At the very start of the Football Manager 2023 cycle, we began a series that took you behind the Iron Curtain in an adventure that aimed to work through the German football system in a bid to become the first-ever Bundesliga winner from East Germany. However, that plan went very wrong very quickly, as we were given the sack after just two seasons.
But, having really enjoyed the original concept, I decided to revive it. As a reminder, in OstDeutscher Sieg (East German Victory) we can only manage football teams based in former East Germany. Our aim is to become the first-ever Bundesliga champion to hail from the former Soviet-ruled area by working our way from the bottom to the top of the German football system.
However, this time around I’ve given the save a bit of a revamp in order to make it more interesting. Firstly, FM23 restricts you to managing in the top three divisions of German football so I’ve used a custom database from FM Inside to extend the playable leagues to six tiers of multiple divisions.
A Brief History Of German football
Football first arrived in Germany courtesy of English ex-pats, who brought the sport to cities like Berlin, Hamburg, Leipzig and Stuttgart. That spawned the start of various academic, city and regional leagues before the formation of Deutscher Fußball Bund (the German FA) in 1900.
In 1903, the first recognised national championship match saw VfB Leipzig (now Lokomotive Leipzig) beat FC Prag 7-2. That spawned an annual knockout tournament to decide the champion of Germany, which ran until 1944. But the aftermath of World War 2 saw organisations dissolved by Allied authorities until a new format, the Oberligen, was created in Western Germany in 1948.
The regional league and national playoff formats remained until 1963 with the creation of the Bundesliga, which saw German football go professional. The original Bundesliga was formed of 16 teams from Oberligen and introduced the more familiar round-robin format. However, clubs in East Germany, which was occupied by the Soviets after the war, competed in a separate championship, which continued through to 1991.
Since the formation of Bundesliga 59 years ago, 11 different clubs have been crowned German champions: Bayern Munich (31), Borussia Dortmund (8), Borussia Mönchengladbach (5), Werder Bremen (4), Hamburg (3), Kaiserslautern and Köln (2), and 1860 Munich, Eintracht Braunschweig, Nürnberg and Wolfsburg (1).
A common anomaly there is the lack of an East German club, as no team from East Germany has ever been Bundesliga Champion. So that’s the task that awaits us in OstDeutscher Sieg. As long as Leipzig don’t beat us to the punchline in the time it takes us to get there!
Which East German Teams Are Playable On FM23?
Expanding FM23 to the six-tier German football system opens up a wealth of playable clubs behind the top three tiers. Luckily, the lower leagues are organised by location, which makes it a little easier to understand which clubs are based in former East Germany. However, the geography of the region and the fact that some of the clubs are a little all over the place in the lower tier makes it slightly tricky to decipher. So, as far as I’m aware, the playable clubs now available to us on OstDeutsche Sieg are:
Tier 6: German Thuringia League
- Wismut Gera
Tier 6: German Division North-East
- VFC Plauen
Tier 6: German Verbandsliga Saxonia-Anhalt
- 1. FC Lok Stendal
- Magdeburg II
- SV Dessau 05
Tier 5: Oberliga Nordost
- Hansa Rostock II
- Rostocker FC
- 1. FC Frankfurt
Tier 4: Regionalliga Nordost
- SV Babelsburg 03
- Berliner FC Dynamo
- Carl Zeiss Jena
- Chemie Leipzig
- Energie Cottbus
- Lokomotive Leipzig
- Rot-Weiß Erfurt
- Dynamo Dresden
- FC Erzgebirge Aue
- Hallescher FC
- FSV Zwickau
- 1. FC Magdeburg
- Hansa Rostock
- RasenBallsport Leipzig
- 1. FC Union Berlin
Who Are The Playable East German Football Teams?
So who are these football teams based in East Germany? Here’s a brief history of our potential playable clubs in this adventure and what to expect if, or possibly when, we eventually take charge of them.
Landesliga (Tier 6)
Wismut Gera: The original club SPpVgg Gera was formed in 1922 but first played in the German “top flight” in 1939 which, confusingly, was one of 16 top-tier divisions devised under the Third Reich. The club was dissolved at the end of the war then went through multiple name changes, which included playing in the inaugural DDR-Oberliga campaign as Gera-Süd. The name Wismut Gera was adopted following reunification in 1990 as they entered the new-look system in the fourth tier. But they soon slipped into the fifth tier and went bankrupt in 2003. But a merger saw the current club created and a change to BSG Wismut Gera in 2008.
