Like most of what was once the former GDR, it is fair to say that Dresden, the capital of Saxony, has been shut out from the official World Cup party. If you exclude Berlin, whose Olympiastadion is in the old western part of the city, only five of 64 World Cup games are scheduled to be played in the east, all in Leipzig. Only one team, Ukraine, has its base in the east, in Rostock. And now following Saturday's match between Argentina and Mexico in Leipzig, the World Cup is leaving the east altogether. There will be no more games here.
One suspects that the east remains something of an embarrassment to the rest of Germany. It is too poor. The social problems are too deep, with unemployment as high as 20 per cent. Racism and suspicion of the outsider are entrenched, especially in smaller towns. Parts of the east, notably Hoyerswerda in eastern Saxony and some of the Baltic towns, have indeed become, 'no go zones' for non-whites. There is a problem with young disadvantaged young men. In eastern Germany it's the women who are more mobile, who are more prepared to move to other parts of the country, such as affluent Bavaria, to live and work. The men tend to stay behind and, on the whole, their resentment grows.
Neues Deutschland was once the Pravda of the old GDR, with a circulation of more than a million. Today, still leftish, it sells only about 70,000 copies a day. Its diminished fortunes, like those of the old East German football clubs, is representative of the losses as well as the gains of reunification and there remains a lingering sense in the east of the past having a more powerful presence than the present itself.
'Nostalgia or what we call "Ostalgie" is a very powerful force in the eastern states,' says Paul Nolte, professor of contemporary history at the Free University in Berlin. 'What are people nostalgic for? They're nostalgic for the lost certainties of the old era. There's a feeling that things were better and more ordered in those days. This manifests itself in a fondness for old East German products and brand names such as the Trabant pictured above.'
I have left the football World Cup to others who know a lot more about it than me. But Jason Cowley's article in Sunday's Observer, from which the edited extract above is taken, is an excellent piece of journalism highlighting the enduring divide between the former East and West Germanies.
Image credits: Divided World Cup - BBC News, Trabant in the former East Germany by Pliable from my photo essay I am a camera - Robert Schumann's Zwickau. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk
If you enjoyed this post take An Overgrown Path to the former East German cities of Dresden * Leipzig * Zwickau and Berlin.