do not mention the war

Football Brothers

In England, Football, Germany, History, Identity on September 19, 2011 at 11:53

Back to football after some exploits on the press and TV. While Diego Forlan‘s family has a long and successful football history, this post will look at how two sets of brothers, one in England, one in East Germany did fare while they were playing football.

Mainly two sets of brothers will be written about: The Charltons of England and the Duckes of East Germany. All four of them have been successful but they enjoyed success that was defined very differently. While Jack and Bobby Charlton were part of the World Cup winning team of England in 1966, Peter and Roland Ducke were the first ‘stars’ of East German football in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Peter Ducke, the younger brother to Roland, was part of the GDR football team that won Olympic Bronze in 1972 in Munich. In two successive years, 1970 and 71 both were voted footballers of the year.

Observers might conclude that communist countries did not produce any stars as the focus was on the collective. Hans Meyer, however was of a different opinion. He must know, because after ending his career as a player for Carl Zeiss Jena, he became their coach at the young age of just 28. When asked if he was jealous not to have coached any real world-class players, he replied that he actually did so: Peter Ducke in Jena. If there was any proof that East Germany had no class players, this answer denies them all. Think of FC Magdeburg in the early 1970s and especially the team that beat AC Milan in 1974 to win the European Cup Winners Cup. Such a density of talent was hardly ever found in East German football after that. More importantly, these players came exclusively from the region, hardly any were ‘delegated’ to the club. Think of Jürgen Sparwasser and Martin Hoffmann, two talented players. Many international observers would not recall them as genuine top class players. This is not true. They were international top players because at the time, Magdeburg played regularly in the European Cup competitions and thus were widely written about.

Back to the matter of the footballing brothers. Jack Charlton appears to be standing in the shadow of his brother Bobby, which seems to be justified with the reason that he played for Leeds United instead of Man United and that he was a defender instead of a midfielder cum forward who could score magnificent goals. It is not forgotten that he was part of the World Cup winning team of 1966. But few would put him as the player with the most games for Leeds United, ahead of clublegend Billy Bremner. His real achievement it could be argued is the fact that he managed the Republic of Ireland to some fame in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Their most successful spell was certainly at the World Cup in 1994. As a result there are four (FOUR!) Phillips Sports Manager of the Year awards in Ireland (1987-89 and 1993). He was named footballer of the year in 1967, a year after his brother won the award and a fitting parallel to the Ducke brothers who won the East German equivalent in 1970 and 1971.

In conclusion, the statement that the east didn’t produce anything but sterile swimmers or sprinters does not hold ground. Football was a very popular sport in East Germany and continues to be. It also produced personalities and stars, although they were not officially stars. Just like Jack and Bobby Charlton had every kind of success during their playing days and some in various managing positions after, Roland and Peter Ducke enjoyed success and nationwide recognition, too. Success has to be defined differently though as medal at the Olympics counted far more than a European Cup title.


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