The OLYMPIAAUSWAHL of the DEUTSCHE DEMOKRATISCHE REPUBLIK line up in front of the relatively-subdued figure of 35,000 Zuschauer at the massive Zentralstadion in Leipzig ahead of the pivotal third round Olympic qualification match with Bulgaria on April 24, 1968.
Left to right — captain Herbert PANKAU (Hansa Rostock), Juergen CROY (BSG Motor Zwickau), Wolfgang WRUCK (FC Union Berlin), Bernd BRANSCH (Chemie Halle), Juergen SPARWASSER (FC Magdeburg), Eberhard VOGEL (FC Karl Marx Stadt), Henning FRENZEL (Lokomotive Leipzig), Dieter ERLER (FC Karl Marx Stadt), Wolfram LOEWE (Lokomotive Leipzig), Otto FRAESSDORF (FC Vorwaerts Berlin) and Peter ROCK (FC Carl Zeiss Jena).
In October of 1965, several years after the construction of the iconic — to speak nothing of notorious — Berlin Wall in 1961 which literally divided the former capital city, the International Olympic Committee finally accepted reality and discontinued its charade of a ‘unified Germany’. The Bundesrepublik Deutschland and the Deutsche Demokratische Republik would from now on, beginning with the Grenoble Games in the winter of 1968, send two completely separate athletic teams to the Olympics. However, the football tournament at the Summer Games in Mexico that year would, in the end, see no German football team at all.
This despite the fact that the “Equipe unifiee Allemagne” under the stewardship of Hungarian trainer KAROLY SOOS had, on its last-ever appearance at the Olympics, actually claimed the bronze medal for football at the 1964 Summer Games in Tokyo.
West Germany, as always, were prohibited from fielding the country’s best players on account of the traditional persona non grata status for all professionals at the Olympics. The amateur national team of the Deutscher Fussball Bund were trained by UDO LATTEK, who would go on to have tremendous success with Bundesliga club Bayern Munich in the next decade, but dropped their Olympic first round opener with Great Britain 0-2 at Augsburg in November of 1967. Although the West Germans won the away leg a fortnight night later, the 1-0 result could not prevent an early exit from the Olympic football stage.
November 8, 1968 — General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany as well as Chariman of the Council of State of the German Democratic Republic WALTER ULBRICHT (left) and powerful Politburo member ERICH HOENECKER (right), himself a future D.D.R. Head of State, congratulate one another upon receipt of Mexican Sombreros at an official government function in East Berlin to celebrate the noteworthy success of the East German Olympians at the 1968 Summer Games; applauding approvingly is DR. HEINZ SCHOEBEL, the President of the East German Olympic Committee, with RUDI HELLMANN, the Director for the Department of Sport of the Central Committee of the Socialist Unity Party, in the immediate background.
The German Democratic Republic — who had no such eligibility restrictions as did their western counterparts — completely overwhelmed Greece 10-0 on aggregate in the first round and then saw off Romania in the second with a pair of victories by the minimum scoreline both home and away. Unfortunately for officials of the Deutscher Fussball Verband, though, the East Germans fell at the final Olympic qualifying hurdle to the fellow Warsaw Pact ‘amateur’ footballers of Bulgaria. The D.D.R. could not recover from a heavy 4-1 loss in the first leg at Stara Zagora and went out as the 3-2 triumph at the humongeous Zentralstadion in Leipzig was not enough.
Soos, indeed, did ultimately take a football team to the 1968 Summer Games in Mexico City. After East Germany had failed to qualify for the final tournament of the 1968 UEFA European Championships, the D.F.V. had decided to not extend the contract of its Hungarian trainer. And so Soos, whose first match in charge of the D.D.R. national team was the 1-1 World Cup qualifer draw with the Netherlands in May of 1961, left after the second Olympic qualifier with Romania in the December of 1967.
Shortly thereafter, Soo returned to his homeland where he was quickly installed as the new trainer of the national team; Hungary, the reigning Olympic football gold medalists, went on to successfully defend their title at the Mexico City Games.