1.FC Magdeburg were renowned throughout Europe in the 1970’s most notably in the 1973/74 when they defeated AC Milan to win the European Cup Winners’ Cup in the De Kuip stadium in Rotterdam. On their way to the final the then East Germans bested the likes of NAC Breda, Banik Ostrava, Beore Stara Zagora and Sporting Lisbon. Given their reputation as European regulars it is something of a surprise to find the club were only formed in 1965 and thus celebrate their 50th year next season.
The story of football in this great German city, synonymous with mechanical engineering, is a convoluted one of failed clubs and multiple mergers. The city’s oldest clubs, and indeed among the oldest in Germany, were SV Victoria 96 Magdeburg formed in June 1896 and a year later two clubs, FuCC Regatta Magdeburg and FC Gut Stoss Magdeburg merged to form Magdeburger Fussball und Cricket Club Viktoria 1897. In 1899 the two clubs were joined on the scene by Magdeburger SC Prussia.
SV Victoria 96 took the ascendancy in the city and were playing in the Mittel-Deutsche Meisterschaft when in 1933 the Nazis disbanded the existing Bezirkligas and Oberligas to form a 16 division Gauliga based on the new districts they had drawn up in an attempt to exert control over the provinces. The best teams from the old Prussian provinces of Thuringia, Anhalt and Saxony were placed in Gauliga Mitte. After the War the Gauliga system had been abandoned and Magdeburg found itself in the Soviet occupied zone and would now play in the newly formed DDR Oberliga as part of East Germany. The two smaller clubs SC Prussia and Cricket Victoria 97 merged as SG Sudenburg in 1945 and soon after merged in turn with SG Lemsdorf to form BSG Eintracht Sudenburg. The latest name change lasted until 1950 when yet another merger occurred this time with SAG Krupp Gruson. A year later another new name was adopted which was BSG Stahl Magdeburg. Twelve months later they became BSG Motor Mitte Magdeburg.
The original major stadium in Magdeburg was that of SV Victoria 96 Magdeburg and was called the Sportplatz am Gübser Damm, although it was also known as Viktoriaplatz. During the 1944 much of the city, including the entire stadium was destroyed by Allied bombing. Some 16, 000 inhabitants would lose their lives. In more modern and happier times, German reunification saw Magdeburg become the capital city of the Saxony-Anhalt region. After the loss of their stadium the municipality would build a new venue on the same site in 1954 called the Ernst-Grubbe-Stadion. This stadium would be home to 1.FC Magdeburg for 40 years until 2005 and would witness some glorious nights during its relatively short life.
Even with the multiple mergers the club had still struggled to perform at a decent level and in 1957 the Motor Mitte section was merged with SC Aufbau Magdeburg in an attempt to strengthen the football section. SC Aufbau won the FDGB Pokal in 1964 against SC Leipzig and became the first club from Magdeburg to play in Europe. They were drawn against Galatasaray and when both legs ended 1-1 the clubs had to replay in Vienna. This match also ended 1-1 and the match was decided on a coin toss. After the first toss saw the coin landed upright in thick mud, the second fell in favour of the Turkish club. In December 1965 the decision was made to remove the football section of SC Aufbau into a club of its own. The new club was to be called 1.FC Magdeburg. It was the first such politically driven sports club break up with the desire to form strong football only entities.
The 1970’s saw the DDR-Oberliga dominated by the new 1.FC Magdeburg club and their big rivals, SG Dynamo Dresden. Magdeburg would win three championships and a further six FDGB Pokals. Four of Magdeburg’s “golden era” players represented the DDR in the 1974 World Cup. Magdeburg’s 1974 European Cup Winners Cup triumph meant the East Germans would contest the European Super Cup, against that year’s European Cup winners. The Super Cup game against Bayern Munich was never played.