VFC Plauen: Plauen enjoyed early success by winning Vogtland titles in 1930 and 1931. But, in what may become a familiar story, they were dissolved by Allied authorities and reformed in 1945 then went through multiple name changes. They struggled for decades but enjoyed a resurgence after reunification as they won the fifth tier Landesliga Sachsen, then got relegated from Oberliga conceding 108 goals and scoring just 12. But in 1996 they rose as high as the third tier, before dropping down the divisions and suffering with financial issues in 2014.
1. FC Lok Stendal: The club started out as Viktoria Stendal in 1909 but went through numerous changes post-war. It spent most of the 1950s and 1960s as a lower table side in East Germany’s top tier before a decline through the 70s and 80s. Its biggest claim to fame may be a 1995 cup run that ended with a penalty shootout defeat to Bayer Leverkusen. But financial issues struck in 2002 as the club went bankrupt, but revived through a union with local club FC Stendal.
Magdeburg II: The second team of second-tier side Magdeburg, which I’m not 100% sure is playable yet!
SV Dessau 05: Dessau was founded in 1905 as FC Adler but went through various mergers and unions in the next few decades. It was part of the odd 16-division Third Reich system and performed well, winning three divisional titles between 1937 and 1939 and three more between 1942 and 1944. After dissolution, it reformed various times before finally becoming SV Dessau 05 in 1995. It has largely played in the fifth tier since the 2000s with two seasons up in Oberliga and one down in Landesliga, before promotion in 2014. The club’s most significant claim to fame is winning the inaugural FDGB-Pokal, the East German Cup, in 1949.
Oberliga (Tier 5)
Hansa Rostock II: The second team of second-tier side Hansa Rostock, also not sure if this team is playable.
Rostocker FC: Rostocker may have a claim to being the oldest German football club – which is held by BFC Germania 1888. However, Rostocker FC was reportedly founded on 20 June 1895 before going through multiple mergers. Its greatest achievement may be reaching the final round of the German national title in 1942, only to lose a preliminary round against Holstein Kiel. It was promoted to Oberliga in 2020, 125 years after it was founded.
1. FC Frankfurt: FC Frankfurt was founded as the army club SV VP Vorwärts Leipzig in August 1951 and it’s had an “interesting” history. The club was relocated to East Berlin mid-season in 1953 and underwent multiple name changes over the next few years. A successful spell began by winning FDGP-Pokal in 1954 before becoming East German champion six times between 1958 and 1969. In 1971, the club relocated again to Frankfurt an der Oder, which is on the Germany-Poland border, replacing the secret-police-sponsored team SG Dynamo. More success followed in the 1980s as it enjoyed four UEFA Cup campaigns. The army affiliation was dropped after reunification, the club dropped down the leagues and merged with MSV Eintracht Frankfurt to come 1. FC Frankfurt in 2012. It won the Brandenburg-Liga in 2015 to reach Oberliga for the first time in 12 years.
Regionalliga (Tier 4)
SV Babelsburg 03: Babelsburg was founded as Sport-Club Jugendkraft in 1903 and briefly refuonded as SG Karl-Marx Babelsburg in 1948 among various name changes. It was largely a second-tier club through the 70s and 80s before adopting the SV Babelsberg 03 name post-reunification. It enjoyed a surge in the late 90s, winning promotion to tier three in 1999 then promotion to 2. Bundesliga in 2001, only to be immediately relegated, fall through the leagues and go bankrupt in 2003. But it recovered to reach 3. Liga again in 2008 and 2010, but has remained in tier four Regionalliga since 2013.
Berliner FC Dynamo: Berliner FC Dynamo (or Dynamo Berlin) is one of the most successful East German sides, winning a record 10 consecutive titles between 1979 and 1988. It was founded in 1966 and has a strong historical rivalry with Union Berlin and Dynamo Dresden. Historically, the club’s supporters have had serious problems with violence and far-right affiliations, which are discussed in depth on Wikipedia, and it’s fair to say they are “passionate.”
