That figure means various things to various people. It is the maximum capacity of the Estadio La Romareda, home of Real Zaragoza. It is apparently the number of people who die each year in the USA from antibiotic-resistant microbes. And it is the amount of inhabitants of the market town of Beverley, just north of my beloved Kingston Upon Hull.
It is also the number of fans that followed SG Dynamo Dresden to the Olympiastadion in Berlin for a cup tie against Hertha BSC.
You probably already knew that. We are, admittedly, a bit behind trend here, writing about a match that took place 18 days ago. But as FBTG has written more about the East German fan scene than that of any other nation state (past or present), we couldn’t resist.
SG Dynamo Dresden is the club Germans love to hate. A suitable comparison in for example the British Football fan scene is difficult to make. 2. Bundesliga stalwart Dynamo Dresden does not boast the success of perennial grumble fodder Manchester United, Chelsea or Liverpool. What’s more, Dynamo fans are a breed apart from the likes of those who kiss the badges of lower league clubs such as Millwall, Cardiff, Stoke and, yes, even Leeds United. It is a Dynamo fan who laughs at the moronic online troll regurgitating the predictable “Leeds wud of taken more” tripe. Put quite simply, “K-Block” ultras who pack the vertiginous DDV-Stadion each week are infamous for their exploits across Germany.
Let me emphasize the point another way. One night out in Berlin Mitte, a young gentleman physically halted me outside a bar.
Whose scarf is that?
He was not a bouncer, merely another merry chap doing the best to take advantage of the combination of his mid-20’s, a Saturday evening and Europe’s most permissive capital. His attention had been turned away from a routine conversation with his pal to the scarf tied firmly around my neck as we both reached for door handle of the same bar. He of course was not to know in a split second that the vivid combination of black and amber were the proud colours of Hull City AFC. So conditioned was his vitriol for Dynamo Dresden fans that he thought not twice about interrupting both our evenings to inquire as to the nature of my attire. I assure you, his hostility towards what the scarf represented was tangible through the grip he had on my shoulders.
I calmly took off the scarf, held it aloft and affectionately proclaimed my team affiliation for all in the vicinity to see. He had not heard of Hull City, as is often the case when I make the mistake of thinking my club is more important that it actually is, yet admired my guile with a smile. Somewhat abashed by his abrupt and confrontational introduction to me that he mistakenly felt was warranted, the junger Typ stood aside and held the door open for me.
Actual Dynamo Dresden fans would have undoubtedly lost their scarf, their dignity, their evening or all three in this situation. The scope and the scale to which they support their club home and away is self-evident in the numbers they took to a DFB Pokal cup tie in Berlin, and the level of hatred that their collective actions inspire in their counterparts from Bayern to Bremen via Berlin I feel is beautifully articulated in this drunk lad’s alacrity to beat my brains out for simply wearing what he thought was a SG Dynamo Dresden scarf.
Dresden to Berlin of course is not a huge distance. It takes little over 2 hours on a coach to travel that 200km. This of course accounts to some degree for a good away turnout at the fixture in question. But when have you ever heard of a club taking 35,000 fans away to a 2nd round cup tie? Hate Dynamo as much as you want, but you cannot fail to be impressed. It is worth noting however that Berlin is a city that holds a position of prominence in the fan folklore of Dynamo Dresden, a sort of spirituality if you will, though far from being positive.
The club started out life in 1953 during the Cold War as a puppet for the Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands in the German Democratic Republic. Football in Communist East Germany was nothing more than a chessboard for the various state-run enterprises running clubs that effectively represented their interests in the arena of sport. Naturally, the political party of the single-party state needed in on the action as well. With the backing of a paranoid political party that saw Football as a medium through which to convince regular GDR citizens of the regime’s legitimacy, recourse-endowed SG Dynamo Dresden was a constant power in East German Football, no doubt aided by the SED’s and the Ministerium für Staatsicherheit‘s or “Stasi’s” ability to influence humble referees.
Yet over time, Stasi boss Erich Mielke began to convince himself that the Football team representing the regime should be logically located within the capital. Late in 1963, plans were drawn to forcibly transport the existing SG Dynamo Dresden to East Berlin, from where new outfit BFC Dynamo would compete, along with a full cadre of East Germany’s greatest talent. Overnight, Dresdener Football fans were robbed of their beloved team without apology or compensation.
In the world of Cold War Communist Football, most clubs received backing from a nationalised institution. Yet some were able to function independently of any political or industrial entity as most modern amateur Football clubs do to this day. Fans of Dynamo Dresden simply decided to build their own club in 1964, which is the team that has become so loathed to this day, long after German reunification and the demise of BFC Dynamo to the lower leagues.
1964 is the number so frequently quoted on fan merchandise and graffiti as being the founding year of SG Dyanmo Dresden. Yet it is also the founding year of the Dresdener distaste for everything and anything that represents Berlin. BFC Dynamo of course sits at the apex of such fury, but 1. FC Union, Tennis Borussia Berlin and, most importantly, Hertha BSC are equally guilty of representing the city that robbed Dresden of its greatest pride. As such, an away day in Berlin at the Olympiastadion (coincidentally another German Football ground that has a complicated political history, having been built specifically by the Nazis for the 1936 Olympic Games) represents an opportunity for Dynamo Dresden fans to show that they have not forgotten, nor forgive, what Berlin has done.
The fixture itself was riveting. 6 goals in any game is always going to be a cracker, but a captivating penalty shootout and a pyro show for good measure make me a little jealous I wasn’t there. The favourite’s eventually left the Olympiastadion as the victors, and Hertha BSC will face none other than longtime Blau-Weiß adversary Schalke in the third round of the DFB Pokal next year. Though, as ever is the case with SG Dynamo Dresden, the story told of this match years from now will be one of the fans, not necessarily of the players.
And a final note to anybody who bothers commenting about the time it took to write a post about this fixture; your mother’s an Arsenal fan.