A final time for the GDR

'Scholle's' game for the his­tory books


Part two of the series on the subject of 30 years of reunification: The national team of the GDR played their last international on 12 September 1990. Heiko Scholz, the former Werkself player and DFB Cup winner of 1993, was in the starting eleven for the German Democratic Republic in Brussels on the very day that the country no longer existed as a political entity. A retrospective.

12 September 1990 is not only steeped in history because of the international. In Moscow, Lothar de Maizière, the last foreign minister of the GDR, along with his opposite number from West Germany, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, plus the foreign ministers of the four victorious powers signed the so-called two-plus-four agreement. That cleared the way for the reunification of Germany which came into effect with an official ceremony on 15 March 1991, the day the last ratification document was presented by the Soviet Union. The two-plus-four agreement marked the end of the post-war period – Germany, including Berlin, was finally free of occupying power restrictions.

Breakfast with Sammer and Wosz

Back to football: There was a small group sat together at the breakfast table. Only 14 players came to Kienbaum – to the south-east of Berlin – to prepare for the last international for the GDR against Belgium. On that morning, the ARD were allowed to provide live coverage at the Brandenburg Olympic Centre. The TV crew filmed as Matthias Sammer, Dariusz Wosz and Co. buttered their rolls, poured out coffee and signed balls from time to time. Most of them had short at the front and long at the back haircuts that were popular at the time but looking back are aesthetically questionable. Heiko 'Scholle' Scholz was one of them. Jörg Stübner, who was sitting next to Scholz and a sort of pop star of East German football at the time, clearly had no time for mullets and he was strikingly different with his curly locks. Those scenes are captured in a wonderful documentary by NDR on the 293rd and last international for the GDR.

The match in Brussels on 12 September 1990 was the first qualifying match in Group 5 for the 1992 European Championship in Sweden. In addition to Belgium and East Germany, West Germany were also in the group. The first of the German – German clashes should have been played on 21 November 1990. But the course of history prevented that with the worker and peasant state being in the process of abolishing itself. The GDR Football Association (DFV) had already withdrawn their team from the Euro qualifiers. The long-arranged match in Belgium was now a friendly fixture.

"I definitely wanted to be on the last team photo"

The problem: East Germany coach Eduard Geyer found it difficult to get a team together. There was a flood of 22 rejections. 'Ede' Geyer had invited 36 players – and he was just left with a small group of 14 "wild, upstanding blokes", as they were later called in the media, gathered together in Kienbaum. The coach, who ten years later succeeded in taking Energie Cottbus into the Bundesliga, was really annoyed. Matthias Sammer, already under contract at VfB Stuttgart, wanted to leave straight away when he saw who was missing. But there were no more flights to Stuttgart on the evening. So he stayed.

"A number were injured, like Ulf Kirsten and Andy Thom, several were not released by their clubs in the West and others just didn't fancy it anymore," says Heiko Scholz in recalling the bizarre situation. But Heiko, having moved from Lokomotive Leipzig to Dynamo Dresden in the summer of 1990, was really key to play in this game. "At that time, I was one of the best eleven footballers out of 17 million inhabitants." Besides that, the then 24-year-old was well aware of the historic dimension of the game. "So it didn't really bother me that all those people cried off. I just wanted to be on the last team photo of a GDR national team. It was clear to me that that picture would still be in the history books 50 years later."



The rump group face a hammering

The East Germany internationals did not get to hear much about the current political events when they were in Brussels. They concentrated on their own performance. "We wanted to bust a gut again to achieve a decent result in this final match," said Scholz. "All the experts were expecting this rump group would get a hammering against Belgium. After all, the Belgians reached the Round of 16 in the 1990 World Cup in Italy."

Scholz is proud of his start in his seventh international appearance for the GDR. In 1987 he made his debut in an East Germany shirt under coach Bernd Stange in a 2-0 defeat against the big socialist brothers, the USSR. His penultimate appearance for his country was over 18 months ago – again a defeat against the USSR (0-3).

