Sunday 13 January 2019

One Summer In Germany: 1974

When 1. FC Magdeburg strolled onto the De Kuip pitch in early May 1974 they had already been crowned DDR (East German) Oberliga champions, but now they had another title in their sights, the European Cup Winners' Cup. That May evening in Rotterdam was the beginning of a glorious summer of football for those living on both sides of the Berlin wall, a Magdeburg win would be followed by further European club success in the western half of Germany, whist once the club season had finished both East and West Germany would participate in a World Cup that saw a thrilling group match between the two, and culminate in hosts West Germany winning the World Cup for the second time. Here is the story of that glorious summer of football where a Germany divided into two separate states, east and west, would be for at least a few months united by the beautiful game.

This was an era before wall to wall television, where outside of the World Cup, stories from abroad were rarely told unless they involved British teams. So those two European finals involving German teams in 1974 are not remembered by many in the UK. But if you delve into the 1970s, football on the continent it has some fascinating stories to tell, especially with club football, and particularly when it comes to those tales from Germany in the summer of 1974.

The 1974 World Cup appeared all over British TV screens and by many of a certain generation it is well remembered, but our wonderful summer starts with the barely acknowledged tale of East Germany's only triumph in European club finals.

We start with Magdeburg but their Cup Winners' Cup campaign actually started some eight months prior to that evening in Rotterdam. When Magdeburg beat Dutch side NAC Breda in their Cup Winners' Cup first round tie it's doubtful it had occurred to anyone across Europe that they might actually win the whole competition, and when they lost to 2-0 away at Baník Ostrava of Czechoslovakia in the first leg of their second round tie no one would have given them a cat in hells chance of reaching the next round let alone reaching the final and winning the whole thing. Magdeburg, however, won the second leg against Banik 3-0 and Beroe Stara Zagora of Bulgaria were defeated before an enticing semi final against Sporting CP from Lisbon. A credible 1-1 draw away from home was followed by an even better 2-1 home win and 1. FC Magdeburg were in the Cup Winners' Cup final - the first ever European final for an East German side - where their opposition would be Italian side AC Milan.

Milan were overwhelming favourites for the final and so convinced were their supporters that the match would see nothing less than a routine victory for the Rossoneri that very few of them actually bothered to make the trip to Rotterdam for the match. As for Magdeburg the communist East German authorities allowed only a few hundred of their klaxon blowing supporters to travel to the game meaning a very low turnout in the stands. In fact the official attendance of just 4641 was the lowest ever recorded for a European final.

Magdeburg had a team completely composed of home grown players including Jürgen Sparwasser who would go to score a famous World Cup goal later on that summer, whilst the only foreigner in the Milan squad was former West German international Karl-Heinz Schnellinger. As the game got underway it soon became apparent that the East Germans were no pushovers and would be a difficult proposition for their much fancied opposition, so no one should have really been surprised when Magdeburg took the lead on 43 minutes.

Magdeburg broke forward through 19 year old midfielder Detlef Raugust and when he eventually fired a low cross into the box Milan's Enrico Lanzi accidentally hit the ball into his own net. If anyone  thought Milan would come roaring back they would be mistaken, Magdeburg looked the better side in the second half and in the 74th minute managed to find themselves 2-0 up. The ball fell to Wolfgang Seguin in the left hand side of the box and he was able to slot the ball home from a rather acute angle. 

Milan were in shock and couldn't recover, the game ended 2-0 and the underdogs had won. On 8th May for the first time in the history of European club competitions an East German side had won a final, with the 1974 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup winners being 1. FC Magdeburg. 

"Dear sports fans, I would like to congratulate you on this outstanding performance and I wish you continued success." Those were the words of future East German leader Erich Honecker, then already a leading politician in the country, in his telegram to the victorious Magdeburg team. Yes, in the year that shops allowing East Germans to buy western products were opened for the very first time, it was team of Eastern goods that had actually dominated in what was one of Europe's three major finals.
Whilst in East Germany fans in and around Magdeburg were celebrating their teams Cup Winners' Cup success, some 300 or so miles away over in the west FC Bayern Munich were preparing for a big European final of their own. Some things don't change, and even in the 1970's FC Bayern were damn good. Having just been crowned Bundesliga champions for the third season in a row they now had their sights set on winning the European Cup.

Bayern traveled to the Heysel Stadium, Brussels, to face Atlético Madrid in the showpiece event of the European club season having defeated amongst others to reach the final, the previous years East German Oberliga champions Dynamo Dresden 7-6 on aggregate.