Carl Zeiss Jena: Carl Zeiss Jena was founded in 1903 by workers at the Carl Zeiss AG optics factory. The club was one of the strongest in East Germany through the 60s, 70s and 80s, winning three Oberliga titles and three East German cups. It also reached the Cup Winners’ Cup final in 1981. However, it’s not played any higher than 2. Bundesliga since reunification. It was also involved in a betting scandal in 2009, which saw the club accused of match-fixing in a game against Meuselwitz, and subsequently suffered financial issues before relegation to tier three in 2012, promotion in 2017 and another relegation to tier four in 2020.
Chemie Leipzig: Chemie Leipzig has a slightly confusing history that involves new clubs and mergers popping up all over the place. But the current club was founded in 1997. The confusion comes in the form of Sachsen Leipzig, which folded in 2011 then Chemie Leipzig and rival teams saw themselves as the rightful successors. But Chemie began way down in the 12th tier of German football and battled their way up to tier four for the first time in 2017. Intriguingly, Chemie are noted to have an expressly anti-fascist, left-wing ultras known as Diablos Leutzsch.
Chemnitzer FC: Chemnitzer was officially founded in 1966 but has its roots in two previous clubs founded in 1933 and 1899, which was a founding member of DFB in 1900. It went through various changes post-war, including a spell as FC Karl-Marx-Stadt. The club was largely a lower-table Oberliga side but became East German champions for the only time in 1967. It also reached the UEFA Cup round of 16 in 1990 but lost to Juventus. Post-reunification, Chemnitzer joined 2. Bundesliga and reached the DFB Pokal semi-finals in 1993, but were relegated in 1996 and dropped into Oberliga in 2006. It rose again briefly but was relegated back to tier four in 2018.
Energie Cottbus: Energie Cottbus is probably the most famous East German name outside the top three tiers. The club has its roots in a side formed by coal miners back in 1919 but was banned by the Nazis in 1933. It reemerged in 1949 and went through various names before becoming SC Energie Cottbus in 1963 then FC Energie after reunification. It gained promotion to 2. Bundesliga in 1997 and became the first former East German team to play in the DFB Pokal Final the same year. More success followed as it was promoted into Bundesliga in 2000 and stayed there for three years. Financial issues followed before a Bundesliga return in 2006, followed by a club-record top-tier points tally of 41, only to be relegated in 2009. It dropped into 3. Liga in 2014 then Regionalliga in 2016 and 2019, where it remains. Interestingly, former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who grew up in East Germany, is an honorary member of Energie Cottbus.
1. FC Lokomotive Leipzig: Lokomotive Leipzig can also claim to be one of the oldest teams in Germany as it began life as VfB Leipzig in 1896. It became the inaugural German national champion in 1903 and, in its various previous guises, won five FDGB Pokal cups and was Cup Winners’ Cup runner-up in 1987. The good times continued after reunification as it reached Bundesliga in 1993 but soon declined and fell through the leagues. It was reformed as 1. FC Lokomotive Leipzig in 2003 and began climbing back up the leagues, reaching Regionalliga in 2021.
Rot-Weiß Erfurt: Speaking of Germany’s oldest clubs bring us to Rot-Weiß Erfurt, whose roots can be traced back to a cricket club created in 1895. The club was a DFB founding member in 1900 and went through various name changes post-war. In one of those guises, BSG Turbine Erfurt, it won consecutive East German titles in 1954 and 1955 before bouncing between the first and second tiers. However, the club flourished post-reunification, reaching 2. Bundesliga and the UEFA Cup in 1990, where they defeated Groningen before losing to Ajax in the second round. But they spent the 90s and 2000s in the third tier before promotion to 2. Bundesliga in 2004, then got relegated to Regionalliga in 2018. Financial difficulties struck in 2020, which forced the club to reform in Oberliga, but was promoted in 2022.
3. Liga (Tier 3)
Dynamo Dresden: You’ve probably heard of the 8-time East German champions and 7-time cup winners as they have a bit of a hipster following. Dresden qualified for the first unified Bundesliga in 1991 and stayed there for 4 years but the debt-ridden was demoted to the third tier in 1995 then dropped into the 4th tier a few years later during a restructuring of the league pyramid. They’ve crawled their way back up led largely by their fanatical supporters and came close to reaching Bundesliga in 2017, were relegated to tier 3 in 2018, but got back to the 2nd tier in 2020.
