top of page
  • Writer's pictureFMBhikkhu

Livin La Vida Loko! - Part 1: Introduction

Updated: Nov 13, 2022

3rd November, 2022


 

'Ostalgie', A portmanteau of the German words 'Ost' (East) and 'Nostalgie' (Nostalgia). In German culture, Ostalgie is nostalgia for aspects of life in communist East Germany.

 




 


Altona Parade Ground, Hamburg, 31st May 1903.


It's the 88th minute, and Heinrich Riso has just fired home the final goal of a 7-2 victory, completing his hat-trick and sealing victory for his team.


The final whistle blows. Riso and his teammates wheel away in jubilation, celebrating around the old Prussian parade ground before shaking hands with the dejected DFC Prag players.


After a delayed start due to the officials not being able to find a match ball, the Prague side had taken an early lead. But their opponent fought back valiantly, and now the match was finished.


As the spring sun lowers over Hamburg, the winning team are awarded the 'Viktoria' - a statue of Victoria, an ancient roman goddess of victory.


VfB Leipzig are the first team to claim the German Football Championship.


VfB Leipzig squad in 1903. Looking dashing, chaps.

The victory came as a bit of a shock, with DFC Prag having previously been touted as firm favourites for the match. I can't help but wonder if their fortunes might have been better had they not gone on a pub crawl through the streets of Hamburg the night before.


German footballing history is complicated, reflecting the country's turbulent past, but this contest was the predecessor to the modern Bundesliga. A knockout competition pitting the winners of the regional leagues against one another, it's what many historians consider the first instance of what could be described as a national championship.


This, in effect, means that VfB Leipzig can refer to themselves as the first ever 'Champions of Germany'.


They would go on to win the competition twice more in 1906 and 1913 and finished as runners-up in 1911 and 1914. They did reach the final in 1904, but the match was not contested following a protest to the DFB from Karlsruher SC. The First World War put a halt to proceedings and following peace in Europe VfB Leipzig would not win the German Football Championship again. They won a Tschammerpokal, precursor to the modern DFB Pokal, in 1937. But leading up to the Second World War Leipzig would not see their earlier levels of national success again.


The aftermath of the defeat of Nazi Germany caused significant national and political division, and naturally this spread into the football structure too. Like the country, the league system was split into two - The West German Oberligen (Which would go on to become the Bundesliga as we know it) on one side, and the East German GDR-Oberliga on the other. Leipzig would play in the latter, under communist control. It is this period where they would see their most fruitful period of success, capturing 4 East German Cups, a UEFA Intertoto Cup in 1966, and were felled 1-0 by Johan Cruyff's Ajax in the final of the 1987 European Cup Winner's Cup, with the legendary Marco Van Basten dealing the killing blow.



Fast forward 119 years from their first German Football Championship, and sadly VfB Leipzig are no more. Reunification was, like many clubs of the former East Germany, unkind to Leipzig. They flirted with the top-flight Bundesliga in 1994, but it was only to be a cameo appearance - they finished last, winning just 3 games. By 2001, they had slid down to the fifth tier, and in 2004 the club declared bankruptcy and were forced to dissolve.


That, however, was not to be the end.


VfB Leipzig fans refused to let their club die, and like a phoenix from the ashes, a new team formed.


 


Why 1. FC Lokomotive Leipzig in FM23?


There is some contention as to whether Loko Leipzig are really the successor to VfB Leipzig, with many seeing the tumultous club history through the 20th century as making this claim difficult to uphold. Nevertheless, the links are there, and I think this sleeping giant of German Football deserves a wake-up call. They are currently plying their trade in the Regionalliga Nordost, the 4th tier of football in Germany.


Loko hit many of the criteria of what I think makes a club interesting to play, most notably its rich and varied past. I think for me what makes Football Manager so great is the narratives I can create, imagining the fans and how they would feel as the save wears on. Picturing the club growing in size and stature and creating legends along the way. I think Loko is a brilliant club for this, and I've listed some of the reasons why below:



 

  • A big cross-city rival


Across the city, Loko's neighbours RB Leipzig are the pantomime villains of German football. It's easy to forget that the Champions League regulars were founded as recently as 2009. For anybody that doesn't know why RB Leipzig are so disliked, I would read this Guardian article by Philip Oltermann which explains the issue:




'Red Bull? Fuck off!'


There's a fairytale story to be made here that the brothers Grimm would be proud of. If RB Leipzig are the Goliath, then Loko could be a much poorer David. The plucky underdogs could build a club to rival RB, a club with fans at its heart and wealth earned through merit. If Loko could topple RB Leipzig, it would be one hell of a story. To the dismay of many Germans, it's unlikely to happy in real life. In-game, however, it's my goal to bring this minnow out of the shadow of its neighbour and up to the dizzying heights of European glory.


