Their clubhouse may be decked out with celebratory photographs, trophies and pennants from many European campaigns, but Berliner FC Dynamo are record national champions like no other.
Dynamo Berlin, as they are commonly known, were the Schiebemeister, the cheating champions, who won the East German title ten seasons running through the 1980s. Backed by Erich Mielke, head of the hated secret police, or Stasi, Dynamo Berlin enjoyed favoured status.
Mocked around the GDR then rebranded post-1989, it has taken 25 years for the Wine Reds to achieve credibility, popularity and even success – Dynamo won the fifth-flight Oberliga Nord in 2014.
Dynamo Berlin started out as an amalgamation of the Berlin and nearby Potsdam police sides in 1953. A year later, key players from 1953 champions Dynamo Dresden, some from Potsdam, were ordered to join the new club, Sport Club Dynamo Berlin.
In 1966, SC became a single, football-only entity, BFC Dynamo – and began to get this name known around Europe. Although the Wine Reds beat Cardiff on spot kicks in the first round of the 1971-72 Cup-Winners’ Cup, in the semi-final when they met Dynamo Moscow, a case of the Stasi playing the KGB, the penalty gods were against them.
Two decades of subsequently short European campaigns, ended by Liverpool, Nottingham Forest, Aston Villa, among others, indicated the weakness of the East German league BFC were dominating.
Under Jürgen Bogs, with goalkeeper Bodo Rudwaleit, stalwart midfielder Frank Terletzki and striker Hans-Jürgen Riediger – and occasional help from officialdom – BFC became unbeatable.
Later the likes of Andreas Thom broke through, scoring against Sir Alex Ferguson’s Aberdeen in the dramatic European Cup tie of 1984, a penalty shoot-out Dynamo did win. Fans from each club remain in friendly contact.
Later Thomas Doll arrived, and starred with Thom in Dynamo’s last European venture, against Monaco a few days before the Fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989. A Ramón Díaz away goal on 117 minutes closed the curtain on Dynamo as a notorious football entity.
That winter, former East Germany’s top clubs changed names – BFC Dynamo to FC Berlin – and there was one last GDR season in 1990-91 before the Wine Reds were decanted into that graveyard of East German football, the Oberliga Nord.
Distanced, in name at least, from their sordid past, FC Berlin played their former prestigious compatriots before scant, partly violent, crowds in Germany’s third flight. Within a decade they were bankrupt.
The club, renamed BFC Dynamo, clambered back from the fifth flight to the fourth in 2004. It needed another decade before fortunes picked up again. First came the Berlin Cup win of 2013, a subsequent lucrative German Cup tie with Stuttgart and a winning streak in the league.
A motivated team of local youngsters, sundry Eastern Europeans and Africans under Berlin-born Volkan Uluc duly celebrated with 1,700 fans after winning the Oberliga Nord in April 2014.
Moving to their home at the Sportforum to the larger Friedrich Ludwig Jahn Sportpark, Dynamo now play alongside former GDR giants Carl Zeiss Jena in the fourth-flight Regionalliga Nord-Ost.
After promotion in 2014, Dynamo have moved across to the stadium where they played their European ties of yesteryear: the Friedrich Ludwig Jahn Sportpark. Close to where the Berlin Wall stood, this has been a sports ground for over a century. When it was parade ground, Hertha played their first match here in 1892.
Built in 1951 and named after the father of German gymnastics, the stadium hosted both major athletics meetings and Dynamo games. It was revamped and reduced to its current 20,000 capacity in 1988 –30,000 had gathered here in 1974 for East Germany’s pre-World Cup friendly with Belgium.
Further renovations are planned for 2015 as well for the sports complex around it.
Dynamo’s home, though, is the Sportforum Hohenschönhausen, just over 3km further east. Here is where you’ll find Dynamo’s Vereinsheim, the clubhouse lined and a seemingly illustrious history on its walls. Also part of an extensive sports complex, including the former home and current training ground of the Eisbären Berlin ice-hockey team, the football ground is a modest, 10,000-capacity affair. One main stand is ringed by old-style terracing, an equally old-school scoreboard at one end.
The Friedrich Ludwig Jahn Sportpark is a short walk from Eberswalder Straße station on the red U2 U-Bahn line, along Eberswalder Straße itself. It also has its own stop on the M10 Metrotram line, four stops (5min) from Nordbahnhof.
The M5 and M6 Metrotram lines serve Hohenschönhauser Straße/Weißenseer Weg, three stops (5min) from the hub of Landsberger Allee. Trams leave from the main road above the station, direction Zingster Straße (M5) or Risaer Straße (M6), arriving at the junction of Hohenschönhauser and Weißenseer. From there, either head left across the main road, and the sport complex is 5min walk up Weißenseer Weg on the right – or take the M13 one stop, to the Sportforum stop. The M13 is also seven stops (12min) from the hub of Frankfurter Allee.
Tickets are available on the day from the kiosk by the main gates of the Sportpark. There’s a simple pricing system – €18 in the main stand (sectors A-B), €10 in sectors L-O in the Gegengerade opposite, €10 for away fans behind the goal in sectors D-F. Women and children up to 17 are charged €7 in the main stand or Gegengerade, where the general price rises to €15 for derbies and major fixtures.
For any games at the Sportforum, there’s usually an across-the-board price of under €10.
A Fanartikel stand is set up on match days, selling scarves, badges and T-shirts. Look out also for a stall nearby where an enthusiast sells Communist-era football badges from across the GDR and the Eastern bloc.
Just behind the main stand at the Sportforum Hohenschönhausen, the Vereinsheim is the club’s spiritual home. As well as a wall of match pennants from Dynamo’s European days, a mural of black-and-white photographs from this same era displays their domestic domination. Note also the obituary of Micha Mielke, an ex-Dynamo player who died in 2009 at the age of 34 – perhaps a relation of the club’s former biggest fan?
There are more GDR souvenirs at the wonderful Zur Insel bar at 24 Eberswalder Straße, close to the U-Bahn station of the same name. Handy for the Friedrich Ludwig Jahn Sportpark, it’s a classic Berlin kneipe, with regulars around the bar counter and football-related paraphernalia such as a photo of the last GDR team line-up. You’ll find it just on the other side of the road from the station, above 5min walk from the ground.
Closer to the stadium but on the north side of the complex, near the Max-Schmeling-Halle, Meta is a comfortable corner café-restaurant, with TV sports, billiards, and decent beers and food.