Not Your Regular Football Derby – Hertha BSC v 1. FC Union Berlin

Ask any football fan to describe what constitutes a derby and I’m sure that you will pick up on the usual expressions; passion, hate, rivalry etc. By analysing other examples of football derbies from around the world there are a plethora of underlying reasons for such rivalries that don’t just stop at geographical. Rivalries between supporters can result through socio-economic, religious, ethnic, political and cultural differences, regardless of them sharing the same locality.

There is one football derby that will be totally unique to world football and will occur on the 5th February 2011 at the Olympiastadion in Berlin. The two teams involved have shared this fantastic and unique city since their formations. They have experienced very different histories to one another and in some ways have all the relevant ingredients for a derby built on intense rivalry and hatred. This will not be the case when these teams go head to head on that particular Saturday in front of a sell out crowd of 75,000 spectators, as to date, they have never played each other in competitive football before this season! See the link below…

One of the underlying reasons behind the lack of ‘previous’ between these two sides can be attributed to the turbulent history of Berlin itself. To think that these clubs share a city but for more than half a century were in different countries to one another situated inside nations that were ideologically, socially and economically polar makes the prospect of this match rather exciting. I think this shows what a unique place Berlin is. Union Berlin have found themselves elevated to ‘cult’ status alongside Sankt Pauli in modern times due to their ‘alternative’ reputations within German football.

Do Union Berlin and St.Pauli fans have affection and respect for one another due to their struggles against their respective ideologies? Or would they be the worst of enemies? Maybe someone could inform me? Feel free to comment to inform me.

Union supporters would be under the watchful eye of the East German secret police for their dissent towards the communist regime. As a result of such intrusions, Union built a huge rivalry with Dynamo Berlin, owned and financed by the head of the Stasi, Erich Mielke, who allegedly abused his status to help Dynamo gain ten league titles in the DDR Oberliga. Every match day, Union supporters would use their stadium as a refuge to vent their anger through chants of dissent against their government and ruling party. It comes as no surprise that their home Stadion An der Alten Försterei is a sacred place to Union fans and three years ago they expressed complete devotion by saving it from an uncertain future.

“FC Union, unsere Liebe, unsere Mannschaft, unser Stolz, unser Verein, Union Berlin”

Union Berlin raised my eyebrows in 2008 when 1,600 supporters volunteered to completely rebuild and renovate the existing stadium in order for them to be accepted by the German Football Association in the 2.Bundesliga, saving the club almost €2 million. In a gesture that emphatically epitomises the importance of supporter involvement and ownership, Union supporters had effectively built their own terraces from which they could worship their beloved team from. One could correlate the enormity of the contribution to the cooperative theories of socialism as well as the ‘do-or-die’ attitude normally attributed to capitalism. I suppose opinions on this are in the eyes of the reader? To think that Port Vale have had an unfinished stand for over a decade now fills me with embarrassment and a disappointment that nobody cared enough to make a difference. Link here…. 

Stadion An der Alten Försterei – Before


Stadion An der Alten Försterei - After

A reward for their passion and commitment came with their promotion and the relegation of city neighbours, Hertha Berlin, a club much larger than Union who have always been prominent in the Bundesliga and if anything are a ‘corporate’ powerhouse in comparison. Hertha in the second division can be likened to Newcastle United and their recent adventures in the English Championship, it is not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’ they cement their place back into the top flight. It is testament to the unpredictability and unsurpassed entertainment of German football that in two to three years a club with an uncertain future could be on a level playing field with another club that missed out on Champions League football. The first meeting between these two sides back in September was played out to a 1-1 draw but many will agree that this return fixture will be the true showpiece in the fabulous setting of the Olympiastadion and in front of a sell out crowd. I can verify that this venue is befitting of the very best sporting event….

Olympiastadion, Berlin (Panorama)

As a result of their histories, Hertha and Union supporters do not consider themselves bitter rivals to one another. They have both evolved through different economic, political and cultural paradigms yet never consider themselves as enemies. In the early days of the cold war, Hertha fans were renowned for visiting Union and Dynamo whilst their team played on the road, a pleasure that was restricted for East Germans. Football however has the uncanny characteristic of helping to write history and who knows what the future holds for these football clubs. Through an increase in frequency of these derbies, could we see that one incident that lights the touch-paper towards rivalry and hatred? Or will these football clubs continue to have that special and unique bond for years to come? There is only one way to find out….

‘Eisern Union!’


About simpkins83

Port Vale FC. No Pyro, No Party. Detroit, Biddulph, Berlin : A Techno Alliance. North Staffs Junglists. Militant Liberal & Georgist.
This entry was posted in Berlin, Football Derbies, Sport, Union Berlin and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Not Your Regular Football Derby – Hertha BSC v 1. FC Union Berlin

  1. david says:

    Are Union Berlin a right-leaning side in German football then? How strange, I always assumed them to be left-wing with the name. Simple ignorance I know.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s