Dirk Schlegel and Falko Götz had been friends for years by a time they motionless to risk everything.
They had grown adult together, dual football-obsessed kids from a same side of a divided Berlin. They lived tighten to a wall that had tangible their city given it was built in 1961. Their universe as children was divided into good and bad, west and east, entrepreneur imperialism and comrade utopia. They both knew not to discuss a western TV they personally watched during home.
Schlegel and Götz rose by a same Dynamo Berlin girl teams. They were partial of a sporting organization embraced firmly by a Stasi – East Germany’s heartless and invasive tip police. Erich Mielke, a barbarous Stasi leader, was Dynamo’s titular president.
The dual players had something else in common. In a eyes of a state, conjunction could be entirely be trusted.
“We both had problems with a authorities and with Dynamo given a story was a same,” Schlegel says.
“He had family in West Germany and we had an aunt in England. That kind of thing was not good for a future. There was suspicion. But it was improved for a friendship.”
Götz finished his comparison opening for Dynamo in 1979, during a age of 17. Schlegel finished his dual years later, aged 20.
The dual friends pennyless into their country’s strongest team, notwithstanding formidable years in a girl academy. They contend they were mostly designedly overlooked, and their relatives were told it would not be scold politically to see them rewarded – not with their background.
But their talent was unfit to ignore. As they developed, both players also began to seem for East Germany’s inhabitant girl teams. As athletes, they were partial of a unequivocally name series of adults who trafficked abroad – always underneath tighten scrutiny.
The Stasi monitored any aspect of East German daily life, entertainment comprehension by a network of informers – and informers who sensitive on a informers. Some estimates advise it employed one in any 63 people. The structure was sophisticated, bold, all-powerful. The purpose was to keep order: to serve a Communist cause. Football also played a role.
Mielke believed Dynamo should turn a many successful side in East Germany. They won a joining a record 10 uninterrupted times between 1979 and 1988. There were mostly accusations of officials giving them favoured treatment, and – as Schlegel recalls – antithesis fans hugely resented their victories.
While personification for East Germany’s Under-21s in Sweden, Götz began to severely cruise an alternative.
“As we started to play frequently for Dynamo’s initial team, and internationally too, we began to know some-more about what a career in football could mean,” he says.
“I had to afterwards ask myself a question: Where do we wish it to take me? Do we wish to play all a time in East Germany with a bar that doesn’t offer a best treatment? That from one day to a subsequent could say, ‘thank we yet now given of who we are, football stops’?”
Schlegel was carrying identical thoughts, brought to a conduct by a knowledge of personification abroad in May 1982 during a girl foe in France.
By a summer of 1983, a friends had decided. They had to get out of East Germany. And they had a plan. But they would have to be careful.
You couldn’t customarily pronounce anywhere, not about something like this. Schlegel and Götz did a lot of walking – customarily a dual of them. They would go off for hours in a forest. It was a customarily protected place.
“We discussed it,” says Schlegel. “Could we do this large thing? It was not so easy.
“We had to consider about a Stasi and a other people in a club. It was a large tip for me and Falko – nobody else.”
As champions of East Germany, Dynamo would validate any year for a European Cup. In those days, a foe featured a true knockout format – home and divided in any round. The best Dynamo achieved was reaching a quarter-finals in 1980, when they mislaid to contingent winners Nottingham Forest.
The initial suspicion was to try to shun wherever a foe competence take them that deteriorate – 1983-84. The pull was kind.
In a initial turn came Jeunesse Esch – champions of Luxembourg. It was an easy tie that would pledge another probability to shun if a event didn’t benefaction itself. And they had a crony who they suspicion competence be means to help.
The initial leg was during home. Götz non-stop a scoring in a 4-1 victory. The second leg was on 28 Sep 1983.
Their crony had recently been postulated accede to pierce to West Germany – there was an central routine by that it was difficult, yet not impossible, to legally emigrate – and was vital tighten to a limit with Luxembourg.
They had deliberate a probability of removing him to accommodate them and expostulate them divided in his car, yet a timing was off. The crony wouldn’t be means to assistance – he still hadn’t perceived his full marker papers and so couldn’t transport conflicting a limit into Luxembourg from his new home in West Germany.
Still, Götz and Schlegel suspicion there competence be a chance.
