26 May ~ The years since German reunification have not been kind to East German football, at least not in the men’s game where 2011-12 will be the third consecutive season in the Bundesliga without eastern representation. In the women’s game matters are a little different – tonight 1.FFC Turbine Potsdam will contest the Champions League final at Craven Cottage. The club are seeking to retain the title they won last year, having already won the German Championship for the third successive season. Against Olympique Lyonnais they start as hot favourites in a repeat of the 2010 final.
Turbine celebrate their 40th anniversary this year. That the sports club of the state electricity company in Potsdam should establish a women’s football section was the idea of Bernd Schröder, who, at 68, is still Turbine coach and a man who combines extraordinary longevity with legendary grumpiness. The team enjoyed much success in the DDR Oberliga and, after starting their post-Communist existence in the lower leagues, were promoted to the Bundesliga in 1994. They have become a major force in Germany since the turn of the century, winning five championships in the last eight years.
Domestically Turbine’s main rivals are 1. FFC Frankfurt. A number of players have left Potsdam for Frankfurt in recent years and relations between the two clubs have been strained. The home win over Frankfurt last August was marred by a number of unsavoury incidents as ill-feeling between the two sets of boiled over, culminating in Frankfurt’s coach being sent to the stands for a push on a Potsdam player.
Almost immediately after the semi-final victory over 2009 winners Duisburg, star player and German international Lire Bajramaj announced that she was leaving Potsdam at the end of the season and following the well trodden path to Frankfurt, ostensibly to be nearer her Duisburg-based family though money has surely been the main motive. Schröder was reportedly furious about the timing of Bajramaj’s announcement. At 23 she still has her best years ahead of her and her departure is undoubtedly a blow.
Nonetheless Turbine have overcome the loss of key players in the past. The club runs four adult teams as well as a series of age group teams and talent in the East rarely slips through the Turbine net. Home-grown players have repeatedly filled the breach. But while Turbine remain dominant there are clouds on the horizon, notably the financial disparity with the big West German clubs and the question of how long Schröder can, or wants to, carry on. But for now Turbine fans will enjoy the moment and the fact that in women’s football at least, the Ossis really are on top. Peter Bateman
Tickets for the match are still available – £5 for adults and £3 for Under-16s from Fulham FC or call 0843 208 1234