Ever heard of Dynamo Dresden? If you don’t live in Germany you might have not heard about Dynamo Dresden before. If you do, you might have heard about the club because of their fans—even if you don’t like football.
There’s a common bad habit among football fans, and that is ignoring everything but the first division of whatever league they follow. In Germany, the second division has a lot to offer—in my opinion much more than the first one: tradition-rich teams, actual competition instead of one-club-dominance, high-attendance games, and clubs from the former East Germany.
Among all the teams from the former East Germany, there’s one that the German Football Association just loves to hate (but that I happen to love): Dynamo Dresden.
Dynamo Dresden has one of the most loyal and creative fan bases in Germany, and is also known as one of the hardest and most passionate in Europe.
Dynamo Dresden is a true East German institution. Now, does the name Dynamo sound familiar to you? That’s because there are many clubs that carry that name all over the former Communist East: Moscow, Tbilisi, České Budejovice, Minsk, Bucharest, Tallinn, Kiev, to name only a few. Also in the former East Germany, Dresden was not the only Dynamo club: Fürstenwalde, Schwerin, Gera, Hohenschönhausen, Frankfurt (Oder), and Berlin, among others, all had Dynamo clubs.
So what’s with the name? The Sports Organization Dynamo is a product of the Soviet Union, and was founded in 1923 by Felix Dzerzhinsky—who also founded the Soviet Secret Police. Because of this connection, Dynamo became the sports organization of the police all over the Eastern Bloc. (On that note, my buddy James over at From Boothferry to Germany wrote an excellent article on this topic.)
Dynamo Dresden was established in 1953 and won the East German league that same year, but it was not until the late 1960s that the team established itself as a true competitor in the Oberliga. Dynamo went through a rough patch due to the intervention of Erich Mielke, who headed the infamous Stasi (the East German Secret Police). Mielke wanted a Dynamo club in Berlin, and thus had the whole team from Dresden relocated to the capital and renamed SC Dynamo Berlin.
This did great damage to the club in Dresden, which was relegated from one league to the next, only to come back up and then go back down. After playing for over a decade in the lower East German leagues, Dynamo Dresden came back up to the first division to dominate the league in the 70s, enjoying success both domestically and internationally.
After German Reunification, most Dynamo clubs were dissolved. Dynamo Berlin crashed and never recovered, and now plays in the lower regional divisions. Dynamo Dresden is however still around and rocking the second German division.
I myself noticed Dynamo Dresden shortly after moving to Germany: In 2011, Dresden played against Bayer Leverkusen—David versus Goliath. After the first 45 minutes, Dresden was down 3:0, only to come back and win the game 4:3.
I was sold after that. I liked the fighting spirit of the club and the unconditional support of the Ultras Dynamo. Yet I never had the chance to go to a match due to living rather far from Dresden at that time and being perpetually broke—basically due to being a foreign student in Heidelberg.
That changed after I graduated and got a full time job. By now, I’ve been to Dresden a few times just to attend games and seen Dynamo play against the local teams here in Hamburg.
Unfortunately (and unfairly), Dynamo Dresden is more often than not thought of in negative terms: Like many other German clubs, Dynamo Dresden has also seen incidents of hooliganism and racism in the past. However, even though this problem is by no means exclusive to Dresden, Dynamo’s image has suffered a disproportionate amount of damage as opposed to that of, say, Borussia Dortmund. This is also partly due to some very biased and disproportionately unfavorable media coverage. I’m not even joking, the German press hates Dynamo Dresden.
Still, Dynamo Dresden has worked actively to combat this reputation, with initiatives such as wearing special edition jerseys with the motto “Love Dynamo, Hate Racism”—which is the slogan of 1953international, an anti-racist fan initiative.
How does that affect me? People often give me a weird look when I say I support Dynamo Dresden—and almost always follow with the observation “but you’re Mexican.” I for one did not feel unsafe in the K-Block, nor did I see, hear, or experience anything that could’ve made me feel unwelcome because I’m a foreigner.
Dynamo fans are a passionate bunch. When I was there, the block did not stop singing, jumping, jeering, or cheering until well after the match was over. And in contrast to the mantra-like chants of most German football fans, Dynamo fans also sang actual songs—which was extremely refreshing coming from Latin America. In fact, I would say that the support at the Rudolf Harbig Stadium in Dresden was the most lively I’ve ever experienced in Germany.
Beyond the amazing football experience, my visit to the K-Block was an experiment in cultural immersion. Germans from the former East and West talk about “Wessis” and “Ossis” in a despective manner.
However, the fans of Dynamo Dresden embrace their provenance as Kinder der Wende, with chants such as “Weisst ihr wo ich wohne? Ich wohne in der Zone!” (Do you know where I live? I live in “the Zone.” Zone in this case refers to the former East Germany.) This song is popular among East German clubs, but is widely recognized to be an original Dynamo song.
Another good example of Ostalgie in the K-Block is the Pittiplatsch flag. Pittiplatsch is a friendly Kobold that appeared in the Sandmännchen, a very popular TV show for children from East Germany.
Ultra culture is again a topic in the media—though it is often reduced to simple hooliganism. Ultra culture is much more than that, though: It’s the songs, the flags, and the tifos that make going to the stadium such a great experience, and there’s no better place in Germany for any of that than Dresden. (S)AUF DYNAMO!
What was your best football experience? Was it in Germany? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!