FC Erzgebirge Aue: Erzgebirge Aue was in Bundesliga 2 for six years before being relegated last season. It plays in the city of Aue-Bad Schlema, which has a population of around 20,800 and is one of the smallest cities to ever host a second-tier German club game. Looking further back in time, the club was dominant in 1950s East Germany, winning 4 titles and an East German Cup. They’re not without a little controversy as in February 2015 fans unfurled two banners that compared opponents RB Leipzig (who we’ll discuss shortly) to the Nazis.
Hallescher FC: Also known as Chemie Halle, the club was in East Germany’s top tier and won it twice before the reunification. But it suffered with financial issues as a result of the economic decline in the region, falling into the amateur leagues in the 1990s. But it climbed its way back up the ladder to return to the professional leagues in 2012.
FSV Zwickau: Zwickau has the honour of being the first-ever champion of East Germany in 1950, under its former name ZSG Horch Zwickau. The club has undergone various name changes and mergers through the years, which are a little too confusing to jot down here. But found itself in tier 3 after reunification and was promoted to Bundesliga 2 in 1994. That lasted for four seasons and two more relegations saw financial issues strike in 2005, which sent them into tier 5. But they climbed through the leagues to reach tier 3 again in 2016.
Bundesliga 2 (Tier 2)
1. FC Magdeburg: Some might say Magdeburg is the most successful “modern-day” East German side. That’s because it’s the only team based in East Germany to win a European trophy, beating AC Milan in the Cup Winners’ Cup Final in 1974. However, the club has struggled to hit those heights since reunification, spending most of its time between tiers 3 and 4 and struggling financially. But it was promoted to tier 3 in 2015 and reached Bundesliga 2 for the first and only time in 2018.
Hansa Rostock: Hansa Rostock was the final-ever East German champion in 1991, which saw it moved into Bundesliga with runners-up Dynamo Dresden. Since then, it’s been one of the most successful of all the East Germany-based sides, including being in Bundesliga from 1995 to 2005. It suffered a decline that culminated in being demoted to tier 3 for only the second time in 2012, but was promoted back to the second tier as champions of 3. Liga in 2021.
Bundesliga (Tier 1)
1. FC Union Berlin: Union Berlin was technically formed in 1906 with the formation of FC Olympia Oberschöneweide but only became 1. FC Union Berlin (and, incidentally, the 1. at the start of a club name indicates it was the first to be founded in a city) in 1966. Union nearly suffered financial collapse post-reunification and was denied a license to play in 2. Bundesliga following promotions in 1993 and 1994. But it eventually got promoted in 2001, also reaching the Final of the German Cup but losing 2-0 to Schalke, which saw Union play in the UEFA Cup. But it slipped into tier three in 2005 and Oberliga in 2006 before becoming a founding member of 3. Liga in 2009. It won the inaugural league to reach 2. Bundesliga in 2010 and spent 11 years in the division before beating Stuttgart in the Bundesliga relegation playoff to reach the top flight for the first time in 2020.
RasenBallsport Leipzig: RB Leipzig was founded in 2009 when Red Bull purchased fifth-tier SSV Markranstädt with the aim of getting the club into Bundesliga within eight years. The club is operated by a spin-off company called RasenBallsport Leipzig GmbH, hence not explicitly using the Red Bull branding like other clubs around the world. It achieved Red Bull’s ambition by gaining promotion to Bundesliga in 2017, then reached the Champions League semi-finals in 2020 and won its first major trophy when it won DFB Pokal in 2021. The city of Leipzig and its people were at the forefront of bringing down the post-war Communist government prior to reunification. So, while it’s a “plastic club” – according to Eintracht Frankfurt board member Philip Renschke – that’s hated by many German fans, RB Leipzig has to be included in this challenge.
How Will OstDeutscher Sieg Work?
Just like the previous iteration of the save, it wouldn’t be an overly fun challenge if we jumped straight into managing Union or Leipzig. So those two jobs are going to be viewed as the holy grail of our mission to win Bundesliga with an East German club. Instead, we will begin the save unemployed and try to get a job with one of the East German sides in the lower reaches of the German football ladder. The aim will be to work our way up by any means possible, be it by getting our first team promoted through the leagues or by earning a job with one of the higher-ranked East German sides.
So there you have it, OstDeutscher Sieg is back up and running! But who will be our first club? And who will be the protagonist of our new Football Manager adventure?
Join us on Friday to discover where we end up on the first leg of our revisited OstDeutscher Sieg!
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