FC Budz has a storied Bundesliga history but languished long in obscurity in the lower reaches of the DDR’s Oberliga, the East German counterpart to West Germany’s Bundesliga. Only recently, since the reunification of Germany, has this unique club of counter-culture ascetics risen to dominate the Bundesliga.
Vegetarians against Hitler
FC Budz hails from the city of Budz in Saxony, not far from the modern borders with Poland and the Czech Republic. The club was founded in 1937 by a group of free-thinking vegetarians, largely in protest of the existing club TSV 1872 Budz, which had aligned itself with the Nazi party. That political allegiance would come back to haunt the young Budz.
Despite being the junior club by sixty-five years, FC Budz rapidly rose to the top of the local Ostsachsenliga, rivaling even mighty Dynamo Dresden. The club soon became a refuge for misfits of all kinds who played free-flowing, attacking soccer. Their generally superior fitness and diet played a significant factor in their early success against clubs that often came straight from the beer hall onto the pitch, full of bratwurst and Pilsner beer.
But the club’s adherence to pacifism and opposition to fascism cost them dearly as the Nazi party inserted itself into all aspects of German life, including Fußball. Already prior to WWII, the Nazis unofficially favored rivals 1872 Budz as emblematic of “true German soccer.” Members of FC Budz were sporadically harassed.
As the club came under ever greater pressure, results on the pitch suffered. With the arrival of war, the club all but disappeared. Some members were conscripted and sent to the eastern front never to return. Many more, however, were persecuted as “conscientious objectors,” and convicted of sedition, imprisoned, or even sentenced to death. FC Budz had all but disbanded by 1942.
Rebirth and “Rastafikation” in East Germany
The club was in tatters, and Budz itself had been heavily shelled during the War. Ten years would pass until one survivor, Friedrich “Knöspi” Schmitz, resolved to revive the club. FC Budz was officially reestablished in 1956 and played locally against other small teams in Saxony. DDR officials, however, looked askance at the club’s unconventional ways, and the Budz were blocked from joining the Oberliga, despite their competitive success at the lower levels, until 1968.
FC Budz competed in East Germany until the Oberliga merged with the Bundesliga in 1992, after the toppling of the Berlin Wall. Until then the club enjoyed only limited success, in large part due to the thinly disguised hostility of the Soviet-backed state.
It was during this period that FC Budz underwent a profound spiritual transformation. With the international success of reggae music, the Budz discovered a philosophy that resonated with their own and were among the first Europeans, controversially, to embrace the message of Rastafari and, with it, ganja. The weed had, of course, long been part of the club’s culture of herbal remedies — rivals sometimes referred to the team as the Stinktiere (“skunks”) on account of their peculiar odor. But now ganja took a central position. The Budz soon became Germany’s most prominent advocates of legalization.
FC Budz today
Free at last to play the game their way in a reunified Germany, FC Budz rapidly rose to become a Bundesliga powerhouse, winning a whopping seven Meisterschaften since their first success in 1994. They are aspiring to win their third championship in a row after defeating FC Kale twice for first place in the past two seasons under the leadership of national team attacking midfielder Marty “Zickzack” Uhlig from Dresden.
The Budz’ success, however, has polarized German soccer: conservative and traditional fans balk at the club’s “un-German” ideals and image, viewing FC Budz as virtually an artificial creation despite their long history of counter-culture politics and play. The club’s summer training camps in Jamaica or Ethiopia regularly draw the ire of conservative circles, despite the fact that they do not generate income for the club.
Critics have fastened in particular on FC Budz’ alliance with Scotts Miracle-Gro, claiming that the hydroponics manufacturer’s sponsorship and part-ownership of the club makes a mockery of the 50+1 rule. Even longtime fans of the Budz feel uneasy about Scotts’ involvement in FC Budz post 1992, but most acknowledge the club could not sustain operations in the modern soccer world if it attempted to subsist entirely on sales of hemp clothing and jewelry, drum-circle lessons, healthy-living retreats, and seminars on the “Budz Lifestyle,” as formerly under the DDR regime (although all these are still offered on the club’s official website).
Be that as it may, the Budz continue to light it up on the pitch week in, week out. Lass feuern!