The thing about the plexiglass washer was almost a year ago. Back in March 2019, Joe Enochs and Claus-Dieter Wollitz met for the last time. In Zwickau, for the relegation thriller. It was supposed to be a memorable evening, at the end of which it clattered tremendously. FSV Zwickau, trained by Enochs, won 2-1 against Cottbus. And Wollitz, then still a coach at Energie, demolished the plexiglass pane of the coaching bench out of anger at the defeat. Knowing that his team desperately needed the points in the relegation battle. What came true then: At the end of the season, Cottbus relegated to the regional league, Zwickau managed to stay in the league.
Now they see each other again – in Magdeburg. “Pele” Wollitz has been there for three weeks as the successor to the unsuccessful Stefan Krämer – and expects FSV Zwickau and Enochs in the first third division game of the year on Saturday. Wollitz does not have to fear that Zwickau’s coach will retaliate at the Magdeburg coaching bench, even if his team wins. Because what was lost in the plexiglass number was the meaningful sentence that Enochs later said at the press conference – and which is no less relevant for the duel between 1. FC Magdeburg and his FSV. “We in the east,” he said, turning to Wollitz, “we really have to stick together.”
You have to know that Enochs is American. Born in Pentaluma, California, he moved to Germany in his early 20s. For twelve years he worked in defensive midfield at VfL Osnabrück. The realm that was still called the “destroyer position” during Enoch’s active time. With eleven relegations in a total of 403 second division and regional league games, he also garnished them accordingly.
Now one “destroyer” meets the other. But it is not only this unconditional and sometimes unfounded passion that connects both. There is also this “we in the east” – with which Enochs actually only wanted to protect his colleague Wollitz from public criticism. In his view, broken glass is not one of the deadly sins of football. But he immediately added a geographical dimension: “We in the East” are not “those in the West” – where Enochs and the Westphalian Wollitz were socialized.
The two of them worked together for a long time in Osnabrück. From 2004 to 2008 Wollitz was Enochs’’s trainer at VfL. After that, they were even colleagues on the coaching staff. In 2009 Wollitz then moved to East Germany to Energie Cottbus. In 2012 he returned to Osnabrück for one year. From 2015 to 2017, Enochs was head coach at VfL.
It is logical that the US boy identifies with his current employer FSV Zwickau, where he finally earns his living. It is remarkable, however, that he feels so much connected to East Germany, even though he has only been there for a year and a half, and that he is also bringing colleague Wollitz into the East German boat. Such a sentence would have been more likely to be expected from Wollitz, who after two terms in Cottbus – 2009 to 2011 and 2016 to 2019 – almost passes as “half Ossi”. At least he felt addressed directly after Enoch’s appeal: stick together? “It’s not me.”
The other side is: Under the label “We in the East” obviously not only East German coaches gather. And that’s a problem, despite all of Enochs’ well-intentioned solidarity. Of the ten Eastern clubs in the top three German football leagues, only four are coached by East Germans: Erzgebirge Aue by Dirk Schuster, Hallesche FC by Torsten Ziegner, Carl Zeiss Jena by Rico Schmitt and Hansa Rostock by Jens Härtel. 40 percent East coaches face 40 percent West coaches. Conversely, there are just three East German trainers working for a total of 46 clubs in West Germany: Marco Rose at Borussia Mönchengladbach, Steffen Baumgart at SC Paderborn and the less well-known Mike Sadlo at the less popular SG Sonnenhof Großaspach. In numbers: Almost 70 percent western coaches against 6.5 percent eastern coaches. These statistics are all the more important when you consider that the proportion of coaches born abroad is almost identical in East and West.
In football, it shouldn’t matter where someone comes from, as long as it’s not about national teams. And yet last year, when three state elections were held in East Germany and the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall was celebrated, a lot was said about the underrepresentation of East Germans in responsible positions. Which is obviously reflected in the football business. So you could say: If Enochs speaks of “we in the east”, he takes on a kind of proxy position, then he fills an otherwise empty place. Yes, there is a little lack of successful East German football coaches.
But Enochs did something completely different. He has, perhaps without realizing it, served an attitude towards life. “We in the East really have to stick together.” This is not just a demarcation from the outside, but also an appeal to show solidarity internally. A little bit of nest warmth, some might say, a bit of mustyness. Yes, that’s what the people in Zwickau want to hear, especially the older ones, because they used to learn it themselves. And what they are increasingly complaining about in the postmodern times of digitization and the associated individualization and loneliness. It used to be said that people used to stick together.
And Enochs? It simply brings this cohesion into the present as if it were the most normal thing in the world. And he is so incredibly credible because, unlike others who preach something like this, he does not rely on votes.
You definitely want to forgive him if he lets solidarity with his trainer colleague rest for 90 minutes on Saturday. Because both teams, both Magdeburg and Zwickau, are in the lower half of the table and urgently need points. It could be a crime thriller again, like back then, on that rattling evening in Zwickau.