Dirk Schlegel and Falko Götz: The East Berlin footballers who fled from the Stasi

Götz (left) and Schlegel (suitable) pictured in 1984 – a year after what Schlegel calls their “broad glide”

Dirk Schlegel and Falko Götz had been chums for years by the time they determined to possibility every little thing.

They’d grown up collectively, two football-obsessed kids from the a linked facet of a divided Berlin. They lived discontinuance to the wall that had outlined their metropolis because it turned into once in-constructed 1961. Their world as teens turned into once divided into perfect and contemptible, west and east, capitalist imperialism and communist utopia. They each knew now to no longer point out the western TV they secretly watched at home.

Schlegel and Götz rose by the a linked Dynamo Berlin early life groups. They had been section of a sporting organisation embraced tightly by the Stasi – East Germany’s brutal and invasive secret police. Erich Mielke, the depraved Stasi leader, turned into once Dynamo’s honorary president.

The 2 gamers had something else in identical old. In the eyes of the converse, neither would possibly be entirely be trusted.

“We each had considerations with the authorities and with Dynamo because our historical previous turned into once the a linked,” Schlegel says.

“He had household in West Germany and I had an aunt in England. That extra or less part turned into once now no longer perfect for our future. There turned into once suspicion. But it absolutely turned into once greater for our friendship.”

Götz made his senior debut for Dynamo in 1979, at the age of 17. Schlegel made his two years later, stale 20.

The 2 chums broke into their country’s strongest group, no matter complex years within the early life academy. They are saying they had been steadily wilfully misplaced sight of, and their folks had been told it would now no longer be beautiful politically to enjoy a look at them rewarded – now no longer with their background.

But their skills turned into once now no longer doable to ignore. As they developed, each gamers moreover began to appear for East Germany’s nationwide early life groups. As athletes, they had been section of a in actuality rob out selection of residents who travelled in a international country – all the time below discontinuance scrutiny.

The Stasi monitored every facet of East German day-to-day existence, gathering intelligence by a network of informers – and informers who told on the informers. Some estimates suggest it employedone in every 63 folks.The constructing turned into once sophisticated, brave, all-highly efficient. The rationale turned into once to enjoy interplay sing: to extra the Communist reason. Soccer moreover played its role.

Mielke believed Dynamo will enjoy to became the most successful facet in East Germany. They obtained the league a file 10 consecutive times between 1979 and 1988. There enjoy been steadily accusations of officers giving thempreferential therapy,and – as Schlegel recalls – opposition followers vastly resented their victories.

Whereas having fun with for East Germany’s Underneath-21s in Sweden, Götz began to noticeably steal into story an different.

“As I began to play assuredly for Dynamo’s first group, and internationally too, I began to worth extra about what a profession in football would possibly moreover mean,” he says.

“I needed to then request myself the build aside a query to of: Where enact I desire it to steal me? Make I need to play the total time in East Germany with a club that doesn’t provide the appropriate therapy? That from one day to the subsequent would possibly moreover exclaim, ‘thank you but now due to who you are, football stops’?”

Schlegel turned into once having a linked thoughts, introduced to a head by the skills of having fun with in a international country in Would possibly per chance well presumably 1982 at a early life competition in France.

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By the summer of 1983, the chums had determined. They’d to pick up out of East Germany. And they also’d a thought. But they’d need to be careful.

You couldn’t suitable discuss anyplace, now no longer about something be pleased this. Schlegel and Götz did a vary of walking – suitable the 2 of them. They would dash off for hours within the forest. It turned into once the appropriate safe converse.

“We discussed it,” says Schlegel. “Would possibly per chance well presumably we enact this colossal part? It turned into once now no longer so easy.

“We needed to assume the Stasi and the opposite americans in our club. It turned into once a colossal secret for me and Falko – no-one else.”

As champions of East Germany, Dynamo would qualify every year for the European Cup. In those days, the competition featured a straight knockout format – home and away in every round. The particular Dynamo performed turned into once reaching the quarter-finals in 1980, when they misplaced to eventual winners Nottingham Wooded self-discipline.

The first understanding turned into once to try to flee wherever the competition would possibly steal them that season – 1983-84. The intention turned into once form.