In private, Götz told his father about their intentions. All he pronounced was there was a probability he would be withdrawal for good – someday soon. He was 21 during a time. Schlegel, afterwards aged 22, did not contend a word to anyone – not even his silent and dad.
The compare was played in Esch-sur-Alzette, right on a limit with France. Belgium was customarily another 10km to a west and West Germany about half an hour’s expostulate to a east. Götz and Schlegel were on a surveillance for anything they could take advantage of. Any impulse of still or difficulty that competence concede them to outing away.
“It customarily wasn’t possible,” Schlegel says. “We had no event during all.
“Everywhere we went – to a hotel, to lunch, to training, to a track – we were all together, accompanied by a lot of a ‘friends’ from a Stasi. We had even flown there in Erich Mielke’s private plane. It wasn’t an typical traveller trip. It was simply too dangerous for us.”
Dynamo won 2-0, and a players returned to Berlin. Just days after deliberating a probability of not saying him again, Götz’s father welcomed his son home.
They would have another probability unequivocally soon.
Dynamo were subsequent drawn conflicting Partizan Belgrade – a champions of what was afterwards Yugoslavia. This was even better.
In Luxembourg confidence was tight, yet this would be different. Yugoslavia was a associate Communist country, yet not in a Eastern Bloc of states strictly associated with a Soviet Union, like East Germany. Surely it would be deliberate low risk?
Again, Dynamo were during home in a initial leg. Again, Götz scored a opener – in a initial minute. It finished 2-0 to a East Germans. Bring on a lapse tie – in Belgrade.
At about midday on a day of a compare – 2 Nov 1983 – a organisation trafficked together by sight into a centre of Yugoslavia’s collateral city.
As they pulled up, a member of Dynamo’s staff rose out of his chair and told a players: “You have one hour giveaway time. We accommodate behind here during 13:00.”
Schlegel and Götz were sitting on conflicting sides of a bus.
“We didn’t talk; we customarily looked any other in a eyes,” says Schlegel. “We realised it was a moment. And we knew how dangerous it was going to be.”
As their team-mates filed off, Schlegel and Götz had still not spoken. They pronounced zero of a risk they were taking, zero of a sobriety of this one pivotal impulse in a life’s course.
“I remember we were indignant about all a moments we’d already attempted to get divided yet couldn’t,” Götz says. “On a initial day after training it was too risky, a same thing subsequent morning after breakfast. There were too many people around.
“But now in these few seconds we were totally transparent on what had to happen. We had all in a pockets. Papers, a small money. One perspective of it was adequate – this was a chance. Now or never.”
The time was ticking. The rest of a Dynamo patrol wanted to spend a hour shopping. Götz and Schlegel tagged along. Their initial stop was a record store tighten by.
As a dual went in, Götz speckled something to a side of a building – a somewhat dark opening and exit, apart to where they had come in. He and Schlegel gave zero away.
“We attempted to stay unequivocally tighten to any other,” Götz says. “All a guys around us were shopping used annals for their families.
“The one special impulse was when we saw a door. We saw there was a approach we can get out of a emporium though anybody noticing. When a time was right, that’s when we said: ‘Let’s go.'”
They customarily peeled divided from a incomparable group. They finished certain they weren’t being watched. They altered to a door, afterwards went by it. And ran.
“Once we’d finished it outside, you’re not unequivocally meditative about anything,” Götz says. “We were customarily meditative about running. To fast get as distant divided from a organisation as possible.
“We ran for about 5 mins in one direction. Then we saw a taxi. We got in yet afterwards there was a panic given he didn’t wish to take us to a West German embassy.
“We had to accost a second cab. As we got in we gave a motorist 10 Deutschmarks. He contingency have driven us about one kilometre – it substantially would have been easier to go by foot.
“We looked behind to see if anyone had followed us. We couldn’t see anybody.”
Half an hour earlier, they had been sitting with their team-mates. Now they were inside a West German embassy, articulate to staff about what they should do next.
“We were impossibly nervous,” says Schlegel. “It was customarily unequivocally implausible what we’d done. Suddenly we were deliberating a devise to get us out of Yugoslavia and into West Germany. We were entrance adult with a report for a lives.”
The devise began to take shape. First they would be driven to Zagreb, about 4 hours away. The embassy staff suspicion it best to get them out of a building – and out of Belgrade – as fast as possible. The embassy would be a initial place a authorities would come looking.
