The role of Kosovo in the rise and fall of Falko Gotz

Muharem Bazdulj
Source: Kosovo Online

Writing for Kosovo Online: Muharem Bazdulj, writer and journalist

Forty years ago, FC Partizan played in the Champions Cup. The title was won with two points ahead of Dinamo Zagreb and Hajduk Split, i.e. five points ahead of Radnicki Nis. After Partizan defeated the Norwegian Viking like a walk in the park in the first round (total 5:1), in the second round they had Dynamo from (East) Berlin (DDR) as their opponent. Until the last second of the Belgrade rematch, overtime was a realistic option, but Partizan still lost with a total score of 2:1. However, the match was remembered for something else.

Arriving in Belgrade, two Dynamo first-team players - Falko Gotz and Dirk Schlegel - used it to defect to the Federal Republic of Germany. They took advantage of a moment of inattention to separate themselves from the rest of the team, stopped a taxi, and took a taxi to the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Belgrade. There they organized a trip to Zagreb, and then a transfer by train on the route Zagreb - Munich. It was a small political and Cold War scandal at the time.

Gotz was perhaps the Dynamo's best player. After all, he scored Partizan's first goal in the first game in Berlin, already in the first minute. The home team won that game 2:0. In the second leg, Gotz was not even at the JNA Stadium (Yugoslav’s People’s Army Stadium), so, of course, he did not play. Prekazi scored a magnificent goal from a free kick from more than thirty meters to make it 1:0 for Partizan in the middle of the first half. Despite the strong attacks, that remained the result at the end of the game.

Gotz stated somewhere that he had had no qualms about wanting to defect, but that despite that he had supported his club and that he would be very sorry if Dynamo had been relegated due to his non-play. Gotz and Schlegel were banned from professional football for a year. However, after that term passed, Gotz made a serious career. First, he played for Bayer Leverkusen, with whom he even won the UEFA Cup, and was the scorer in the second leg of the final against Espanyol. Later, he played for Cologne, Galatasaray, and Saarbrucken, and finally retired as a player in the Hertha jersey.

After his playing career, Gotz began to make a name for himself as a coach. He started at "Hertha", then he managed "Munich 1860", then "Holstein" from Kiel, and at some point, he became the coach of the Vietnam football team. When he met players from Serbia, he would always remember the most important unplayed game in his life, so he would ask about Prekazi.

After returning from Vietnam, Gotz's first job was in "Erzgebirge" from Aue for the 2013-2014 season. This is a club that was the best of the best in East Germany for a while, and after reunification, they never even played in the first Bundesliga. Now they are in the Second German League, where in their first season they almost missed the chance to advance to the First League; they were fifth. Since then they have been fighting for survival; they were fifteenth twice. Gotz was brought in with the ambition to get them back on the road to the top.

Without any clearly articulated expected result, more with the tentative expectation of fighting for the top, i.e. of being closer to passing into the First League than being relegated to the Third, and in an even competition like the Second German League, Gotz did not know for months whether he would consider his mission successful or not.

Then came the twelfth of April, the thirtieth round, visiting "Greuther" from Furth. At that moment, Furth is second in the standings and Aue is twelfth. Furth is, of course, the favorite, but Aue would put all worries to rest with a win and perhaps be able to think about a place in the upper part of the table at the end of the championship. Falko Gotz expects a lot from this match.

At first, everything is like a beautiful dream. It's the 17th minute, a direct free kick for Aue, and from that free kick, Slovakian international Filip Luksik scores a wonderful goal 0:1. For some reason, Gotz remembered Prekazi's goal to Dynamo.

Half-time was coming to an end. The lead seemed secure. And then in the thirty-eighth minute, assisted by Ilir Azemi, Daniel Brosinski equalized 1:1. Half-time was almost over. Gotz was still counting on a win or at least a point.

In the unfortunate thirteenth minute of the second half, Furth scores the second goal and leads 2:1. Gotz knows it's over. He knows it's over because Ilir Azemi scored the goal. The phonetics of that surname reminds him of Prekazi.

And indeed, it ended 2:1 for Furth, and at the end of the season, after winning 14th place, Gotz was fired. His coaching career has since gone downhill.

Prekazi was born in August 1957 in Mitrovica and Azemi in February 1992 in Pristina. Thirty-five years in time and (around) thirty-five kilometers of space separate these two football players and their hometowns. However, these two played important roles in the playing and coaching career of Falko Gotz.