Magdeburg 1974: A surprise from the east

THE year 1974 was a notable one for East German football; 1.FC Magdeburg won the European Cup-Winners’ Cup and the Deutsche Demokratische Republic (DDR) beat their decadent neighbours from across the Berlin Wall in the World Cup. Two years later, East Germany’s football team won gold at the Montreal Olympics. On the face of it, this was the start of something significant, but it wasn’t to be. The Communist party didn’t really know how to capitalise on what was seen as a talented generation and they were never as successful again.

East German club sides made limited impact on European club football in the 1950s and 1960s, although Carl Zeiss Jena reached the semi-final of the Cup-Winners’ Cup as early as 1962. Dynamo Dresden made the last eight of the European Cup in the mid-to-late 1970s and in 1972, Dynamo Berlin were semi-finalists in the Cup-Winners’ Cup. In 1974, as well as Magdeburg’s success, Lokomotive Leipzig were one round away from the UEFA Cup final, losing to Tottenham Hotspur. Although most clubs from the DDR were never involved in the battle for honours, they were, nevertheless, difficult and stubborn opponents, particularly on their own soil.

East Germany saw the Olympics as an opportunity to emphasise the country’s sovereignty and to gain recognition from the international community. Athletes were used as missionaries for the state and to give socialism some degree of personality. Sport was encouraged across the DDR and dedicated sports festivals and societies were a characteristic of everyday life.

The sports system was very successful, producing world class athletes, although rumours persisted, with some justification, that mass doping was used to gain an advantage. In 1968, East Germany were ranked fifth in the Mexico games, winning nine gold medals to West Germany’s five. Four years on, in Munich, East Germany were ranked third and won 20 golds, 23 silvers and 23 bronzes. Olympic football was also seen as a benchmark of the country’s physical strength and in 1972, they shared the bronze medal with the Soviet Union. In the group phase, they beat the West Germans by 3-2 in the Munich Olympic Stadium in front of 80,000 people. The DDR team included names like Jürgen Croy, Jürgen Sparwasser and Joachim Streich, while West Germany had a young Uli Hoeneß in their line-up. Magdeburg provided five players to the DDR Olympic football squad in 1972 and most would play a key part in the club’s golden period.

The state presided over a radical change in East German football that saw them dispose of old club names and introduce sports groups attached to industry or government institutions. Hence, clubs had names that included Chemie (chemicals), Aufbar (construction), Stahl (steelworks) and Wismut (mining), as well as the notorious secret police link in “Dynamo”.

1. FC Magdeburg was formed in 1965 following a series of practical and political moves that started with BSG Stahl Magdeburg and then BSG Motor Mitte Magdeburg before SC Aufbar Magdeburg’s football department became the club that won three Oberliga titles in the early 1970s.

Magdeburg 1973-74

PlayerPosD-O-BBirthplacePrevious clubEG caps
Ulrich SchulzeG25.12.47DarlingerodeLokomotive Leipzig1
Manfred ZapfD24.8.44StapelburgYouth system16
Helmut GaubeD22.2.46MagdeburgYouth system 
Klaus DeckerD26.4.52Salzwedel, EGYouth system3
Detlef EngeD12.4.52SchwanebeckYouth system 
Jörg OhmD14.3.44HaldenslebenChemie Leipzigu-21
Axel TyllM23.7.53MagdeburgYouth system10
Jürgen PommerenkeM22.1.53WegelebenYouth system53
Wolfgang SeguinM14.9.45MagdeburgYouth system19
Detlef RaugustM26.8.54MagdeburgYouth system3
Jürgen SparwasserM4.6.48HalberstadtYouth system49
Siegmund MewesM26.2.51MagdeburgYouth system 
Hans-Jürgen HermannA4.9.48StendalLocomotive Stendal 
Martin HoffmannA22.3.55GommernYouth system62
Wolfgang AbrahamA23.1.42OsterburgLok. Stendal 

Magdeburg’s fortunes changed when Heinz Krügel was appointed coach in 1966. When he was a player, a bad knee injury curtailed his career at the age of 29. He went into management and had roles with Hansa Rostock, Vorwärts Leipzig, Rotation Leipzig and Chemie Halle. Between 1968 and 1976, when Krügel was removed from his job by the East German FA, Magdeburg were remarkably consistent, finishing out of the top four just once.

Krügel was never really trusted by the Socialist Unity Party of Germany, who tried to influence figures like football club managers and players, some of whom were used as Informelle Mitarbeiter (informal collaborators), who would spy on their team-mates. On one occasion, the Stasi bugged Bayern Munich’s dressing room when they met Magdeburg in European competition. Krügel, when presented with the tapes, refused to cooperate, an incident that made him something of a marked man.

Magdeburg won their first DDR Oberliga title in 1972 with a 100% home record. They finished three points ahead of BFC Dynamo Berlin, the pet club of State Security Minister, Erich Mielke. The title was clinched in the penultimate game, a 1-0 victory against FC Vorwärts Frankfurt/Oder thanks to a goal from young midfielder Alex Tyll. Magdeburg didn’t start the campaign well, losing two of their first three fixtures, but their success was built on two long unbeaten runs, notably eight consecutive wins that culminated with the Vorwärts decider.

