After a bleak winter without football including sacrificing a game during a trip to Tel Aviv because it was Valentine’s Day (I taught Byron everything he knew about romanticism (excluding his Ali Pasha phase)), the calling of German Second Division was too much. Also, it was a good opportunity to visit my good friends.
Israel, what could have been if I was not so romantic?
Far better people have written far better words that I have ever could on Union Berlin including this excellent article by the Manchester Guardian:
If you are too lazy to read all those words, then the synopsis is:
· Fans built stadium with own time, money and blood.
· Club do not like transfer fees.
· Everyone hates Stasi-boys Dynamo Berlin and corporate whores Red Bull Leipzig.
· Fans love Christmas Carols – really love them.
Chemnie > RB Leipzig
All in all a club that seems to realize that its own existence belongs entirely to those people that go and turn up and support it each and every week and not to an Indonesian man who watches the game on an overpriced TV subscription at 4am. I had a feeling this was going to be good’un.
My attempt to replicate the format that has brought me so success in explaining my travels and travails may not be fit-for-purpose here. Berlin is Berlin. Great city, full of great places and great people. Plus Germans…you really are the nicest people: it makes me feel that every other nation is just somehow..nope, I see where this is going so I shall stop here.
The journey to the stadium shocked me. Other football fans. I have become so used to journeys to stadiums in Hungary being surrounded by normal people going about their normal business (which is evidently not watching football) that crowding on to an S-Bahn train with other like minded faintly boozed up people made a refreshing change. A fleeting glimpse of the stadium could be seen through the steamed-up windows of the train. Fortunately, we had a good hour until kick-off and there was a bar doing a roaring trade in beer and sausages (I ate bread and mustard). The beer flowed well warming up the soul that had been battered by a day drinking Germany’s finest wine (another story for another blog) and almost made me miss the walk through the delightful forest to the Stadion an der alten Försterei. This name broadly translates as the Stadium next to the Old Forester’s House. I have to say that the forester – old or otherwise – had done an excellent job because it was a lovely forest. Famous foresters who may or may not have lived in the house include Herman von Nördlinger, Christian Ditlev Frederik Reventlow, F.X. Schumacher, Israel af Ström and Norman Jolly.
The forest also made a picturesque toilet.
Another non-forest based toilet
A good frisking from the security and straight to the bar where the queue contained as many people as a Hungarian away section. Beers obtained and we mounted the steps to be greeting by a great one slope of steep terracing. For different reasons, this is something that you will never see in the UK and Hungary. In the latter, because people are too avidly supporting Barcelona or Real Madrid to actually go and watch football in the flesh. In the former, because the memories of a tragic past still linger. Cries of ‘Onion, Onion’ broke me out of speculative stupor. ‘Onion’ it seems is merely the Berlin accent meets football chant pronunciation of ‘Union’. It made us giggle. We squeezed our way onto the terrace, looked left at the home end, right along our stand and across to the away fans ( a few hundred made the trip from the deep South of Germany) and joined in the chants.
Song after song provided the backing soundtrack to a game that was not particularly high on quality. The hilariously named Schnatterer bundling in after what I recall was some terrible defending to send the Heidenheimers into raptures. These proved shortlived as Kreilach swept home at the other end. (This we were assured by the kind German man next to us was normal for Union as conceding an early goal was a frequent occurrence). In the midst of the goal celebrations, I forgot to high-five the kind German man’s son (If you are reading, sorry).
A Brandy goal (very fitting given my current state of mind for a Sunday early afternoon) gave Union the lead midway through the first half and that was more or less the game won with Heidenheim offering little before a third ten minutes after halftime ended the game as a contest. 3-1
The football itself was nothing too much to write home about and was probably on a similar level to the upper echelons on the Hungarian first division. It will be interesting to see how Simon Krisztian gets on following his recent transfer to 1860 Munich from Ujpest.
Take that Hertha
The final ten minutes were played out to a constant refrain of ‘FC Union. Unser Liebe…Unsere Mannschaft Unser Scholz…Unser Verien…Union Berlin…Union Berlin’ Beautiful A football experience easily in my top 5.
Spot Timmy Bacsi (probably should not have destroyed the resolution so much)