As their automobile emerged from a subterraneous automobile park, a players were sitting in a behind seats.
“On a way, a deepest meditative was customarily about flourishing this situation,” says Götz.
“You are fearful something competence occur given we finished a initial step in a large story. That is given a biggest tragedy is customarily to live by it. That we can do it, we have to do it. Because in something like this, when a finish is not good we will have a lot of trouble. A lot of trouble.”
In Zagreb, a devise was finalised. At a West German consulate there, Götz and Schlegel were given fake papers – dual new West German identities to assistance get them out of Yugoslavia.
Staff told them that pushing out, conflicting a Yugoslav limit with Austria, would routinely means no issues. But things were a small conflicting that week, they said, and it wasn’t totally safe. The span never got a full reason yet it was motionless it would be best to go by train. They were to contend they had been on holiday, had mislaid their passports and had to get new ones, and were on their approach ‘home’ to Munich.
The recommendation was to transport on a night sight from Ljubljana. It would leave during midnight, and they should arrive as tighten to skip as possible. It was now about 6pm – they had been on a run for 6 hours.
They were given some food. The staff seemed loose – this had been finished before, and they were ease and assured of a plan’s success. To some extent, this succeeded in balmy a pair’s worries. But still, a turn of risk they faced was tough to ignore.
Back in Berlin, Götz’s father tuned in to watch Partizan v Dynamo. The promote began during 7pm. Kick-off was 8pm. His son wasn’t in a starting XI. Strange – he was one of their best players. Schlegel was blank too, and conjunction were even on a bench. No reason was given, yet he knew. It contingency have happened. Had they been successful? Or had they been caught?
There was one final jump to clear.
Schlegel and Götz were driven to Ljubljana. They arrived during a hire customarily before their sight was set to depart, tickets in hand, a owners of new identities. Schlegel’s name was Norman Meier. Götz can’t remember who he was ostensible to be.
The sight set off. There were about 30 kilometres to cover before it would arrive during a limit and Yugoslav customs.
Then a sight halted.
In a half light, sitting adult in their sleeping compartment, a span could hear a taps on doors.
They could hear a coming sound of complicated boots, a ensure dogs breathing and a tinkle of their chains.
“We were both so impossibly shaken yet a policeman looked during a papers and pronounced ‘OK, fine’ and left. It was maybe 20 seconds,” Götz says.
“It was so easy. It was nothing.
“For a whole day, we had existed in this state of high tension, where in your mind we are always worried.
“We didn’t know what we had started. We didn’t know what kind of dangers we competence face. But when we got past a Austrian side and a sight hadn’t been stopped to get a dual footballers off, we knew we were safe.
“I consider we arrived in Munich during about 6am. we can’t trust it today, yet we even slept a integrate of hours.”
In a journal stands around a hire that morning, their names were already in a press. The headlines read: ‘East German players shun to West.’
But a story wasn’t utterly over. There would be consequences.
The West German tactful staff who organised their fake papers had given Schlegel and Götz instructions on what to do. They were to transport to Giessen, where there was a trickery that processed refugees.
They arrived late in a afternoon. It was about 7pm by a time possibly could make a phone call home. Schlegel rang his mum.
“She was a small bit worried,” he says.
“It was a large surprise. She knew zero of a skeleton yet she had listened about a shun from reports on West German TV. we pronounced it was all OK, that we was protected and that was it. We knew a Stasi would be listening.”
Götz also rang home.
“My relatives directly gave me word to contend they were not alone,” he says.
“It was: ‘OK fine, we are OK, good, we pronounce later.’ Because when something like this happens, we know a authorities are in greeting mode.”
Both players realised they would have to be unequivocally careful.
“When a actor from Dynamo Berlin leaves a club, he is not a good boy,” Schlegel says.
“Falko and we had motionless that in all interviews we should not pronounce during all about politics, not about any criticisms of a East, to customarily pronounce about football. It would not have been protected – for us or a families.
“We knew that a Stasi also have a lot of people in a West too. That there were people examination us. Spies.”
Götz and Schlegel called on Jorg Berger, a former East Germany girl manager who had fled to a west in 1979.
Berger helped arrange hit with impending new clubs. They chose to pointer for Bayer Leverkusen, yet would have to wait a year to make their debuts – Dynamo Berlin would not acknowledge a move. Fifa’s 12-month personification anathema was seen as a concede to well-spoken over their bootleg transfer.
