East Germany international striker ANDREAS THOM signals his historic first career goal for Bayer Leverkusen in West Germany’s Bundesliga after signing a landmark as well as lucrative contract in the wake of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. (bundesliga.de photo)
December 12th is, of course, a landmark date in the history of the Bundesliga…
As the regular readership has already noted, in November of 1989, Bayer Leverkusen had been blocked by a concerned West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl at their attempt to score three top-notch East Germany national team players within ten days of the Fall of the Berlin Wall.
But, Bayer Leverkusen sporting director REINER CALMUND was not about to concede defeat so easily and just allow all his prior efforts up to this point to simply evaporate. In the case of Dynamo Berlin striker ANDREAS THOM, Calmund had already completed and submitted the proper paperwork regarding a transfer request with the proper Deutsche Demokratische Republik sports officials concerned on his trip to East Berlin just after East Germany’s final World Cup qualification match with Austria in mid-November.
When Calmund learns that Thom is having contract talks with Bundesliga rival 1.FC Koeln in late November, the Bayer Leverkusen general manager decides enough is enough and tracks the 24-year-old striker down once more.
November 15, 1989 — East Germany international striker ANDREAS THOM of Dynamo Berlin departs the pitch at the Praterstadion in Vienna following the 3-0 defeat at the hands of Austria which denied the Deutsche Demokratische Republik its last chance ever at a World Cup final tournament appearance. (bundesliga.de photo)
Thom was offered a contract worth 12,000 Deutsche Mark per month plus bonuses which, at the time, was a king’s ransom in the Bundesliga and on a par with West Germany’s top earners in football. No one at Bayer Leverkusen, not even striker CHRISTIAN SCHREIER, had a better deal. The East Germany international striker, eager to test his skills against the top professionals on the other side of the Berlin Wall, accepted on December 12, 1989.
A transfer fee of 2.5 million Deutsche Mark was formally agreed and paid to Dynamo Berlin for Thom; Western hard currency always had great value in Warsaw Pact nations, now more than ever in light of the political winds blowing hard in the Deutsche Demokratische Republik at the moment.
A landmark press conference to announce the signing of the first East German football player, with the blessing of D.D.R. government officials, by a Bundesliga club was arranged for December 16, 1989 — just five weeks after the Mauerfall.
November 18, 1989 — Dynamo Berlin striker ANDREAS THOM, who earned 51 caps in his career for East Germany, dribbles past the Lokomotiv Leipzig pair of UWE BREDO and FRANK EDMOND at the tiny Bruno Plache Stadion; Thom scored both goals for visiting Dynano Berlin in the 2-1 Oberliga triumph over Lokomotiv Leipzig. (Wolfgang Kluge/ADN-ZB/Bundesarchiv)
Bayer Leverkusen were also scheduled to play their final Bundesliga game at home before the annual Winterpause that noteworthy December evening, as well.
The calculating Calmund did not wish to see the historic event of the press conference formally announcing Thom’s signing upstaged in any way. So, as the crafty Bayer Leverkusen sporting director acknowledged years later, the Ulrich Haberland Stadion was intentionally watered the night before the scheduled game with FC Homburg. The seasonal German weather saw to it the field was deemed unplayable and the match was postponed.
“It’s a great sporting challenge,” Thom stated. “And if I succeed in the West it will definitely be a motivation for the young players back home.”
Bayer Leverkusen striker ANDREAS THOM, seventh on the all-time list with 16 goals for the national team of East Germany, pulls away from West Germany’s World Cup-winning defender JUERGEN KOHLER of Bayern Munich in Bundesliga action. (bundesliga.de photo)
The make-up date for the match was one week before the resumption of the Bundesliga season on February 17, 1990. This allowed the East German player plenty of training time to get adjusted to his new club, as well. All the pieces fell into place, then, as Bayer Leverkusen defeated FC Homburg 3-1…
…with Thom scoring the first goal of the game in the 15th minute.