In the first round came Jeunesse Esch – champions of Luxembourg. It turned into once an easy tie that will guarantee one other likelihood to flee if the chance didn’t present off itself. And they also’d a buddy who they idea would possibly moreover very well be in a dwelling to lend a hand.

The first leg turned into once at home. Götz opened the scoring in a 4-1 victory. The 2nd leg turned into once on 28 September 1983.

Their buddy had now no longer too long within the past been granted permission to switch to West Germany – there turned into once an reliable direction of wherein it turned into once complex, but now no longer now no longer doable, to legally emigrate – and turned into once residing discontinuance to the border with Luxembourg.

They’d idea to be as the seemingly of getting him to meet them and hunch them away in his automobile, however the timing turned into once off. The buddy would now no longer be in a dwelling to lend a hand – he soundless hadn’t obtained his fleshy identification papers and so couldn’t glide across the border into Luxembourg from his contemporary home in West Germany.

Calm, Götz and Schlegel idea there would possibly moreover very well be a likelihood.

Götz pictured in Dynamo Berlin equipment as a 17-year-old in 1979, the year of his senior debut

In non-public, Götz told his father about their intentions. All he acknowledged turned into once there turned into once a possibility he would possibly be leaving for perfect – sometime rapidly. Schlegel did now no longer exclaim a be aware to anyone – now no longer even his mum and pa.

The match turned into once played in Esch-sur-Alzette, suitable on the border with France. Belgium turned into once excellent one other 10km to the west and West Germany about half of an hour’s pressure to the east. Götz and Schlegel had been in search of anything else they’ll steal income of. Any 2nd of level-headed or confusion that will per chance enable them to glide away.

“It suitable wasn’t doable,” Schlegel says. “We had no opportunity at all.

“In each put we went – to the hotel, to lunch, to coaching, to the stadium – we had been all collectively, accompanied by a vary of our ‘chums’ from the Stasi. We had even flown there in Erich Mielke’s non-public aircraft. It wasn’t a identical old vacationer outing. It turned into once simply too terrible for us.”

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Dynamo obtained 2-0, and the gamers returned to Berlin. Appropriate days after discussing the seemingly of now no longer seeing him all all over again, Götz’s father welcomed his son home.

They would enjoy one other likelihood very rapidly.

Dynamo had been subsequent drawn in opposition to Partizan Belgrade – the champions of what turned into once then Yugoslavia. This turned into once even greater.

In Luxembourg security turned into once tight, but this would possibly per chance be different. Yugoslavia turned into once a fellow Communist country, although now no longer within the Eastern Bloc of states officially allied with the Soviet Union, be pleased East Germany. Without a doubt it’d be idea to be as low possibility?

Again, Dynamo had been at home within the first leg. Again, Götz scored the opener – within the first minute. It completed 2-0 to the East Germans. Care for it up the return fixture – in Belgrade.

At about midday on the day of the match – 2 November 1983 – the group travelled collectively by bus into the centre of Yugoslavia’s capital metropolis.

As they pulled up, a member of Dynamo’s crew rose out of his seat and told the gamers: “You enjoy gotten one hour free time. We meet aid here at 13:00.”

Schlegel and Götz had been sitting on opposite facets of the bus.

Schlegel (suitable) made his Dynamo debut two years later than Götz, in 1981

“We didn’t discuss; we excellent looked every other within the eyes,” says Schlegel. “We realised it turned into once the 2nd. And we knew how terrible it turned into once going to be.”

As their group-mates filed off, Schlegel and Götz had soundless now no longer spoken. They acknowledged nothing of the possibility they had been taking, nothing of the gravity of this one pivotal 2nd in a existence’s direction.

“I enjoy in thoughts we had been offended about the total moments we would possibly maybe already tried to pick up away but couldn’t,” Götz says. “On the first day after coaching it turned into once too terrible, the a linked part subsequent morning after breakfast. There enjoy been too many folks around.

“But now in these few seconds we had been entirely definite on what needed to happen. We had every little thing in our pockets. Papers, a little bit money. One see of it turned into once sufficient – this turned into once our likelihood. Now or never.”

The clock turned into once ticking. The the relaxation of the Dynamo squad desired to use the hour taking a look. Götz and Schlegel tagged alongside. Their first discontinue turned into once a file store nearby.

