There was a time when BFC Dynamo against FC Magdeburg was a big deal. A great deal of a bigger deal than it is now at any rate. There they stand in the history books, alongside each other in enmity: the DDR’s record title winner and the only DDR side to have won a European title. When they met in a play-off in 2001, having won their respective Regionalligen, it was a huge story, but one at least partially driven by a press desperate to point fingers at the barbarous Ossis in their days of misery in the lower flights. The stereotypical images of skinheaded men lobbing smokebombs and bottles around dwarfs any real talking about the game itself, or even the financial plight of the clubs at the time. They may not all be nice guys, but the reports do seem to have had an agenda.
It is hard to say whether there is a real friendship between BFC and Magdeburg nowadays. Certainly there is a connection born out of their respective miseries, and a sharing of sepia coloured memories in a land that time forgot – when they were both respected, if not liked. When their players were courted and idolised. Now, it seems, as though they are simply united in raging against the dying of the light.
We must remember that losing clubs such as BFC or Magdeburg would be a tragedy. You may hate them (and they don’t care – as the old Millwall song goes, quoted on more than one T-shirt I saw in the Sportforum on Saturday), but you still need them.
And finally, after a season that does an injustice to the word mediocre, it looks as if BFC maybe, just maybe, have found the makings of a side good enough to challenge back for promotion to the Regionalliga again. Admittedly Magdeburg were poor – really poor at times – as Dynamo pegged them back, constantly attacking on the left hand side through Christof Köhne and Christian Preiss.
There are few remaining crumbs of last years’ Dynamo side left. A wholesale clearout has left them with only Kevin Gutsche, Maciej Kwiatkowski and the excellent, though profligate, Matthias Steinborn from the previous year’s misery. Steinborn started alone up front, constantly with the ball at his feet, befuddling a Magdeburg back four who had as little idea about how to play an effective offside trap as a pot-plant knows about the process of photosynthesis. Steinborn’s deft little glance with the outside of his right boot slid just wide. Two minutes later he failed to make the best of another one on one with Matthias Tischer.
They are relying heavily on their numerous youth programmes to bring the replacement players through, but it was the shock signing of the summer, the former Union and BAK midfielder Björn Brunnemann who almost made the difference after BFC had conceded a sloppy goal that was barely warranted. He had been snapping into tackles all day, chasing and harrying, but after the ball bobbled back to him after a miscontrol from his former BAK teammate, Jörn Wemmer, he somehow contrived to turn and hit a hard, looping shot at pace from twenty five yards in a single move, a single swivel. Tischer managed to get his fingers to it and pushed the ball over, but it is a sign that the new captain is still able to do a job for his former enemies. He could even make the difference- it was a glorious attempt.
Were it based on possession and intent, then Dynamo would have won easily. And had Kwiatkowski scored his second penalty of the day, then they should have done too. His first had been hit, sidefooted, to the right. Tischer got his hand to it, but there was too much power on it.
The referee, however, blew up again twenty minutes later. Again Kwiatkowski loomed over the ball – he’s a big man – and again he hit it to his right. It is perfectly acceptable to hit penalties in the same direction, in fact the first rule of taking them is to pick your spot and never change your mind. This one was too weak though, Tischer greedily palmed it away, disbelieving his luck this time.
Within a minute Magdeburg had taken the lead, and this time it was decisive. Viteritti sidefooted home with comfort after a combination on the left as Dynamo were still rubbing the sting of the missed penalty out of their eyes.
And that was that. It wasn’t a game to set the heart racing (what friendlies ever are?), but was instructive to a point, and contained a certain significance in its understatedness. It was a reminder of how much times have changed for these dinosaurs of the DDR, taking place in what was the nerve centre of the former country’s Olympic programme. It was a time for a couple of thousand BFC fans and their families to enjoy the sunshine and to try and pony some cash up together to help their club.
For the first time in a long time, they may even find their way back on the field as well.