It will take at least 3 promotions for us to be battling RB every week, and in the meantime we have the other fiercely contested Leipziger Stadt Derby with local rivals Chemie Leipzig. This fixture is shrouded in enmity, being referred to in the press as a 'German hooligan summit'. Sounds Feisty!


The other derby that we will get to play with Loko is the Sachsen Derby, with another Saxony based club Dynamo Dresden.


We should get plenty of opportunities to play our rivals on our journey to (hopefully) the top, and the importance of these huge matches is a tantalizing prospect.



 

  • A dedicated fanbase


Even at this level, German football is home to many proud supporters' groups. Loko Leipzig are no different, and several thousand dedicated fans flock to the Bruno-Plache-Stadion every week. In the East German period, this fanbase was a lot larger - with a high-end estimate of 120,000 attending the home leg of the European Cup Winner's Cup Semi-final against Bordeaux.



They might not turn out those kind of absurd numbers anymore, but they do still have a strong backing - evidenced by the record attendance for lower league football of 125,000 set in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. Sure, it might have been a virtual game to help the club through the pandemic, and you could argue that nobody actually 'attended' the game, but it still shows the degree of support that Loko have.


Leipzig is a city with a population of over 600,000. I think that leaves more than enough room for another club the size of RB Leipzig. I'm sure there are plenty more Leipzigers who would follow a local team with a better calibrated moral compass.


It was the fans who saved the club from the brink of extinction, and I think such loyalty deserves recognition and reward in the form of taking the team to a higher level of the sport. At the very least, it would be ideal if the Loko ultras don't oust me in the first season.



 

  • My personal love for East Germany and Ostalgie


As part of my A Level in history, I studied East German history and culture. I was lucky enough to get further insight into the topic by studying A Level German at the same time. It's safe to say I find the former communist country fascinating, particularly in how much control and knowledge the state had on the lives of its citizens. One of my favourite museums I have visited is the Stasi Museum in Berlin. It reveals how the East Germans lived, and how the secret police carried out surveillance on them. One example of the extremity is a complex listening device fitted into an interior door to eavesdrop on the occupants.


Anybody you knew could be an informant, and the Stasi kept a file on everybody.


The state interference would influence every aspect of life in East Germany, and this included football. I intend to do a deep dive into the history of football in the country, but for now just know it was unsurprisingly heavily rigged. When Dynamo Dresden won the league title in 1978, they were paid a visit by former Head of State Erich Mielke. He congratulated them and told them he would be happier if his favourite team BFC Dynamo were champions. Sure enough, BFC Dynamo would go on to win 10 consecutive league titles from 1978-88.


East Germany shocked West Germany in 1974, Beating them 1-0.

The East German regime cost many ordinary people their lives. While I find it's history interesting, I do not intend to romanticize it - I think that would be an injustice to the victims and to those who had to live their lives in fear. There are many aspects of East German life that nobody would wish to see return. Despite this, some former East Germans do hold a fondness for life under the communist system. In Germany, this is often referred to as 'Ostalgie'.


The memories of Trabis buzzing down Karl Marx Straße, and an afternoon snack of Spreewaldgerken are held highly by many.


It is perhaps out of my own form of Ostalgie that I was inspired to do this save. The clubs who played in the former East Germany have, in my opinion, languished for far too long. Once regulars in European competitions, they deserve more than the doldrums of the German lower leagues. Through my virtual managerial counterpart we will make them shine once more.


(Anybody who's interested in the idea of Ostalgie should watch the fantastic German language film 'Good Bye, Lenin!' featuring the excellent Daniel Brühl. I don't want to give too much away, but it follows the challenges faced by a young East Berliner who has to care for his ill mother around the time of Reunification. It's in German of course, but if you don't mind subtitles then I'd highly recommend it.)


 

What do I want to achieve?


I think taking charge of Loko Leipzig has the hallmarks of a great save for the latest version of Football Manager. It certainly has many of the things that make a save enjoyable for me - an interesting backstory, former success, intense rivalries and a dedicated fanbase. All of this set on the backdrop of a country with its own turbulent history and a rich footballing culture.


I do have a genuine belief that the East German clubs were not given the respect they deserved following reunification - only two, Hansa Rostock and Dynamo Dresden were instated to the new-look Bundesliga in 1991.


The Eastern clubs couldn't compete with the finances of their western compatriots, and as such have gradually slipped into obscurity.


With the release of FM23, we have a chance to regain some of that lost pride.


And I think that's where I'll start with the aims for this save. We know the history of Loko Leipzig, but where do we want to take them in the future?


Well, I think a common goal for many clubs is to build their own Identity. This means many things, but for this save I want to build a footballing philosophy - something that will run right through the club from youth to senior level. It will influence our staffing, transfers, tactics, and the personality and playing styles of the players we aim to bring to the club.