Because the 2 went in, Götz observed something to the facet of the constructing – a relatively hidden entrance and exit, separate to the put they’d come in. He and Schlegel gave nothing away.

“We tried to preserve very discontinuance to 1 yet every other,” Götz says. “Your complete guys around us had been buying feeble data for his or her households.

“The one particular 2nd turned into once after we saw the door. We saw there turned into once a capability you would moreover pick up out of the shop without anyone noticing. When the time turned into once suitable, that is after we acknowledged: ‘Let’s dash.’”

They step by step peeled faraway from the bigger neighborhood. They made definite they weren’t being watched. They moved to the door, then went by it. And ran.

“When we would possibly maybe made it outdoors, you are now no longer in actuality obsessed on anything else,” Götz says. “We had been excellent obsessed on working. To rapidly pick up as a long way faraway from our group as doable.

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“We ran for roughly five minutes in a single direction. Then we saw a taxi. We got in but then there turned into once an apprehension because he didn’t need to steal us to the West German embassy.

“We needed to hail a 2nd cab. As we got in I gave the driver 10 Deutschmarks. He must enjoy driven us about one kilometre – it maybe would enjoy been more uncomplicated to head by foot.

“We looked aid to enjoy a look at if anyone had adopted us. We couldn’t examine anyone.”

Half of an hour earlier, they’d been sitting with their group-mates. Now they had been all the diagram in which by the West German embassy, speaking to crew about what they’ll enjoy to enact subsequent.

“We had been incredibly apprehensive,” says Schlegel. “It turned into once suitable very unbelievable what we would possibly maybe completed. All staunch now we had been discussing a thought to pick up us out of Yugoslavia and into West Germany. We had been increasing with a schedule for our lives.”

The idea began to steal shape. First they would possibly maybe be driven to Zagreb, about four hours away. The embassy crew idea it excellent to pick up them out of the constructing – and out of Belgrade – as rapidly as doable. The embassy steadily is the first converse the authorities would come taking a look.

As their automobile emerged from the underground automobile park, the gamers had been sitting within the aid seats.

“On the diagram in which, the deepest thinking turned into once excellent about surviving this catch 22 situation,” says Götz.

“You would possibly be afraid something would possibly happen since you made the first step in a colossal story. That’s the reason the excellent emotion is acceptable to dwell by it. That you would moreover enact it, you enjoy to enact it. Due to in something be pleased this, when the tip is now no longer perfect you would moreover enjoy a vary of anguish. A decision of anguish.”

In Zagreb, the idea turned into once finalised. On the West German consulate there, Götz and Schlegel got counterfeit papers – two contemporary West German identities to lend a hand pick up them out of Yugoslavia.

Workers told them that utilizing out, across the Yugoslav border with Austria, would on the total reason no factors. But things had been a little bit different that week, they acknowledged, and it wasn’t entirely safe. The pair never got a fleshy clarification but it absolutely turned into once determined it’d be excellent to head by educate. They had been to divulge they’d been on holiday, had misplaced their passports and needed to pick up contemporary ones, and had been on their diagram ‘home’ to Munich.

The recommendation turned into once to glide on the night educate from Ljubljana. It would possibly per chance dash away within the wearisome of night, and so they’ll enjoy to near as discontinuance to departure as doable. It turned into once now about 6pm – they’d been on the flee for six hours.

They got some meals. The crew appeared relaxed – this had been completed earlier than, and so they had been soundless and assured of the idea’s success. To some extent, this succeeded in soothing the pair’s worries. But soundless, the diploma of hazard they confronted turned into once exhausting to ignore.

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The BBC experiences from the scene as the Berlin Wall goes up

Encourage in Berlin, Götz’s father tuned in to stare Partizan v Dynamo. The published began at 7pm. Kick-off turned into once 8pm. His son wasn’t first and predominant XI. Atypical – he turned into once one amongst their excellent gamers. Schlegel turned into once lacking too, and neither had been even on the bench. No clarification turned into once given, but he knew. It must enjoy came about. Had they been successful? Or had they been caught?

There turned into once one final hurdle to definite.

Schlegel and Götz had been driven to Ljubljana. They arrived at the put suitable earlier than their educate turned into once dwelling to leave, tickets in hand, the owners of contemporary identities. Schlegel’s title turned into once Norman Meier. Götz can now no longer catch who he turned into once supposed to be.

