Stories and pictures of the beautiful game.
Throughout the last 80 years, BSG Chemie Leipzig got quite experienced with mergers, restructuring and bankruptcies. Their story is as enticing as it is confusing, so let’s try to untangle the threads that weave their history and lead us to the present.
The club was originally founded as SV TuRa Leipzig in 1932 and already forced through a few mergers and re-brandings during and after WWII. In the GDR, most clubs were allocated to a government-owned business, so in 1950 it became the Leipziger varnish and paint factory’s club and was hence called BSG (Betriebssportgemeinschaft) Chemie (chemistry) Leipzig. In 1951 they even won the GDR championship, but in the late 1950s and in the ‘60s, the government restructured the club landscape again, so players eventually joined the new Lokomotive Leipzig (which still exists today), whereas Chemie was founded anew and started over in the lower leagues.
Leipzig’s leftovers shock the system
Yet more restructuring at the Leipzig clubs eventually got them an Oberliga (GDR first league) slot, though they were considered to be the team with second hand quality players (“Leipzig’s leftovers”) whereas SC Leipzig (formerly Lokomotive, yeah it doesn’t get any easier) were given the city’s top talents. But Alfred Kunze, who was Chemie’s coach during the ’51 championship season already, managed to motivate his team just about right, and they ended up winning it again in 1964. That could be the reason why they now call the ground after him – and also why there are concrete statues of the entire team at the ground today, celebrating past heroes and their epic battles, just like the warrior statues at the top of Leipzig’s Völkerschlachtdenkmal.
On average, they also attracted twice as many spectators during that season than the supposedly more desirable other Leipzig club. A cup win followed in 1966, but it went downhill from there. In the 1970 and 1980s the club spent more time in the second division than in the first. Oh, and did I mention that there was yet another merger? Right – in 1990 Chemie played in the second GDR division and got an Oberliga slot via a merger with a club who was in financial trouble. The name was changed to FC Sachsen Leipzig, but fans still affectionately called them “Chemie”.
After Germany’s reunification it was time to integrate into the West German football system, where they only ended up in third league. In the following years the club narrowly failed to get promoted to second league and never escaped amateur football since. They shared the fate of many GDR clubs then, playing in third, fourth and fifth tier as well as struggling with constant managerial changes, bad investments, financial trouble and bankruptcies. In 2011 the club was eventually liquidated.
It seemed for real this time, but diehard fans still light-heartedly said: “They’ll somehow come back, they always do – Chemie will never die.” And as a matter of fact, there are actually two successor clubs, but they play in even lower leagues than the original one ever did. So today there is a club that took over Chemie’s slot in the league when they were liquidated; they’re now called SG Sachsen Leipzig and play in the sixth division.
And then there’s the Ballsportgemeinschaft Chemie Leipzig – founded in 1997 to protect the old logo and name: that’s BSG Chemie Leipzig in short, just like in GDR times. The biggest Ultra group “Diablos Leutzsch” (Leutzsch is the name of the district Chemie plays in) eventually joined the new Chemie in 2008 when they didn’t agree with the course the old Chemie (FC Sachsen Leipzig) was taking.
A new beginning
In 1956, there were 100,000 people in Leipzig’s Zentralstadion to watch Chemie play a derby – Germany’s record for competitive matches. It’s safe to say they won’t get attendances like that anytime soon: Today, the new old Chemie (i.e. the club founded in ’97 to protect name and logo, which we’ll just call Chemie henceforth to make it easier) started in the 12th division and now play in Bezirksliga Sachsen Nord (7th division), where they’re currently at the top of the table.
Given that we’re talking about seventh division football, an average of about 600-700 people at home and a following of at least half of that away is not too shabby. You can tell that many people still stand by their club despite the rise of an energy drink fuelled neighbour (at the top of third division) or the still existing and still passionately hated Lokomotive (struggling in fourth division).
Now liquidated FC Sachsen Leipzig at least hoisted the Sachsenpokal (regional cup) four times, a small token for the fans. The last time they won it was in 2005 after defeating Chemnitzer FC in the final. Which brings us to the present, where Chemie host that very Chemnitzer FC in the cup’s round of 16 at home at Alfred-Kunze-Sportpark.
The stadium could technically host 18,000 people but has degenerated too far for that to be safe, so no more than 4,999 are allowed in these days. If you’re sick of identikit arenas, this is your ground as no bit of it is like the next. The Ultra’s end behind one of the goals is a massive unroofed two-tiered terrace, whereas there are only a few concrete steps on the other end. One of the sidelines has a stretch of uncovered seats and a recessed roofed stand in the middle. The other sideline stand is broken up into little bits of terracing and seats, the club house and a small family zone with toys and a sand box, where kids can play while the grown-ups watch the match.
Today’s cup clash is Chemie’s match of the season, with an impressive overall attendance of 2,931 (2,500 home supporters). The Leipzig squad fought well, kept it only 0:1 until late in the second half when Chemnitz finally scored another three. But that was not what mattered – the ground was alive with chants, flags and flares. It was exciting and sad at the same time: a club with that many fans does not deserve to play in seventh league; BSG’s core support group was even larger than at many German second division teams. And they kept singing even when Chemnitz spat out goals in the end, so the stadium announcer’s final words were quite fitting: “The team might have lost today, but Chemie’s fans were winners.” Let’s see where their twisted journey will take them over the course of the next 80 years…
Check out the full gallery and video footage at www.facebook.com/GroundhoppingEtc