin, in Alt-Hohenschönhausen. In that neighbourhood in June 1953 more than 1,000 workers went on strike during People’s Uprising in East Germany, violently suppressed by German Democratic Republic authorities. It was there that in 1951 the Ministry for State Security (Stasi) opened his main prison. A secret place which didn’t appear on GDR’s maps, turned after German reunification in a memorial by former inmates in order to remember the regime’s victims. Just a few kilometres away from that frightening place there is another piece of Berlin history.

That’s Sportforum Hohenschönhausen, the home of BFC Dynamo. It’s the second largest sport complex in Berlin, built in the 50s by German Democratic Republic authorities.
All around it, long grey avenues and streets whose names refer to old GDR revolutionary rhetoric: Sandinostrasse, Simon-Bolivar-Strasse and also Konrad-Wolf-Strasse, the latter being dedicated to writer and “Mischa” Wolf’s brother, one of the most important East German spies, known as “the man without a face”.

During the GDR era BFC Dynamo were a dominant team, winning 10 national titles and two East German Cups between the end of 70s and the end of the 80s.

Now they play in Regionalliga Nordost, the fourth tier of German football and the club is working hard to be in professional leagues. BFC Dynamo strongly rely on youth academy, where coaches like Sven Franke play a prominent role. He speaks with a light Berlin accent and talks with MondoFutbol after the training session of his team, sitting on the terraces of “Stadion im Sportforum”, a stadium with a capacity of 12,000 spectators and full of history.

As both a fan and coach Sven has lived the last 35 years of BFC history, even the era when the club was linked to GDR Minister of State Security. “After German reunification everything changed, good players were sold such as Andreas Thom and the club was born again under a new name.”
In any case the past is always present especially for BFC Dynamo fans. “Most of our supporters are the same of GDR era and also the new fan culture has developed always having a look to the past.” Those who remind BFC Dynamo of their cumbersome past are rival fans.

When we play against great clubs for former GDR, their supporters often sing chants on that past.

Sven Franke said it in a sorrowful tone. Nowadays, Dynamo are trying to change the perception of their team by people. “We teach kids a propositive and fair style of play. In these years some of our youth academy players have become senior team members, debuting in first squad. In the next future our aim is to be promoted to third division, but we need time,” Sven explains. A present full of hope which seems so far from the winning past of the club, when BFC Dynamo used to face big European teams at “Stadion im Sportsforum” or at “Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn-Sportpark”.
In some of those matches, on the pitch played Jörn Lenz, now BFC team manager. He hosts MondoFutbol in his office, one of the few rooms where you can find some club trophies. He opens a small glass cabinet and shows us medals and cups as he starts remembering his past at BFC Dynamo.

What you see now it’s the only things that survived. I arrived at BFC Dynamo youth academy in 1985 and in September 1989 I made my debut for the senior team in European Cup Winners’ Cup,

said LenzIn his first match he scored against Icelandic team Valur Reykjavík and that was the beginning of his long spell in Berlin. “During the 80s BFC Dynamo were a well organised team and with a solid structure. What about the club connection with Stasi? For sure I know that players didn’t know anything about it. Nowadays we try to teach respect to our players and in any case to give everything to the club,” he says.
The unbelievable Dynamo history is made of different values, great achievements, defeats and a strong connection with his GDR past all at once, because behind the colourful graffiti in Mauerpark, under the dust of Jörn’s office, on the terraces where Sven sits, lies a past you can’t cancel.

Written by Roberto Brambilla and Davide Zanelli
Photos © Carlo Cosio/MondoFutbol