The educate spark off. There enjoy been about 30 kilometres to mask earlier than it would near at the border and Yugoslav customs.

Then the educate halted.

In the half of sunshine, sitting up of their drowsing compartment, the pair would possibly moreover hear the faucets on doors.

They’ll moreover hear the upcoming sound of heavy boots, the guard dogs panting and the jangle of their chains.

“We had been each so incredibly apprehensive however the policeman looked at our paperwork and acknowledged ‘OK, honest’ and left. It turned into once presumably 20 seconds,” Götz says.

“It turned into once so easy. It turned into once nothing.

“For your complete day, we had existed on this converse of high power, the put in your thoughts you are all the time haunted.

“We didn’t know what we had began. We didn’t know what extra or less dangers we would face. But after we got previous the Austrian facet and the educate hadn’t been stopped to pick up the 2 footballers off, we knew we had been safe.

“I enjoy we arrived in Munich at about 6am. I will now no longer judge it at the present time, but we even slept just a few hours.”

In the newspaper stands around the put that morning, their names had been already within the press. The headlines be taught: ‘East German gamers streak to West.’

However the story wasn’t rather over. There would possibly be penalties.

The West German diplomatic crew who organized their counterfeit papers had given Schlegel and Götz instructions on what to enact. They had been to glide to Giessen, the put there turned into once a facility that processed refugees.

They arrived unhurried within the afternoon. It turned into once about 7pm by the time either would possibly moreover procure a phone call home. Schlegel rang his mum.

“She turned into once a little bit bit haunted,” he says.

“It turned into once a colossal shock. She knew nothing of our plans but she had heard about our streak from experiences on West German TV. I acknowledged it turned into once all OK, that I turned into once safe and that turned into once it. We knew the Stasi would possibly be listening.”

Götz moreover rang home.

“My folks right now gave me be aware to divulge they had been now no longer by myself,” he says.

“It turned into once: ‘OK honest, you are OK, perfect, we discuss later.’ Due to when something be pleased this happens, you realize the authorities are in reaction mode.”

Every gamers realised they’d need to be very careful.

“When a player from Dynamo Berlin leaves the club, he’s now no longer a reliable boy,” Schlegel says.

“Falko and I had determined that in all interviews we can enjoy to never discuss at all about politics, now no longer about any criticisms of the East, to excellent discuss about football. It assign now no longer want been safe – for us or our households.

“We knew that the Stasi moreover enjoy a vary of folks within the West too. That there enjoy been folks staring at us. Spies.”

Götz and Schlegel known as upon Jorg Berger, a feeble East Germany early life coach who had fled to the west in 1979.

Berger helped put collectively contact with prospective contemporary golf equipment. They chose to stamp for Bayer Leverkusen, but would enjoy to wait a year to procure their debuts – Dynamo Berlin would now no longer acknowledge the switch. Fifa’s 12-month having fun with ban turned into once viewed as a compromise to subtle over their illegal switch.

On the time, Berger turned into once supervisor of KSV Hessen Kassel, then within the West German 2nd tier. Sooner than he died in 2010 at the age of 65 after plagued by cancer, he wrote an autobiography wherein he claimed he turned into once centered for assassination within the 1980s, that he turned into once poisoned by a Stasi agent.

Berger moreover spoke several times about Lutz Eigendorf, a feeble Dynamo player who defected to the west on the diagram in which aid from a match in Kaiserslautern in 1979. He had been especially vocal in his criticisms of East Germany after defection.

In March 1983, eight months earlier than Schlegel and Götz arrived secretly in Munich, Eigendorf died in a automobile break. Berger believed the accident confirmed the indicators of a Stasi operation – the put the driver of a vehicle would possibly be blinded by a shining gentle while utilizing at high scoot. Tests confirmed alcohol in Eigendorf’s blood, but his chums acknowledged he had now no longer been drinking earlier than stepping into his automobile.

Schlegel (a long way suitable) and Götz (third from left) pictured of their debut season for Leverkusen, 1984-85

Götz and Schlegel had made it to the Bundesliga. They expert with Leverkusen, they settled into their contemporary atmosphere, but their old lives had been never a long way within the aid of. They had been being watched very closely.

“That’s the reason the Stasi turned into once so popular – for what they did,” says Götz.

