Heartily joining in the drunken celebrations as his beloved BFC Dynamo became champions of East Germany yet again was one of the few things in life that appeared to animate Stasi chief Erich Mielke. As that pudgy face broke out into an unfamiliar, if still dead-eyed smile, you could only marvel at the charade on display. How the head of East Germany’s secret police could demonstrate such enthusiasm for a success that he to all extents and purposes had ordered in advance spoke volumes about East German football and the surreal fiction that was the GDR state as a whole.
In its final days the East German Oberliga table became a thoroughly discredited recognition of political connivance rather than sporting excellence; where football was played for the benefit of the influential backers of state-sponsored clubs and rarely for the people who actually played or watched the game. And its rotten core was sited in East Berlin.
And yet while BFC Dynamo came to define the game in the GDR, Mielke’s pets were actually East Berlin football’s johnny-come-latelys; the malign and disagreeable version of an earlier and more estimable state-sponsored club shooed off the scene to make way for Mielke’s vanity project. This was a club of some standing, historically recognised as East Germany’s third most successful despite a de facto existence that spanned less than half of the four decades that the GDR Oberliga operated. That club was Vorwärts Berlin and this is its story.