At a time, Berger was manager of KSV Hessen Kassel, afterwards in a West German second tier. Before he died in 2010 during a age of 65 after pang from cancer, he wrote an journal in that he claimed he was targeted for assassination in a 1980s, that he was tainted by a Stasi agent.
Berger also spoke several times about Lutz Eigendorf, a former Dynamo actor who defected to a west on a approach behind from a compare in Kaiserslautern in 1979. He had been generally outspoken in his criticisms of East Germany after defection.
In Mar 1983, 8 months before Schlegel and Götz arrived personally in Munich, Eigendorf died in a automobile crash. Berger believed a collision showed a signs of a Stasi operation – where a motorist of a automobile would be blinded by a splendid light while pushing during high speed. Tests showed ethanol in Eigendorf’s blood, yet his friends pronounced he had not been celebration before removing into his car.
Götz and Schlegel had finished it to a Bundesliga. They lerned with Leverkusen, they staid into their new surroundings, yet their aged lives were never distant behind. They were being watched unequivocally closely.
“That’s given a Stasi was so famous – for what they did,” says Götz.
“They watched us in Leverkusen, and they followed my relatives all day long. Not in secret, they wanted them to see. There were interviews, interrogations, pressure. When we was means to entrance my files during a Stasi archives, when they were finished accessible after German reunification, we found things that we would now rather not pronounce about.
“But for me during that time, it was critical not to contend that all in East Germany is bad, that communists are bad, not customarily given we knew what a greeting to this would be yet also given it wasn’t.
“My time in Dynamo finished a unequivocally good actor of me. we had 12 years during a club. They helped me start a veteran career. Our proclivity was not politics.”
As a Cold War thawed towards a finish of a 1980s, both players were means to keep adult some-more unchanging hit with their families, while also contributing on a representation after their suspensions expired. That they would seem any Saturday night on a Bundesliga highlights programmes – still watched personally in so many East Berlin homes – was a source of good honour for their parents.
Götz stayed during Leverkusen until 1988. After winning a Uefa Cup, he left to join Cologne.
Schlegel left Leverkusen in 1985 and had a deteriorate with Stuttgart before signing for Blau-Weiss Berlin in 1986. He now lived on a west side of a city where he was born. But of course, he could never cranky to a other side.
He customarily managed to see his silent and father again in 1987, in Czechoslovakia. For Götz it was a summer of 1988, in Hungary.
Then came 9 Nov 1989.
Schlegel was in a hotel with his team-mates when he listened a news. He’d customarily got behind from training when someone shouted over from a bar: “Hey Dirk, a wall has come down.”
He suspicion it was a fun – for during slightest 5 mins he wouldn’t trust it, even after he’d seen a TV pictures, a thousands of smiling East Germans walking by checkpoints, past a spiny wire, past a spotlights, past a dumbfounded limit officials. What now exactly?
“I said: ‘Oh come on! The wall came down and we was not in Berlin!’ We could frequency have been serve divided in Germany too – we were personification an divided compare conflicting Schalke,” says Schlegel.
“That was customarily a crazy knowledge for me; it was unthinkable. Watching it, we suspicion maybe it’s a play or a movie. It was something unbelievable.
“On a weekend, we came behind from a diversion during Schalke and my family finally came over to revisit me with dual friends. We had cooking during home, talking, drinking.”
It wasn’t until Dec that Götz returned to a East side of Berlin for a initial time given he and Schlegel had left with their Dynamo team-mates in 1983. He went behind home – “nothing had changed, it was accurately a same” – and spent time with his family during that season’s winter break. His mom could finally pass on a few effects she had been means to censor and keep protected for him.
Thirty years on, Schlegel, 58, and Götz, 57 are still tighten friends.
They suffer looking behind on their adventurous attainment and pronounce frequently – customarily by phone as Götz still lives on a other side of a country.
“My son is unequivocally proud,” says Schlegel as we pronounce during a cafeteria nearby his west Berlin home.
Now he has to go. He and Götz are employed as scouts; work is calling.
I don’t even have to ask a final question.
“I have been asked on many occasions,” Schlegel says. “Would we do it again?
“Absolutely. Without question. Every time. we did it for my life. It was about environment adult my future, moulding my life, selecting my possess path.”