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Pride and prejudice and the Pokal

BFC Dynamo beat BAK in the quarter finals of the Berliner Pilsner Pokal on Wednesday night 2-1 after extra time, and with practically the last kick of the match before penalties.

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Photo by Klaus Oberst

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the league match between BAK and BFC Dynamo. It was the sort of game that the word turgid was dragged out of the language swamps for – Cro Magnon football – but more interesting for me was the burgeoning rivalry between the clubs. A new rivalry for sure, I surmised, but still a rivalry.

My remarks were immediately dismissed by Dynamo fans. They don’t care about BAK, a couple said. They are nothing in the scheme of things to a historic club like BFC. Whatever the teams respective league positions (BAK are top and Dynamo 11th in the Oberliga Nord – the fifth division), BFC have got stars above their badge, and memories of Europe and championships. The implication was clearly that BAK are an artificial club, based on false attendances and new money, and that their flat pack fan base will disappear as soon as the cash stops rolling in and the league position stagnates. BFC may be flailing, they said, but they have their honour, and their fans. The inference being for BAK that theirs were not to be counted on.

Well, I’m still not sure about that. I have seen no real evidence for the claims of inflated attendance numbers to dupe the authorities, and have no reason to suspect that they will implode immediately after this season’s imminent promotion. Yeah, promotion. This is the main crux of the argument against them. Despite the season having a couple of months still to run, BAK are the only team in the Oberliga to have successfully applied for the license to play in next year’s Regionalliga Nord. Even if they don’t win the league (although, again, they are top as we speak) they will be promoted.

Dynamo fans may not care about BAK, but they certainly seemed to care about winning against them last night in the BFV Berliner Pilsner Pokal. Many more were there than made the trip across to Moabit a couple of weeks ago, and as Norbert Lemcke’s winning goal at the very end of extra time hit the back of the net they were in raptures. Is it a sign of how far BFC have fallen since die Wende that their cheers were echoing around Mauerpark in the dim of the floodlights on their old stadium, or is it a sign of pride that in their darkest days those cheers can still be heard?

The answer, I guess, is somewhere in between. From outside, on my way home, it looked and sounded like the denouement of a great European night- not a scratchy, but hard fought, quarter final win- with the last kick of the game- against opponents who they disdain so much as to barely acknowledge them.

It wasn’t a great game, certainly not as bad as the last league encounter, but not only have the teams had a chance to work each other out a bit, BAK are so adept at keeping the ball and nullifying the battle, that once ahead, they can comfortably stay there for what seems like hours. And went ahead they did after four minutes. Pardis Fardjad-Azad finishing coolly from 10 yards. It was now up to BFC to chase the game.

That they did so successfully does them a great deal of credit, it took almost 90 more minutes for them to equalize, despite a couple of chances it would have been easier to score than miss. BAK weren’t so much playing deep, but subterraneanly. The technique of players such as Metin Cakmak and the excellent Ibrahim Keser is so good at this level that keeping the ball looks so easy. Maybe it was a mistake though. Dynamo was reinvigorated by the equaliser, BAK deflated. Once you have been playing with a calm defensive mind-set for nearly an entire game it is notoriously difficult to switch back up through the gears. They should have gone for the jugular earlier on. As the threat of penalties loomed the game opened up.

So there you go, Dynamo go through to the semi-finals of the cup that BAK took away from them last year. And whether they admit to it or not, they are seriously happy to have done so. I’m still convinced that there is a rivalry between the clubs (though it may not be as keen as some in the city – BFC will always hate Union more than anyone else), and am also convinced that when they meet again – possibly after the league reforms at the end of next season, or in this cup again – that memories of the recent encounters will come back. Rivalries happen that way, not overnight.

As for Dynamo, they now have the chance to do what BAK did, and – if they win this cup – earn some money from a first round game in the DFB Pokal next year. Maybe they’ll meet again sooner rather than later.