The final was hardly a memorable affair, at least not during the first ninety minutes as the game ended in a goalless draw. But extra time was to follow...

The breakthrough in the match did not come until minute 116, Bayern's Johnny Hansen brought down substitute Heraldo Bezerra and that was followed by a Luis Aragonés free-kick where he curled the ball over the wall and past goalkeeper Sepp Maier. 

If Atlético though they had the game won they were however sadly mistaken. A long range effort from Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck in the final seconds found the back of the net and the sides were level. These were the days before penalty shoot outs and replay would have to take place.
The replay took place at the same venue two days later and the day after Helmut Schmidt was elected new chancellor of West Germany replacing Willy Brandt. Brandt had been forced to resign earlier in the month after one of of his assistants was found to be an East German spy. The West German public had been stunned.

The first game may have ended in a draw, but the second certainly didn't. Maybe Bayern's last gasp equaliser gave them a psychological advantage, maybe the fact that most of the Atlético side were over thirty meant they struggled to keep up the pace for another ninety minutes (certainly it looked so), but the fact is the boys from Madrid were outclassed as two goals each from Uli Hoeneß and Gerd Müller saw Bayern win the game 4-0. 

Party time in Munich and although they wouldn't have imagined it yet but this was the first of three straight European Cup final victories for Bayern, with the German champions defeating newly crowned DDR Oberliga champions and Cup Winner's Cup winners Magdeburg 5-3 on aggregate en route to their 1975 victory.

"[after winning the 1974 replay] We partied all night long," said midfielder Franz Roth who would score important goals in the next two finals. "The next day, we had to play in Gladbach [in the Bundesliga]. We arrived fairly drunk and lost 5-0. Luckily, we were already champions and the game did not matter."

The German football season had ended with European final victories on both sides of the border, and with club exploits over for the rest of the summer all eyes turned towards the 1974 World Cup being held in West Germany.

With West Germany not only hosting the tournament but also being the reigning European champions, some people considered them favourites for the competition. For the first time in their history East Germany had also qualified for a World Cup finals tournament and fascinatingly had been drawn in the some group as the West German's for the first group stage. The pair would meet in the final round of group fixtures and with the recent scandal of the East German spy in the West German chancellors inner circle it was sure to be a tasty affair.

Issues of money with the West German players demanding more of it meant preparations did not get off to the greatest of starts for the team and when the action on the pitch began West Germany opened the tournament with a mediocre at best 1-0 win over Chile in Berlin. The East Germans also won their opening game by defeating Australia 2-0.

Next it was West Germany's turn to play Australia, they won 3-0 but the performance was unconvincing and the fans were getting restless. Next West Germany would play their compatriots from the east who had just drawn with Chile in their second match and the fans expected a far more convincing display.

It would be an awkward meeting for the East Germans too."Many people [In the east] also supported West Germany. Many expected that we were going to leave the stadium having lost 5-0" recalled East German midfielder Jürgen Sparwasser. He also recalled the team bus driving through parts of the east where people were "waving West German flags".

The West German coach Helmut Schön had lived in the East until 1950, and despite his side having already qualified for the next round their was still plenty of pressure on him for his team to beat their communist foes from the East where he had once resided. As for the East Germans, they still needed a point to qualify.
The game took place at the Volksparkstadion in Hamburg and as it progressed the West Germans struggled to breakthrough the East German defence. If the West Germans were finding the game frustrating then it only got worse as on 77 minutes that frustration turned into a nightmare. Sparwasser collected a long ball from substitute Erich Hamman, rounded a defender and lifted the ball over FC Bayern goalkeeper Sepp Maier. 1-0 East Germany, and two thousand East German fans inside the stadium went absolutely wild. These supporters had been specially vetted by the country's communist government and were supporters of the regime that ran the one party state. These supporters were probably far removed from many other football fans in the east of whom as mentioned many were actually supporting their western counterparts instead.

That 1-0 scoreline still stood at full-time and the West German players who had spent the tournament build up demanding extra money now looked like overpaid prima donna's. Coach Schön was devastated, the following days press conference was cancelled but the show had to go on and the West Germans some how managed to pull themselves together for the second group stage.

Many claim that after the defeat against East Germany, captain Franz Beckenbauer took charge and made most of decisions with him now pretty much having control over team, and that coach Schön would have struggled to cope without him. Nevertheless the tournament carried on and next up for West Germany were Yugoslavia.

