Football in a police state: 1FC Lokomotive Leipzig, 1987

My photos of Leipzig from 1987…

The 1980s was a time of football violence in Britain but I never imagined that I would witness anything as bad in the DDR, the police state behind the Iron Curtain.

During lockdown, whilst clearing out old possessions, I came across my photographs taken at the Bruno Plache Stadium in Leipzig for the fixture between 1FC Lok and their Saxony rivals Wismut Aue in May, 1987. There were no restrictions on my photography but I was deliberately discrete in my efforts to document the match day experience. Nevertheless it did not go unnoticed that a westerner was taking photos and no doubt someone reported it.

Most people came to the ground in a shuttle service of rickety fans. On the return trip the tram that I was on was rocked from side to side by Wismut fans. I feared that it might be knocked off its rails but thankfully we got back to the centre of Leipzig safely.
Supporters outside the ground swapping programmes and artefacts. There was particular interest in souvenirs from Leipzig’s games in European cup competitions. Jeans were ubiquitous, the fashion for football fans east and west but women were few and far between.
Entrance to the Bruno Plache Stadion, named after a pre-war Communist politician.
Despite a visible Volkspolizei presence they were generally ineffective and didn’t stand in the way of terrace fighting. In fact it seemed as though crowd trouble was tolerated to a degree, maybe even considered a means for young men to let off steam. Whatever the policy, if compared to the West Midlands Constabulary in England at the time, the Volkspolizei treated fans with kid gloves. It was not what I expected in a state known for its internal security apparatus.
Volkspolizei positioned to prevent a pitch invasion.
Friends in Sport! Contribute to the maintenance of security and order!
The atmosphere was generally relaxed albeit punctuated by occasional outbursts of violence.
There could not have been more than eight thousand fans in attendance, a poor attendance for the leading side of the DDR’s second city. Besides, Leipzig had a decent team and earlier in the month had been beaten by Ajax in the final of the European Cup Winners Cup in Athens.

By contrast high profile fixtures attracted big crowds and European games for example were played at the Zentralstadion in Leipzig which had a capacity of one hundred thousand (see photos at bottom). In 1987 I would have estimated the capacity of the BPS to be no more than twenty thousand.
The main stand was wooden, dating back to the opening of the ground in 1922 and in its current guise since 1932.
The design of the main stand was quite charming and distinctive. However, twenty-four months after the Valley Parade fire I couldn’t help but question the safety of the stand and the potential for disaster. Smoking was at least forbidden.

Feature on the Bruno Plache Stadion on Wikipedia

In February, 2020 on this blog I published my recollections of East German football in the years immediately preceding the collapse of the wall in 1989 and in particular about 1FC Lokomotive Leipzig.

Elsewhere on this blog you will find content about the history of Bradford City, my features in the BCAFC match day magazine as well as book reviews. Refer to the drop down menu at the top.

Details here of my latest book, Wool City Rivals a collaboration with George Chilvers (Volume 7 in the bantamspast History Revisited series).

I have rediscovered old photos from my travels behind the Iron Curtain and time in the GDR in the 1980s and I am tweeting them on an ad hoc basis.

Tweets: @jpdewhirst

The Zentralstadion opened in 1956 with its terrace banks developed from war rubble. This was extensively renovated and re-opened in 2004, a venue for the 2006 World Cup. Since 2009 the new stadium has been the home of Leipzig Red Bull. These photos were taken in 1987 by which stage it was becoming rundown. The floodlights were as impressive as the terraces with their wooden benches.
Leipzig fans dressed in ubiquitous denim and displaying allegiance for SV Hamburg. The terrace fashion and the mullet haircuts were little different to those across the intra-German border although the quality of footwear and denim brands would have betrayed the Ossis.