"When all the stars came in, I wasn't usually in the squad or I was on the bench. The rejections from most of our regular players was my good fortune," said Scholz who was then already one of the oldest players in the squad.

Once again 'Risen from the Ruins'

Now he was in the starting eleven. Scholz was the last player to run on in the white and blue GDR kit at the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium in Brussels just before eight in the evening on 12 September 1990. Unusually, all three verses of the national anthem 'Risen from the Ruins' were played. "There was lots of discussion before the game about whether we should sing along which wasn't normally allowed," recalled Scholz. The fourth line of the first verse – "Germany, united Fatherland" – didn't go down well in the GDR. But then nobody moved their lips when the anthem was played.

In the match, that was only watched by 10,000 spectators – including a small group of travelling GDR citizens - the team of the former worker and peasant state, led by captain Matthias Sammer, really got stuck into challenges. At half-time the scoreline was 0-0. Heiko Scholz only recently received a copy of the full coverage of the game from a friend and it was the first time he had seen the match on television in 30 years. "The reporter said about me: 'Scholz lost every ball and just hid in the first half,'" recounted Scholle who had to laugh out loud.



In his own perception, he was moved around a lot. He played on the left wing and then on the right side of the attack. And finally, coming in from right wing, he produced an excellent pass on 75 minutes to Heiko Bonan who provided the assist to make it 1-0 to the GDR. Bonan just had to lay the ball back to Sammer who was able to convert from close range. It was the 500th international goal in the history of the GDR. Sammer scored again in the penultimate minute to seal a 2-0 victory to round off the 38 years of international fixtures for the GDR. Referee John Blankenstein blew the whistle to end the game at 21.53 CET.

Stübner: The greatest talent in gdr football

After the game, the 14 upstanding men celebrated the victory with a couple of beers and then everybody went their own way. Most of them made it into the Bundesliga sooner or later and clocked up a total of 1,469 appearances – according to the research by the Berlin Kurier. Only Jörg Stübner, with 46 internationals the most experienced of the team at the time and a teammate of Heiko Scholz at Dynamo Dresden, was unable to cope with reunification and the new circumstances. His life gradually fell apart. "I played alongside him in the youth teams at Dynamo and he was considered to be one of the biggest talents in GDR football and he became our superstar. In 1991 we were promoted to the Bundesliga together at Dynamo," said Scholz, who kept in contact with Stübner after his move to Bayer 04. They met once or twice a year.

"At some point, Stübs started downing pills and alcohol," recalled Scholz. Ulf Kirsten, another old mate from the youth days at Dresden, invited Stübner to his testimonial in 2003. He scored a goal for Ulf's Dream Team. But he was unable to get his act together again away from the pitch. He claimed Hartz IV support, and went to see psychologists. Scholz: "A lot of people wanted to help him. And last year he actually looked to be back on track and he could have worked at the academy at Dynamo. Everybody really thought he was going to get out of the mess." But Jörg Stübner was found dead by his mother in his flat on 24 June 2019. He was only 53 years old. "His death really affected me as I knew his mother and his brother well," said Heiko Scholz.

100,000 DEMONSTRATORS in Leipzig

Heiko himself, who completed an apprenticeship as a machine maintenance worker in addition to becoming a footballer in the GDR, saw reunification as an opportunity. The Görlitz-born player sensed the wind of change in the early autumn 1989. Scholz was playing for Lokomotive Leipzig. His wife was working at the time in a shoe shop directly opposite the Nikolai Church in Leipzig where the Monday demonstrations began. "First it was five, then ten, later fifty and, in the end, 100,000 people who came into Leipzig to demonstrate. Incredible. We Lok players were forbidden from taking part in the demonstrations. But we went to watch nevertheless. It's clear that if 100,000 people are demonstrating in your city then you go along too," Scholle explained a few years ago in an interview with 11 Freunde.