“They watched us in Leverkusen, and so they adopted my folks all day long. No longer in secret, they wanted them to enjoy a look at. There enjoy been interviews, interrogations, power. When I turned into once in a dwelling to entry my files at the Stasi archives, when they had been made accessible after German reunification, I stumbled on things that I would possibly maybe now relatively now no longer discuss about.

“But for me for the time being, it turned into once necessary now to no longer divulge that every little thing in East Germany is contemptible, that communists are contemptible, now no longer excellent because I knew what the reaction to this would possibly per chance be but moreover because it wasn’t.

“My time in Dynamo made a in actuality perfect player of me. I had 12 years at the club. They helped me open a expert profession. Our motivation turned into once now no longer politics.”

Because the Icy Battle thawed in direction of the tip of the 1980s, each gamers had been in a dwelling to enjoy interplay up extra traditional contact with their households, while moreover contributing on the pitch after their suspensions expired. That they’d appear every Saturday night on the Bundesliga highlights programmes – soundless watched secretly in so many East Berlin properties – turned into once a provide of broad pleasure for his or her folks.

Götz stayed at Leverkusen till 1988. After successful the Uefa Cup, he left to join Cologne.

Schlegel left Leverkusen in 1985 and had a season with Stuttgart earlier than signing for Blau-Weiss Berlin in 1986. He now lived on the west facet of the metropolis the put he turned into once born. But clearly, he would possibly moreover never terrible to the opposite facet.

He excellent managed to enjoy a look at his mum and pa all all over again in 1987, in Czechoslovakia. For Götz it turned into once the summer of 1988, in Hungary.

Then came 9 November 1989.

Schlegel turned into once in a hotel with his group-mates when he heard the knowledge. He’d suitable got aid from coaching when someone shouted over from the bar: “Hello Dirk, the wall has come down.”

He idea it turned into once a shaggy dog story – for no now no longer as a lot as five minutes he would now no longer judge it, even after he’d viewed the TV photography, the thousands of smiling East Germans walking by checkpoints, previous the barbed wire, previous the spotlights, previous the alarmed border officers. What now exactly?

“I acknowledged: ‘Oh come on! The wall came down and I turned into once now no longer in Berlin!’ We would possibly moreover hardly ever enjoy been extra away in Germany too – we had been having fun with an away match in opposition to Schalke,” says Schlegel.

“That turned into once suitable a crazy skills for me; it turned into once unthinkable. Looking out at it, I idea presumably or now no longer it’s a long way a drama or a movie. It turned into once something unbelievable.

“On the weekend, I came aid from the game at Schalke and my household eventually came visiting to seek recommendation from me with two chums. We had dinner at home, speaking, drinking.”

It wasn’t till December that Götz returned to the East facet of Berlin for the first time since he and Schlegel had left with their Dynamo group-mates in 1983. He went aid home – “nothing had modified, it turned into once exactly the a linked” – and frolicked with his household all the diagram by that season’s iciness smash. His mother would possibly moreover eventually pass on the few belongings she had been in a dwelling to mask and have interaction safe for him.

Thirty years on, the friendship between Schlegel and Götz endures.

They enjoy taking a look aid on their mettlesome feat and discuss assuredly – assuredly by phone as Götz soundless lives on the opposite facet of the country.

“My son is amazingly proud,” says Schlegel as we discuss at a cafe come his west Berlin home.

Now he has to head. He and Götz are employed as scouts; work is calling.

I assign now no longer even enjoy to request the final build aside a query to of.

“I enjoy been requested on repeatedly,” Schlegel says. “Would I enact it all all over again?

“Completely. Without build aside a query to of. At any time when. I did it for my existence. It turned into once about putting in my future, shaping my existence, selecting my possess direction.”

Schlegel turned into once a early life coach with Hertha for several years – here celebrating A-Juniors Membership Cup victory in 2004
Götz (suitable) turned into once Hertha’s supervisor from 2004 to 2007. Pictured here in 2006, his assistant (left) is ex-Celtic player Andreas Thom – who made his European debut for Dynamo on the night Götz and Schlegel fled
Two ladies stroll alongside Sebastianstrasse, alongside which the Berlin Wall once ran, in October 2019. The photo beneath shows the a linked scrape in 1963

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