DRESDEN, East Germany — It was only soccer, an old-timers' game at that. But it lured an overflow crowd of more than 36,000 to Dynamo Stadium Monday, including West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who, in an election year, seldom misses a photo opportunity on either side of the border.
He must have liked this picture. In the standing-room-only terrace at the south end of the stadium, the working-class fans, on a cold, gray afternoon, wrapped themselves in the warmth of the plain old red, black and yellow flag of a united Germany.
It was a day for looking into the past and seeing the future. On the field, the combined West German and East German team from 1974, the only year both qualified for soccer's World Cup, played a team from the rest of the world.
Until Monday, athletes from the two Germanys had not played on the same side since 1964, the last of the post-World War II Olympics they entered as one team. Despite fears of domination by a reunified German team, expected to become a reality within the next four years, if not sooner, the rest of the world was safe on this day. It won, 3-1.
No one among the crowd seemed disappointed by the result. Although most of the players are in their 40s, and a couple are in their 50s, watching them play once more must have been sheer joy for the German fans, like American baseball fans seeing Ted Williams swing a bat again.
England's Bobby Charlton, 51, still has a mean left foot, and West Germany's--oops, Germany's--Franz Beckenbauer, 44, can still thread the ball through the defense like nobody else.
Beckenbauer, the star of West Germany's 1974 World Cup championship team, was the first player invited to play.
"My decision was made in one second," he said.
There was equal enthusiasm here. An East German newspaper, Junge Welt, said Monday there would have been 100,000 people at the game if the stadium had been large enough to hold them.
A West German newspaper, Bild, began organizing the game as soon as the Berlin Wall started coming down in November.
Profits, which the newspaper estimates will total about $1.2 million through the sale of tickets, television rights and sponsorships, are earmarked for a fund to reconstruct the Dresden Castle. The 400-year-old home of Saxon kings, like virtually everything else in this once-majestic city of half a million, was destroyed by Allied bombs in 1945.
"I think this is a good reason to come to Dresden because this match will help rebuild the entire city, not just the castle," Kohl told the crowd before the game.
The West German chancellor made a dramatic entrance. He and his entourage left their luxury cars about a mile and a half from the stadium, on the other side of the Elbe River, and walked across the bridge in a light rain alongside the fans. With only a couple of security men at his side, he shook hands with everyone who approached him and smiled for photographers.
Later, as he walked toward midfield for the ceremonial kicking of the first ball, he received a larger ovation than any of the players got during the pregame introductions. The fans whistled derisively whenever their view of Kohl was blocked by the mob of photographers that threatened to engulf him.
This is Kohl Country. In last week's East German elections, the party he campaigned for, the Alliance for Germany, received about 60% of the vote in Saxony, of which Dresden is the capital, as opposed to 48% in the rest of the country. Kohl's Christian Democrats would be more than satisfied with a similar result in December's West German elections.
For both the Alliance for Germany and the Christian Democrats, the immediate goal is to reunify the countries as quickly as possible.
On Monday in Dresden, it appeared, at least on the surface, as if that already had occurred. The flags waved by fans in the stands belonged to either Saxony, West Germany or the united Germany of 1919. If anyone had an East German flag, he did not flaunt it.
The flags flying above the stadium belonged to Bild, Coca Cola, which has been available in East Germany for two months, and Satellite 1, a West German independent television network that bought the broadcast rights for the game.
A cigarette manufacturer, known simply as West, various alcoholic beverage companies and Lufthansa, the West German airline that now serves Dresden from across the border in Hamburg and Stuttgart, bought advertisements on signs surrounding the field.
The German team advertised a West German dairy, Mueller Milch, on the front of its jerseys, while the world team wore the Coca Cola logo. A Mercedes was raffled off at halftime.
This is in a country that, less than six months ago, had a Communist government, which protested that sports in the West were too commercial.