In 1972-73, they relinquished their title to Dynamo Dresden, but they won the FDGB Pokal, beating Lokomotive Leipzig in the final 3-2, with Sparwasser scoring twice. Sparwasser was to enjoy a stellar season in 1973-74 and would go on to make global headlines in the summer of 1974 for the national team.

Magdeburg were caught in a four-way fight for the title, with Carl Zeiss Jena, Dynamo Dresden and Vorwärts Frankfurt in the mix. It was only in the final fortnight that top spot was secured after a 12-game unbeaten run. But it was the European Cup-Winners’ Cup that really brought Magdeburg to the attention of the football world. They became the one and only club to win a major European prize, no mean achievement given they beat AC Milan – Gianni Rivera, Karl-Heinz Schnellinger et al – on a windy and wet night in Rotterdam.

Magdeburg’s team was youthful – they were considered a “focus club” by the state, one that had preferential access to talent – and very local, almost every squad member was drawn from the region and most were products of the club’s youth system. The player who attracted most attention was the diminutive Martin Hoffmann, a speedy winger who would surely have been snapped up by some of Europe’s biggest clubs if he enjoyed freedom of movement. Sparwasser was also rated highly and he was Magdeburg’s top scorer in 1973-74. Midfielders Jürgen Pommerenke and Wolfgang Seguin would also be part of the DDR’s World Cup squad at the end of the season.

Magdeburg disposed of Dutch side NAC Breda, Czechoslavakia’s Banik Ostrava, Beroe of Bulgaria and Portugal’s Sporting Lisbon to reach the final at Feyenoord’s iconic De Kuip arena. AC Milan, who had won the cup in 1973 by beating Don Revie’s Leeds United, were very confident of adding to their roll of honour, but their mood bordered on arrogant and they were certainly complacent. Schnellinger, rather foolishly, said a defeat to Magdeburg would be a disgrace for Italian football. Ironically, he was one of the players that was singled out for criticism after the game.

Milan started the final as if they meant to stroll to victory, but Magdeburg’s speed and fitness soon started to expose the Italian defence. The first goal came three minutes from the interval, Detlev Raugust racing down the flank, crossing for Sparwasser but seeing the ball skid into the net via Milan defender Enrico Lanzi. Sixteen minutes from the end, Magdeburg secured the trophy when Axel Tyll sent over a Crossfield ball and from a tight angle, Seguin fired past Milan keeper Pierluigi Pizzaballa.

Magdeburg were clearly the better side, but nobody had expected them to beat a club considered part of European club football’s royalty. Sadly, only 6,500 people saw the game, with just 288 from Magdeburg, most of whom were drawn from East German ships moored nearby. The team donned post-match bath robes to celebrate their victory, making for a bizarre scene, but the delight of the young Magdeburg players was there for all to see.

However, the success of Magdeburg drew praise from the media and Krügel was soon besieged with interest from clubs outside East Germany. Juventus, for example, were keen to hire him but there was a caveat – he should be able to take Hoffmann to Turin. Within two years, and another league title, Krügel fell from grace, accused of failing to develop East German athletes. He was suspended from football, later turning up in a menial role at a minor club. The state had effected punishment by simply humiliating him.

East Germany had a mixed World Cup, but they won their first stage group by beating the West in Hamburg, with Sparwasser netting the solitary goal. It was a major shock for the host nation, but they had the last laugh, winning the trophy against the migh-fancied Dutch. The scorer of the DDR’s most celebrated goal would later defect just before the fall of the regime. His name was written in very indelible ink in the chronicle of German football. As for Magdeburg, their success forms an important chapter in East German sport, an often forgotten slice of important social and political history shaped by the events of history.

Hamburg 1979 – the mighty mouse roars

HAMBURG is Germany’s second biggest city by population and one of Europe’s biggest sea ports. It is home to two major football clubs, Hamburger SV and FC St. Pauli.

Until the 1970s, HSV was an under-performing club. They had been German champions twice in the 1920s, but the Bundesliga, which was inaugurated in 1963, had been beyond them. In 1968, they reached the European Cup Winners’ Cup final, losing to AC Milan, but until 1976, when they finished runners-up in the Bundesliga, their league performances had fallen short of expectations. Some top players had lined-up for the club, notably the legendary Uwe Seeler and Willi Schulz, who had both appeared in the 1966 World Cup final for West Germany

That 1975-76 campaign pointed the way forward for the club. They finished four points behind Mönchengladbach in the Bundesliga, won the DFB Pokal by beating Kaiserslautern in the final, and also reached the semi-final of the UEFA Cup, narrowly losing to Belgium’s Bruges.

The following year, they won the European Cup-Winners’ Cup, overcoming holders Anderlecht in the final in Amsterdam. Hamburg were an ambitious club and wanted everyone to know. But when Liverpool and England’s Kevin Keegan signalled he was leaving the English champions to try his luck abroad, Hamburg were the first club to show an interest. Keegan had been very vocal about his intentions, almost inviting Europe’s big clubs to “come and get me”, but in truth, Hamburg would not have been on anyone’s list of likely buyers.