Upon the reunification of Germany 1.FC Magdeburg had hoped to be elected at least the Bundesliga II but they failed to win any of their play off games. The club found itself in the third tier, then called the Oberliga Nordost/Staffel Mitte. By the turn of the 21st century though the club were in deep financial trouble and had to raise five million marks to survive. A million was donated within days and the remainder loaned by banks. It was to prove a temporary reprieve as in 2002 the club went into liquidation. With liquidation came automated relegation the fourth tier. The board restructured the club and the city promised a new arena for the club. The Ernst-Grubbe-Stadion was demolished and the club were temporarily relocated to the Heinrich Germer Stadium. Originally built in 1920 the Germer had been home to the numerous pre 1.FC merged clubs. The new stadium would hold 27,250 people and took just over a year to build, the first game saw 1.FC Magdeburg draw 0-0 with Eintracht Braunschweig in front of 13,279 spectators. The nearby GETEC Arena is home to the city’s very successful handball team SC Magdeburg Gladiators.
Today’s game sees a revitalised 1.FC second in the table and in hot pursuit of leaders TSG Neustrelitz. Meanwhile their guests FSV Optik Rathenow bring only 24 fans with them despite the modest 45 mile journey. A glance at the league standings provides a modicum of mitigation, Rathenow are bottom with just 13 points and look set for the drop to the fifth tier along with another great name from the DDR period, Lokomotive Leipzig.
The MDCC Arena is a relatively bland construction although the murals depicting Magdeburg’s rich European history are a welcome sight. Pleasingly there is much fan activity. There are two club shops, the expected modern one sits alongside one manned by older fans and selling relics exclusively from the DDR period. It is noticeable that fewer people here speak English compared to Berlin just 90 miles to the East. The locals seem almost wistful for the old East German days. There are Ultras selling stickers and fanzines and once in the Arena fan friendships are evident, notably flags pairing the hosts with Millwall.
The game itself is frighteningly one sided, the hosts rattle in six goals with the guests offering hardly any resistant. In truth it could easily have been double figures so beleaguered is the Rathenow team. For Magdeburg, Lars Fuchs particularly catches the eye with a skilfully taken hat-trick. The support from the home fans is superb, signing, bouncing and even simultaneous congas are enormous fun. It seems that for just 90 mins the locals can celebrate their “DDR’dness” at the football. I think that’s really rather special.
Sunday March 23rd 2014 – Regionalliga Nordost
1FC Magdeburg (4) 6 (Beck 6, Fuchs 10,33,45, Lange 65, Nennhuber 68)
FSV Optik Rathenow (0) 0
Attendance: 6,214 (at MDCC Arena)
1. Mathias Tischer, 2. Nico Hammann, 3. Christopher Handke, 5. Felix Schiller, 7. Lars Fuchs, 8. Steffan Puttkammer, 11. Christian Beck, 13. Christoph Siefkes, 17. Marius Sowislo, 20. Rene Lange, 21. Tino Schmunck.
Subs: 4. Kevin Nennhuber (for 3, 46 mins), 9. Matthias Steinborn (for 7, 69 mins), 10. Teimo Texeira-Rebelo, 16. Nils Butzen, 18. Florian Beil, 26. Sven-Torge Bremer (for 5, 63 mins), 30. Danilo Dersewki.
1. Marcel Subke, 2. Mario Delvalle Silva, 3. Marcel Bahr, 4. Leon Hellwig, 9. Sebastian Huke, 10. Hakan Cankaya, 11. Shelby Printemps, 14. Ezgon Ismaili, 16. Jerome Leroy, 19. Majuran Kesavan, 27. Benjamin Wilcke.
Subs: 7. Phillipp Grüneberg (for 11, 58 mins), 13. Pelle Klötzing (for 3, 65 mins), 22. Selvedin Begzadic, 23. Jakob Regulski, 24. Onur Uslucan (for 14, 58 mins), 29. Daniel Ujazdowski.
Yellow card: Hellwig (Rathenow)