Bierhoff and East German football ⋆ An Old International

Bierhoff and East German football

It is thirty years since East and West Germany merged and yet the footballing landscape is still by and large dominated by the West. Now Oliver Bierhoff has added insult to injury.

It has been no secret that since Oliver Bierhoff has taken over as manager of the German national team, the image has been massively improved – at least between 2006 and 2018. The World Cup in Russia was the worst performance by a German national team, ever and attempts at rectifying this, have so far not worked. In fact, the matches have hardly been sold out, the show around the matches has become too big, too polished, players more or less appear to be brain washed or at least so well drilled so as to not cause any hiccups in public.

The person of Bierhoff has become increasingly under pressure to reverse this trend, only to stumble at an important hurdle: East Germany.

For decades East Germans have been solid in their support of the team. During the 1974 World Cup most fans living on the Eastern side of the wall have rooted for the men of Helmut Schön and his captain Franz Beckenbauer. For a friendly in Poland there have been more East Germans present than West Germans. The boost of victory in 1990 was immense. Most fans even have a team in the West besides their local team.

Since the end of the GDR, most clubs from the Oberliga have fallen on hard times – so much so that the Bundesliga has only one team from the East participating: everybody’s darling Union Berlin. RB Leipzig do not count for obvious reasons. It does not get better in the second division where only Erzgebirge Aue are a regular. Their performance is indeed astonishing as the town inhabits about 17000 people, the surrounding economy is not the strongest, and yet the club regularly manage to stay up and outwit far bigger players in this division. For example Dynamo Dresden who seem to commute between divions two and three.

Most East German football clubs are gathered in the third division or even further down without much hope of ever getting back into professional soccer.

Bierhoff meanwhile is a director of DFB, Germany’s FA and one of the biggest sporting association worldwide. It would be natural that he knows a thing or two about football in East Germany and of course in the entire country. Yet, he does not. He openly admitted as much in a press conference, stating that he is

Not an expert on East German football but what RB Leipzig have done is incredible.

This is a slap in the face of all football fans who have been loyal to their clubs during the times of hardship immediately after the end of the GDR.

What Bierhoff has said is a declaration of bankruptcy! Nothing more, nothing less.

Former German international and Dynamo Dresden icon Ulf Kirsten has put it mildly when he said that Bierhoff’s statement says it all.

It is these statements that indicate what status or standing the Eastern clubs have within DFB. Little to nothing.

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