Welcome back to the Football Special Report, a series in which we look at games that are noteworthy for unusual events on and/or off the pitch. After two gritty early-mid 90s affairs in Ireland and Scotland, we continue the era and the theme but shift over to the heartland of continental Europe as it began a new era of unity.
While the German political entity that appears on maps at the time of writing (it seems stable right now but you may be reading this 1000s of years in the future) seems a totally natural fit to the 21st century world, in the late 1980s many of Europe’s governments were “icy” at the idea of a potentially strong and militarised new German state, should the reunification of it’s two divided halves occur. In football too the potential was recognised, as Franz Beckenbauer predicted “Deutsche domination” (our words, not his) for many years to come should East Germany be wiped off the map, due to the quality of talent that would be combined in the playing pool.
But another aspect was at domestic level, and after German reunification in 1990, the 1991/92 league season was to the be the first that once again saw clubs from the former East and West compete against each other (apart from through European competition, which did occur throughout the years). Teams originally associated with the old communist regime such as Dynamo Dresden entered the Bundesliga, and in it’s second tier, 2.Bundesliga, the likes of Lokomotiv Leipzig, Chemie Halle and BSG Stahl Brandenburg.
East meets West in Europe, UEFA Cup 79/80 (a tournament that would contain a combined six German teams across the two states, and ultimately be unique for it's all-West German semi-finals) second round 1st leg, 24 /10/1979.
The above clubs had at one time been associated with the secret police, the train industry, the chemical industry, and metallurgy, respectively, within the previous state system, before becoming traditional football entities. Some changed their name to reflect this, such as Lokomotive reverting to their former VfB Leipzig title, and Chemie Halle becoming Hallescher FC, but the Dynamo Dresdens of the world held on to an identity they had adopted as their own.
As a piece looking deeper into some of these matters is in the pipeline, we won’t dwell too much on the topic here. But there was one club who’s name only changed by one letter (sort of) in this period in the above mentioned Stalh (translating to Steel in English) – renamed as such upon their backing by the local steel company in 1955 having began life as BSG Einheit Brandenburg five years earlier – who merely changed their East German “BSG” (Betriebssportgemeinschaft – Cooperative Sports Collective) to a BSV (Ballspeilverein – ballgame club, effectively football club) upon reunification.
Meanwhile in West Germany, another club had been created in a similar way two years before Stalh in the form of FC Bayer 05 Uerdingen, who sprang into existence in 1953 due to the merger of FC Uerdingen 05 with a workers’ team from the Bayer chemical plant in the area. After hitting their high point in the 80s with a cup win and some European runs, 1995 would see Bayer ditch Uerdingen to focus solely on it’s original workers’ team founded all the way back in 1904, FC Bayer 04 Leverkusen.
Bayer 05 Uerdingen home end with banners vs Athletico Madrid, Cup Winners' Cup 85/86 semi-final 2nd leg, 19/04/1986.
So the 90s were a decade in which working class clubs like BSV Stalh were shedding their communist-connected past and entering the cut-throat capitalist world of the west, just as Uerdingen were about to be abandoned by their own corporate interests which in turn contributed to a calamitous fall down the leagues over the years that followed. As the rich western clubs snapped up all the best players the east had to offer, sadly the system also took it’s toll on Stalh as they declared bankruptcy in 1998, replaced by non-recovering legacy clubs in the regional divisions.
But before all that, the two teams mentioned had met for the first time in that inaugural unified season via the northern section of 2.Bundesliga. We now look to the second of their two games that year with a fixture that was anything but clean and commercialised; so much so that it would earn the title of “Das Skandalspie” (The Scandal Game).
November 11, 1991: A crowd of 2400 are in attendance at the Stadion der Stahlwerker in Brandenburg an der Havel near Berlin, where local side Stalh Brandenburg call home. As usual we first take a look at the kits, with the home team using a “Chelsea style” blue/blue/white strip of unidentifiable make, featuring navy and white striped trim on the collar, sleeves and torso (and one short leg), and yellow “TRP” sponsor; very German, and all good stuff:
On the back appears a common German jersey trope in placing the team name above the number (as seen back in Retro Shirt Reviews #2). In this case we get a simple “BRANDENBURG”:
The visitors’ first choice jersey that year featured blue and red vertical stripes and so wouldn’t do against Stahl’s own blue. White was also an option, but an all-red kit was chosen with a shirt template featuring sleeve hoops and underarm panels, also used by the likes of Dynamo Dresden and Bulgaria (round-neck for long sleeve, v-neck for short):
Unlike their Leverkusen equivalents at the time, who instead used the company insignia in their crest, the logo of the Bayer corporation sits in the centre as sponsor. Evidently, the tight shirts of the previous decade are already beginning to head to the other extreme, but it would take shorts a little longer to follow suit.
