Germany is known for many things but one of those things is Football. The country of 82 Million people has a strong and unique passion and perspetive on the world’s game. Over the last years the Bundesliga (Germany’s top flight) has been regarded as one of the world’s most popular and prestigious leagues. With German giants and 5 time European champions/title record holders Bayern Munich and former European champions Borussia Dortmund and other household names such as Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia Monchengladbach and Schalke. With a nation that has such rich and noteworthy history that almost goes hand and hand with it‘s Football history.
With The Reunification Of Germany in 1990 meant a whole new era for German football meaning a merge of both leagues from West Germany and East Germany. With both leagues having structural difference and other characteristics that made them differ the merge of leagues only did damage to the glory of East German Clubs. In the 1990-91 Season of the Oberliga (East German League) saw FC Hansa Rostock be awarded champions in its last season in operation. Where has FC Hansa Rostock now? They currently sit in the Germans 3rd division still boasting large crowds but not eyeing at silverware the way they use to. East German giants Dynamo Dresden have been able to keep their names in peoples mouths due to their selling out of their home ground and their boisterous crowd that turn up every game. Where are the record holders now? Currently in the Bundesliga 2 fighting to make it back to the top flight where they haven’t been since the late 90s see Dresden another great club continue to struggle. Perhaps the worst of them all, might be FC Magdeburg who were previously European Cup Winners Cup (the tournament being taken and absorbed into UEFA CUP now known as Europa League) being the only East German side with a European Title arguably saw one of the worst falls after being put to the much lower leagues and only reinstating their status as a professional club in 2015 upon their return to the 3rd division of German football known as Liga 3. Why did these clubs and so many others from East German fail? Well unfortunately it was a series of events and decisions that ultimately put these clubs years behind their west German counterparts.
One of the starting reasons of failure was that West German clubs were richer than ones in the east, meaning they went right into buying the best players and coaches from throughout East Germany when the leagues merged. The biggest issue of that isn’t just the fact they stripped many clubs of their best talents and assests, it also included the fact that these East German clubs weren’t being paid the sufficient value of the talent they were letting go, which in therefore meant being underpaid. That leading into the next point, because East German teams weren‘t accustomed to the business and investing side of football meant they weren’t even aware they were being low balled. These football teams never had to take those things into consideration until the Reunification, since prior to the merge East German sides were paid and taken care by the state. Already behind financially, in infrastructure and in investment there was already setbacks from the get go. Meaning anything that additionally that causes harm to these clubs can be deadtrimental to the club’s future successes. More examples of the damage done was with multiple shady investors from West Germany buying clubs and mismanaging them even worst then the original owners and investors. With West German clubs ahead with a basic or intermediate level of understanding in the field of football investment meant East Germany still had more catching up to do.
With the already readjustment to the whole system other small things factors of the decline are that with the merge began more media attention and scrutiny towards players and teams which prior East German clubs were use to just not to that extent. Probably in my opinion which made things clearly difficult for Germany’s Eastern based clubs was the way it was merged. East Germany’s Oberliga has 14 teams while West Germany’s Bundesliga has 18. With the mash up of both leagues you'd think they’d be evenly distributed from both sides but instead all 18 teams from the west stayed and only two from the east were allowed to be added while the rest were placed in the second and even third divisions of German football making it clearly difficult to reach the domestic summit.
With the emergence of Union Berlin returning to the top flight and being able to have a Berlin Derby in the Bundesliga (Which partially inspired this article) showing that maybe there’s still hope for these once great clubs. Regardless of the current statuses of these teams there still packing Stadium after stadium. With the Bundesliga 2, Germany’s second division being regarded as the best second division in the world with the highest attendances of any second division and even competing against certain major top flight leagues and even beating a few of them in their attendance record. Even look at Dynamo Dresden how they packed Olympiastadion in Berlin which saw 35,000 supporters crowd in for a DFB POKAL Cup draw that there is proof these clubs fell off but haven’t died. These are indications that yeah they have taken a drastic declines in terms of success and quality but the one thing that has remained through this all is the passion and depsite whatever happened in the past or will happen in the future, the one thing you can’t take from these clubs are the passion, love and community behind them.