On the day of the fall of the Berlin Wall, on 9 November 1989, he had just bought a brand-new Wartburg, the newest model with a four-stroke engine. He definitely wanted to get the car before the two-week training camp with the national team. East Germany lost 3-0 in the crucial World Cup qualifier against Austria in Vienna on 15 November. Scholz did not play. That was the match where Reiner Calmund, via his 'spy' Wolfgang Karnath, obtained the contact details of Andy Thom and Ulf Kirsten.

While a lot of East German footballers moved to the West in the following weeks and months, Scholz rejected an offer from the Bundesliga club Karlsruher SC. "They weren't so brilliant at that time," he said with a smile. It wasn't the case that the Bundesliga would not have attracted him. But Scholz was still dreaming the contract with Dynamo Dresden the club where he spent four years at their academy. When Dresden did make an offer, he accepted straightaway. "It was an affair of the heart."



En route to the Bundesliga

Scholz was the first seven digit transfer within the still existing GDR. When he arrived, his mate Ulf Kirsten left Dresden for Leverkusen. In the summer of 1990, Dynamo played a friendly against Bayer 04. Scholz opened the scoring for Dresden and had a great game but the Werkself ended up winning 2-1. He did make an impression on the Leverkusen general manager. "Who's that little curly haired bloke there?" Reiner Calmund asked his new signing Ulf Kirsten after the game. But he played it down: "No, we can't get him as he's only just arrived from Lok Leipzig." When Scholz describes this short dialogue he has to smile: "Calli had already cast out the line for me. But he had to wait for two years."

In 1992 – Scholz had an impressive season with Dresden in the Bundesliga increased to 20 teams – he followed the call from Reiner Calmund and joined Bayer 04. Now he had made it. Scholle was in the starting line-up from the very first day. The combative and hard-running midfielder played for the full 90 minutes in nearly all of his 33 games and he won the DFB Cup with the Werkself in his first season under the Bayer Cross. "I felt at home straightaway and that wasn't just because Ulf and Andy were already here. I just liked the family atmosphere."


He went on to play one international under coach Berti Vogts two years after the reunification of Germany. In the 1-1 draw against Mexico – played in Dresden of all places – he played alongside World Cup winners Rudi Völler, Guido Buchwald, Olaf Thon, Lothar Matthäus, Thomas Häßler and Jürgen Klinsmann. That was his final international appearance for the national team. The names of his teammates have far more resonance than those of 12 September 1990. But the team photo of 14 October 1992 will probably interest few people in 50 years time.


At home in Leichlingen

Scholz played under the Bayer Cross for three years making 94 appearances for the Werkself. And at his other clubs as a player – Werder Bremen, Fortuna Köln, Wattenscheid 09 and finally Dresdner SC, the main residence of the family Scholz remained Leichingen. In Leverkusen's neighbouring town, he laid down roots with his wife and two daughters. He still goes on motorbike tours with his mate Ulf Kirsten or the lads from the Bayer 04 fan club 'Schwarz Wölfe' (the 'Black Wolves'). And he plays for the Leverkusen Veterans when he has time. Scholle has a flat in Dresden where he works today with his beloved club Dynamo as assistant to head coach Markus Kauczinski. The Black and Yellows brought off a coup at the start of the season: They beat Hamburg SV 4-1 in the first round of the DFB Cup. That was followed a week later by a 1-0 win in the third division against Kaiserslautern at the Betzenberg. Last weekend, Dynamo had to settle for a 1-1 draw against Waldhof Mannheim.

The 30th anniversary of reunification will probably be a working day for Heiko Scholz. On 2 October, Dynamo are away to Bayern Munich reserves and the following day there is a light training session on the agenda. Perhaps then he will take a brief moment and remember the first day of German unity 30 years ago. On 3 October 1990, Dynamo won 3-0 against Union Luxembourg in the European Cup. As usual, Scholle ran up and down the right wing for 90 minutes at the Rudolf Harbig Stadium.