GEORG BUSCHNER, the former SC Motor Jena defender who earned six caps for the Deutsche Demokratische Republik between 1954 and 1957, was appointed the new trainer of the national football team one year after the Leistungssportbeschluss was enacted by officials in East Germany in 1969.
In order to better understand the context and significance of the Olympic football match at the 1972 Summer Games pitting the Detusche Demokratische Republik against the neighboring Bundesrepublik Deutschland, one must bear in mind the statements and actions of the East German government in the years prior to the history-making meeting in Munich.
It had been decided at the very highest level, the Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschland Politburo, that athletic success at the Olympic Games would generate irrefutable proof of the superiority with respect to the D.D.R.’s social and political systems as well as enhance the world-wide legitimacy of the state, itself. Of course, East Germany had not even been allowed to send an independent team to the Games by the International Olympic Committee until 1968. From there on out, though, it was a publically-stated policy of the East German government that winning more Olympic medals than the ultimate class enemy, West Germany, was a top priority.
The 1972 Summer Games in Munich provided the D.D.R. with the opportunity to, in its own words, “inflict a home defeat on West German Imperialism.”
But first, three years after Munich had been formally awarded the Games by the I.O.C. in April of 1966, a stunning and sweeping new policy was announced by officials that would radically change the face of East German sport, football included, forever.
After serving as Chairman of the Staatlichen Komitees fuer Koerperkultur und Sport (State Committee for Physical Culture and Sport) from 1952 until 1960, the then-35-year-old MANFRED EWALD was appointed President of the Deutscher Turn und Sportbund (German Gymnastics and Sports Association) in the following year; in 1963, Ewald became a member of the Central Committee of the S.E.D. — the Politburo — and ten years later was installed as the President of the East German National Olympic Committee.
The Deutscher Turn und Sportbund, the umbrella organization for all sports in the German Democratic Republic, issued the so-called LEISTUNGSSPORTBESCHLUSS with the full blessing of the ruling Politburo in the spring of 1969. This directive completely re-organized the entire structure of sport nation-wide and classified each and every athletic discipline as either belonging to the “Sport 1” or “Sport 2” category. The main criteria used to differentiate between the two, of course, revolved around the Olympic Games — the Sport 1 class was to be exclusive for sports which offered the most Olympic medals and likelihood of winning such for the greater glory of the Deutsche Demokratische Republik.
A premium was placed on individual pursuits such as speed skating, swimming as well as track and field because it was possible for just one single athlete to accumulate multiple medals. This as compared to team sports which required many players to produce just one medal for the overall Olympic standings and often, as in the examples of ice hockey or water polo, also necessitated special equipment / facilities with the accompanying higher operating costs. Not surprisingly given the stated objective of the Leistungssportbeschluss, team sports were specifically targeted.
Those sports not placed into the top tier saw their funding from the state either radically reduced or eliminated entirely. Furthermore, the second-class athletic pursuits would also be denied access to the D.D.R.’s elaborate, well-developed youth sport system and, thus, all of the country’s most promising athletic talent. Worst of all, the decision was final.
General ERICH MIELKE (left), the long-time head of the notorious Stasi state security organization in the German Democrtic Republic, was well-known to be an avid football fan and served for 36 years as the Chairman of the SPORTVEREINIGUNG DYNAMO, the Dynamo sports club for all security personnel — the everyday police on the street, the border guards, state secret services in addition to the firefighters.
Football found its way into the elite category, but not necessarily by design. The man credited with being the brains behind the Leistungssportbeschluss, the D.T.S.B. leader MANFRED EWALD, was noted to not be a fan of the game. The fact that football was easily the most popular team sport among the East German citizenry was of no concern whatsoever to Ewald and other bureaucrats behind the scenes.
General ERICH MIELKE, the powerful Minister of State Security with the dreaded Staatssicherheit (“Stasi”) apparatus at his disposal, and a few other influential S.E.D. politicians saw matters differently, however. These patrons were keenly aware of football’s unmatched popularity among the people and understood that the game was a permanent facet of East German culture. And so, appropriate pressure was brought to bear.
GUENTER SCHNEIDER, the former President of the Deutscher Fussball Verband, later stated that the country’s most popular game was officially only ranked “16th or 17th” in the pecking order for the elite sports category. The Leistungssportbeschluss certainly did have its impact on football in the Deutsche Demokratische Republik, if not exactly immediately, though. But that would be another story for another day.