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Jacob Sweetman: That joke isn’t funny anymore

BFC Dynamo's 2-0 win over SFC Stern in the Berlin Pokal last week has led them to be drawn against the Bundesliga's Kaiserslautern in the DFB Pokal first round. A tie that gives them the chance to show that they have changed.

Image for Jacob Sweetman: That joke isn't funny anymore
Photo courtesy of BFC Dynamo

And in the darkened underpass

I thought Oh God, my chance has come at last

(But then a strange fear gripped me and I

Just couldn’t ask)

So goes part of the Smiths’ majestic “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out”. On my first trip to see BFC Dynamo play at home in Hohenschönhausen I noticed a banner in their traditional Weinrot colours that surprisingly bore the name of this song. Surely the Smiths are a bit sixth form for these guys, who (truth be told) were sporting uniformly very short haircuts. There wasn‘t a quiff in sight.

It took a couple more matches until someone pointed out something obvious: “What is a dynamo? It is a light that doesn’t go out.” Good point, I thought to myself, whilst still scanning the crowd for someone writing earnest prose in their diary. The reference still has to come from somebody.

But the reference also has a different side, the one in which a tired Morrissey has to look back at his past glories and deal with the here and now when he is simply derided as at best a throwback, and at worst as a curmudgeonly old racist, whose every outpouring puts a bit more tarnish onto those glorious, golden records.

Dynamo in many ways are as confused as an old star who complains about the levels of immigration in a country he left behind years ago. They are fighting against a past that saw them resented for their unparalleled successes, and a present that still sees them as representative of the darker side of football, the same as their former sparring partners in cities such as Magdeburg and Leipzig. They are often seen primarily as backwards (as opposed to the other kind), right-wing, skinheads.

Last week BFC won their first Berlin Pokal in over 10 years against the unfancied SFC Stern 1900 of Steglitz. It was the biggest game of Stern’s hundred plus year history and was Dynamos biggest for a decade. There was a crowd of 5000 in the Jahn Sportpark to watch it, and Dynamo was keen to not let themselves down. They have worked tirelessly to change their image and this game was important.

A huge effort has gone into the efforts from BFC themselves, programme notes rarely come without a plea to the fans to remind them that this about football, and the relative level of financial security that they have reached is partially due to these efforts. A new sponsor, as was announced last week, would have been more difficult to find even a couple of years ago.

Their efforts have been partially vindicated. Heiko Bonan, who led BFC to victory in the final, was momentarily showered in sekt by half of his team as they jubilantly burst into the press conference to celebrate. But the impressive boss quickly returned the conversation back to bigger issues, bigger deals. The important thing, he said, was to make sure they are in the reformed Regionalliga after next year.

He was asked what he said at half time – Dynamo had most of the play in the first 45 minutes, but hadn’t taken advantage (“Oh God, my chance has come at last, but then a strange fear gripped me“). Stern even looked like they could nick one themselves – he said that he had pointed out that these players had ambitions too. That he has instilled a will to win. “You want to play, you want to succeed as professionals?” he asked them. It didn’t fall on deaf ears. The excellent Schimmelpfennig stepped up from his holding midfield role and started to take control. Alexander Rahmig’s textbook beautiful volley had put them ahead, Matthias Steinborn‘s sublime side footed shot effectively finished the tie and left Stern floundering.

Flares lit up the night sky and the smoke whistled around the open stadium, but these are not the preserve of Dynamo, neither of the left nor the right. As Bonan said that his team are “not a Nazi, not a right Verein” his fans were raucously celebrating a sporting victory for once. Maybe the ghosts hang around longer because people like me drag them up, but my friend in an anti-fascist t-Shirt was told to “Fucking take it off” on his way out of the stand. It is this which the club are trying to get away from, and they obviously still have some work to do, but they meet dream opposition in Kaiserslautern in the first round of the DFB Pokal next season, and have a chance to show the country that they have changed. That the pleasure and the privilege is theirs.