Whilst West Germany would face Yugoslavia, Sweden, and Poland, beating the West Germans hadn't done East Germany any favours. Topping the group actually ended up giving them harder opponents in the second group phase and they would have to face in reigning world champions Brazil, an in form Dutch side with star of the tournament so far Johan Cryuff, and Argentina.

The West Germans beat Yugoslavia 2-0 whilst their rivals over border lost 1-0 to Brazil. The West Germans then beat Sweden 4-2 but East Germany lost 2-0 the Netherlands and the fairy tale was over for them. Having beaten West Germany on their own patch in what was East Germany's first ever world cup finals appearance they would not progress any further, they drew their final game 1-1 whilst West Germany faced Poland for the right to come up against the Netherlands in the 1974 World Cup final.

West Germany only needed a draw to qualify for the final. The match was delayed due to heavy rain and when it did finally kick-off the players found it difficult to play football considering the state of the pitch after the downpours.

Poland had the better of the chances in the first half but the only goal of the game came on 76 minutes when Gerd Müller found the net to send West Germany into the World Cup final. In the final the Germans would face a rampant Dutch side with Cryuff and co whom during a stunning tournament performance had easily swept everyone in their path aside en route to the grand finale. Naturally the Dutch were expected to do the same again against the West Germans, and even though they'd improved after a slow start to the tournament the West Germans still didn't look in the same league as the Dutch.

7th of July 1974, the final of the 10th FIFA World Cup, West Germany vs Netherlands. 77,833 thousand spectators were in attendance at the Olympiastadion in Munich to see what they thought would be Johan Cryuff and the Dutch stars with their 'total football' win their first ever World Cup. For the Germans however being rank outsiders was nothing new, 20 years earlier in 1954 they had also been given no chance at all but lifted the World Cup trophy after a final in which they beat a much fancied Hungary side including the legendary Ferenc Puskás, a team they had lost 8-3 to earlier in the tournament. It was referred to as the 'miracle of Bern', could there be a miracle in Munich?

A few days before the final a German tabloid paper claimed that the night before their previous match the Dutch stars had been partying in their hotel swimming pool with naked girls, and as the final approached maybe some of the Dutch players were distracted by angry wives and girlfriends. Who knows if that was the case, but most people still had them down as clear favourites, and when they took the lead two minutes in the final the outcome was never in doubt, surely?

FC Bayern's Uli Hoeneß brought down Cryuff in the box, the Dutch were awarded a penalty without the Germans having even touched the ball yet, and Johan Neeskens scored from the spot. 1-0. For the next twenty minutes or so the Dutch completely dominated the match with their possession football, at times toying with the opposition, and facing up to these eleven Dutch men for the rest of the game looked a daunting prospect for the Germans.

If those watching thought the game was going to be all a one sided affair then they were however wrong, 23 minutes after the Dutch goal and the Germans were level. Bernd Hölzenbein was fouled and another penalty was awarded. Out of almost nothing the Germans were back in the game. Many accused Hölzenbein of diving but the penalty was given by English referee Jack Taylor and Paul Breitner converted from the spot to level the score. For many in the Netherlands the penalty is remembered for Dutch TV commentator Herman Kuiphof uttering a now infamous line: “Zijn we er toch nog ingetuind” – “They’ve tricked us again”.

At 1-1 the Dutch were still confident of winning the match, but shockingly two minutes before half-time they found themselves 2-1 down when Gerd Müller slotted home for the Germans, not only that but the Germans had looked the better side after the second penalty. Even so the Dutch were still sure they would turn it around in the second half. Everyone was.

The Dutch came out all guns blazing for the second period and dominated play, but in the words of Dutch defender Ruud Krol "the ball didn’t want to go in". Try as they might they could not find an equaliser and the Germans held out for an improbable victory. West Germany had for a second time won the World Cup. Cue despair across the Netherlands and street parties all over Germany.
It was a brilliant finale to the perfect summer of football for West Germany, a European Cup final victory for Bayern and despite losing to arch rivals East Germany along the way there was a World Cup win for the national side. That win over the West Germans during their first ever World Cup campaign combined with Magdeburg's Cup Winners' Cup victory meant it was also a fairly successful summer for those in the East, albeit without quite reaching the heights of their western neighbours. Although it would be more than fifteen years before Germany was united as one country again, for one long summer they could at least celebrate together their successes on the football pitch, and with many in the East cheering on their West German counterparts to World Cup success, it was a Germany that almost did feel united. It's just a shame that the politicians didn't see it that way.

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