Manny Kaltz

Keegan moved to Germany and earned Liverpool a £ 500,000 fee. On a personal basis, he secured a lucrative deal that amounted to multiples of his Liverpool contract and his status as an international superstar meant his total earnings were around a quarter of a million pounds. Unlike some big names, Keegan knew how to manage his career and always gave 100% on the field.

Hamburg’s general manager was then Peter Krohn, an entrepreneur who was trying to elevate the club in the eyes of the football world. He latched onto the idea of trying out pink shirts in a bid to appeal to female supporters – a cliché perhaps, but nevertheless a demonstration of forward thinking.

The Hamburg side that Keegan walked into was a tight-knit group, almost a clique. There was some resentment around the arrival of the poodle-haired England striker, as well as the other main signing, the Yugoslavian defender, Ivan Buljan from Hajduk Split.

Keegan’s first season was disappointing, although he still won the European Footballer of the Year award in 1978 and the great Hamburg experiment almost ended after a year. His Bundesliga debut was not in the script, a 5-2 defeat at Duisburg, and it took a few games before Keegan netted his first league goal. But the problems went quite deep, Keegan himself felt he was not getting the ball enough and by lining-up in midfield, the club wasn’t getting the best out of their new man. Keegan knew it, the fans knew it, but the management was slow to react to the divisions in the dressing room or the fact they had an unhappy star man. The Hamburg side was mostly German as only two foreigners were allowed per team. Keegan’s relationship with the management was also rather strained and after a poor campaign, he gave the club an ultimatum – use me properly or I will have to leave. Real Madrid, apparently, were waiting in the wings.

Big man, little man

Keegan was talked back onside, largely due to the efforts of the club’s new general manager, Günter Netzer, who persuaded him that his future lay with HSV. Hamburg, meanwhile, bought some new players and hired a new coach. Horst Hrubesch arrived from Essen for £ 450,000 , a possible attempt at recreating the “big man, little man” model that had worked well for Keegan at Liverpool with John Toshack. Jimmy Hartwig, one of Germany’s first non-white players, was signed from TSV Munich 1860 and Bernd Wehmeyer arrived from Hannover. The new coach was the Yugoslav Branko Zebec, a slightly controversial figure who developed a problem with alcohol.

Felix Magath

Keegan was popular with the fans, who gave him the nickname Machtig Maus –  mighty mouse. He took his time to get on the scoresheet in his second season, despite the presence of the powerful and intimidating Hrubesch. That first goal came in a 5-0 demolition of Borussia Dortmund on November 4. Keegan was ever present in 1978-79 and, starting with his opening goal, he scored 17 goals in 23 games. He was well on the way to retaining the Ballon d’Or for 1979.

Hrubesch also needed a bedding-in period and didn’t find the back of the net for his new club until his sixth game, but finished with 13 goals. Hrubesch benefitted from the pinpoint crosses of Manfred Kaltz, an impressive full back who perfected the art of bending the ball into the area, the Banananflanken.  Hrubesch, who was known affectionately as Das Kopfball Ungehauer (the header beast), summed up the way the two players would link up: “Manni banana. I head. Goal.”

Kaiserslautern made the early running in the Bundesliga, but HSV closed the gap to one point just before Christmas with a 1-0 victory at Bayern Munich and a 3-1 success against Arminia Bielefeld, a game that saw Keegan score a hat-trick. After 17 games, the halfway stage, Kaiserslautern, Hamburg and VFB Stuttgart were separated by just two points. Bayern were way behind at this point, but had a far better second half of the season.

After the winter break, Hamburg appeared to be off the pace and earned one point from their first three games. By the start of April, a 3-0 win against Kaiserslautern seemed to destabilise the leaders, who then only won two of their last nine games. Stuttgart were also in the running but were scuppered by a 1-4 home defeat at the hands of Köln in their penultimate game. Hamburg, meanwhile, were in fine form and went 12 games unbeaten, culminating in a nervous 0-0 draw at Arminia Bielefeld that gave them the title as Stuttgart capitulated.

Hamburg were now uncatchable, three points ahead of their nearest challenger. There was one game left, however, at home to Bayern Munich, who had climbed into the top four. Bayern won 2-1, but it didn’t matter, Hamburg finished the campaign with 49 points, one more than Stuttgart.

Golden years

The 1978-79 season was the start of memorable period for HSV. In 1979-80, they reached the European Cup final, losing to Nottingham Forest and also finished runners-up in the Bundesliga. Two more titles followed in 1981-82 and 1982-83 and in 1983 they were European champions, thanks to a goal from 1979 skipper Felix Magath. Keegan, who had found the intense training regime adopted by coach Zebec too much, had one final season after the 1979 title before moving back to England and Southampton. He was by no means the only outstanding player to don the HSV shirt in that title-winning season, but he truly left a mark in Germany and paved the way for other British players to move abroad. As for Hamburg, who now find themselves in Bundesliga 2, the late 1970s and early 1980s represent a wonderful era in the club’s long history that they must surely long for today.



Photo: PA