What this is yet I'm not entirely sure, and once I've got to grips with the squad I'll have a better idea of the direction I want to take them in. But this isn't just about building a team of 11 players - it's about building a club.


The prospect of living in a bigger clubs shadow has helped me to guide this. I want our Loko Leipzig to be an antithesis of RB Leipzig. Like their rebellious younger brother, I want to stand for everything they don't. I think the basis of this will be in the socialist past of the club. Loko should be a community club - by the fans, for the fans. We don't need a cash injection from a multi-million-dollar conglomerate or sugar daddy thank you very much, we'll do it ourselves. We will build a strong youth system to give opportunities to local youngsters and look to allow ample playing time for younger squad members. Players will be heavily involved in local communities, and the people of Leipzig will be at the heart of everything we do no matter how big we grow.


We will build a club for all, where all that matters is that you live and breathe Loko.


In the confines of Football Manager it's difficult to pinpoint exactly how this can be done with the tools we have at our disposal. That being said, I will be leaning into features such as the new fan opinion hub to help track our progress. I will also be aiming to guide the club vision to favour our chosen system and beliefs. Once our initial tactical philosophy is finalized, I will look to maintain it throughout the course of the save, tweaking it only where necessary to get results. As the club grows in stature, it's important that we stick to our core beliefs.


To keep myself invested in a save, I find it helps to have specific end goals that we can use to track our progress. It means I'm always working towards something, and I don't end up getting bored and losing interest. I've outlined some short and long-term goals for this save below. These could change along the way, but here is what I want to achieve for now:



Short Term -


  • Gain promotion from Regionalliga Nordost - This won't be easy. I've played at this level in Germany on FM22 and it was fiercely competitive. There's a lot of good sides in this division, and only one of them gets the chance to get promoted. Whether this is automatic or via a playoff varies from year to year, so we're going to have our work cut out for us. I'd like this to happen ASAP as outside of some luck in the DFB Pokal it is the first step to really growing the club.


  • Win the Landespokal Sachsen - Our regional cup competition. We won it as recently as the 20/21 season, but victory in this competition enters us into the DFB Pokal where there's some serious money to be made for a club of our size and you get a set amount for competing in each round.


  • Beat Chemie Leipzig in the derby - One for the fans. It'll mean a lot for them to get the bragging rights over our biggest rivals.


  • Poach talent from higher up - With the youth systems of clubs like Bayern and Dortmund being so big, it's inevitable that some of the fringe players will get frustrated with not getting playing time. A lot of them don't have the potential to feature in the first team, but many of them can excel at our level and even a couple of levels above. They're often available at a cutthroat price or for free, and I want to try and bring in 2/3 top class talents that we can offer plenty of playing time and then move on for a healthy profit.



Long Term -


  • Have a higher reputation than RB Leipzig - Our nasty big brother. The goliath to our David. If we make it to the Bundesliga it'll be a tough task to topple them at first. But after a while we can outgrow them and start beating them regularly. I think a good signpost of this will be when our reputation overtakes theirs. That's when the fans can finally claim to be a bigger club.


  • Build a new stadium, and have the highest average attendance in the league - To be the most popular club in Saxony, we have to have the people. Once we have the highest attendance in the league, or at least higher than RB, we can say truly say we are 'The People's Club'. That will mean moving away from the beloved Bruno-Plache-Stadion, however. Hopefully the fans won't mind.


  • Win the Bundesliga 3 times and get a star on our badge - Toppling the giants of German football won't be easy and might take a while. I'm in for the long haul though, and the glitziest prize in German football awaits. The prize for us doing this 3 times will be a little star above the club crest. I'm going to feel very smug adding that on in photoshop.


  • Win the Champion's League - The biggest prize of them all. We've come close to continental success before, being pipped to the post by Ajax. If we can beat them, and even RB Leipzig on the way our first taste of European glory will be that little bit sweeter.


 

So there you have it, that's why I decided to play as 1. FC Lokomotive Leipzig in FM23. I have plenty of content planned for this save from deep-dives into the sport in East Germany, Saxon battle tactics, a sprinkling of Creative FM and much more. With the blog being brand new, I'm still figuring out the kind of posts I want to make and how I want to format the saves, so things are subject to change. I'm also new to blogging myself, both FM and in general, so I'm still working out what I enjoy and what works for me.


I'm currently juggling studying and my personal life, so I cannot give an insight as to when the posts will be up. I do love the idea for this save however, and I cannot wait to get my teeth into it. I already have an idea of the tactics we're going to use, and I've created our manager. His story will be revealed as this series wears on.


If this installment has piqued your interest and you want a heads up for the next one, you can follow me on -



And if you made it this far, thanks for reading!


See you next time.


Patrick - FM Bhikkhu








 

Sources -







 


















274 views0 comments

Comments


bottom of page