On the back of the jersey the naming protocol differs to Brandenburg, as the city of Krefeld (located all the way over the other side of the country near the Dutch border) is represented above the number, within which the locale of Uerdingen is located. But Uerdingen also gets a place at the bottom, another positioning not uncommon in the country’s “trikot traditions”:
The fantastically named “Stadium of the Steelworker” is a classically terraced and fenced small ground (capacity 15,000), which one would be advised to keep an eye on in the background throughout. But getting to the match action, the first half is characterised by a series of wreckless challenges from Brandenburg with an apparent game plan to physically destroy the superior quality opposition:
Before long, a brutalised Bayer player needs medical attention. Thankfully for him, the most up to date procedures are employed by the crack physio team, mostly consisting of a draped blanket and giving the injured party a good, reassuring rub while a coach stands by shiftily:
Inevitably, after two enthusiastic challenges too many, the referee has enough and gives the first yellow card of the day to Stahl’s number 5 Falk Zschiedrich:
This is followed up by a vague incident where we are honestly not sure what is happening (if a German speaker can fill us in by watching the video in the link at the bottom, please get in touch!). Whatever has occurred, the referee once again summons Zschiedrich, who had not seemed to be involved:
Pleading his case, Zschiedrich’s teammates are incensed, particularly the number 6 who argues passionately and won’t get out of the referees way to let him do his job:
Despite this, the ref succeeds in delivering the red card. A slightly shaken Falk wanders off the pitch as his manager offers a token touch on the arm:
The manager in question, Günter Reinke, earnestly encourages his men to do things better. In the background can be seen an interesting corner section of the ground with a large German flag at the front; possibly the away supporters:
The hardcore home support are located at the other end of the ground, as demonstrated by the impressive array of home made banners (the way we like it). Prevalent on one flag is one of the most popular club slogans: “Stalh Feuer” (Steel Fire):
We are honestly not exactly sure which side these agitated fans are on or what is happening in the game, but their message is clear: “Hey kameramann, das spiel ist in dieser richtung!”:
Things also boil over on the touchline as what appears to be the Stalh assistant manager is provoked in some way and starts fronting. Thankfully he is prevented by a player and the other non- plying staff from launching what was presumably about to be a lethal assault on some unfortunate soul from the opposition:
After a goal we forgot to mention earlier in the game, Uerdingen go into the half-time break battered and dazed, but in the lead. The focus is on the referee though – in a spiffingly sharp Erima ref’s kit – as while still walking off the pitch a media person brazenly asks if he has lost control of the game:
During the intermission we see that riot police of several varieties are hand in case the crowd turn as nasty as the match, along with other top level emergency personnel:
The second half would take everything the first half had brought and double it, starting with undoubtedly the highlight of the match (which you will be already aware of it you have been following our Facebook or Twitter pages).
Just after the hour mark Stalh have a kick-out, but as goalkeeper Wolfgang Wiesner attempts to retrieve the ball a Uerdingen ball-boy scoops it up and casually flicks it in the other direction:
For one thing, this raises the subject that apparently away teams took youth players as their own ball-boys in this time and place (and presumably elsewhere). But evidently, as the boys did not move with their team’s keeper after half-time, scenarios of skullduggery like the above were bound to occur.
Wiesner, obviously a stern disciplinarian of a certain ilk – while no doubt also motivated by the personal slight – immediately takes matters into his own hands once he has the ball and proceeds straight to the offender. After a sort of faint-turned-warm up swing, the large 24 year old (ok, we were hoping he would be a more grizzled veteran for greater effect) delivers a devastating slap to the troublesome teen before jogging off like a remorseless terminator, while the other shocked youths react:
Besides the bodily harm to the culprit, it is an undoubtedly hilarious moment. The referee of course has no choice but to summon Wiesner over, and literally shrugs him a red car rather than show him one:
A kindly coach consoles the keeper as he leaves the pitch, but the ridiculous situation has meant that with two men down, Stalh also have to use one of only two allowed substitutions on a fit outfielder in order to put someone else in goal:
As is clearly customary, the TV crew are instantly on hand to get the dismissed players thoughts (as had been the case for Zschiedrich earlier in the game). While gesticulating in disgust, we get a closer look at his interesting pink and black Uhlsport top (Note: as this was the era when separate goalkeeper kits were not uncommon, goalkeeping specialists Uhlsport were probably not the brand of the outfield gear despite also later producing very goalie looking outfield shirts for the likes of Albania), which features diagonal bars coming down from the shoulders, coincidentally (or not) similar to the design Adidas had just launched themselves that Autumn:
Elsewhere on the sidelines, manager Reinke and his top coach consider their next move carefully. But the most important thing here is that we get a better look at his tracksuit top, which was visible briefly under under his jacket earlier. The design is of course the famous West German 88-91 template (among others, also used on official tracksuits of several teams) in a groovy colourway:
The next incident occurs on the 72nd minute, as Brandenburg midfielder Jan Voß (Voss) over-zealously cuts through a Uerdingen player while in pursuit of an equaliser, bringing him down:
While an innocuous enough foul, the ref deems it a bookable offensive and as Voß had already been given a yellow card…:
That’s right, it’s another red card and the home side are now down to 8 players. We see another crowd shot of what this time must be Uerdingen fans, who are clearly enjoying their long adventure from Krefeld:
The rapidly over-populating Beandenburg sin-bin, meanwhile, looks a very sorry sight as Voß has joined a dejected Wiesner and Zschiedrich:
Shortly afterwards, karma takes it’s toll on Stahl’s dangerous play as one of their own go off injured. We don’t see exactly what has happened, but clearly it’s something horrific:
With a large percentage of their XI now nowhere to be seen, the home team quickly fall apart and conceded two goals in two minutes to make it 0-3 with eight minutes to go. As the ball goes in for the latter, the bodily position of replacement goalkeeper Detlef Zimmer says it all:
The payback continues as before the end another Stahl player ends up on the thick end of a tackle and limps off the pitch in agony, amazingly leaving Brandenburg with only 6 outfield players in addition to their emergency keeper:
With their boys in blue now a bewildered husk, the home support are undoubtedly simply laughing in bemused shock at this point, although probably not overly surprised. But at the death, incredibly Stalh have the chance to score what considering the circumstances would be the greatest goal of all time:
It would have meant everything, but unfortunately the shot went wide and the game ended in a 3-0 defeat, with an even greater margin in terms of men on the field. It had been a beautifully tragedy and was basically a perfect microcosm of the season, as come May FC Bayer 05 Uerdingen found themselves promoted as league winners, while somewhat unsurprisingly the heroes of BSV Stalh Brandeburg were relegated in last place.