This time last season, I’d hit a bit of a dead end. Having moved here alone due to my job, possessing minimal German language skills and knowing absolutely nobody in the city, I had decided to use football at all levels as a thinly veiled cover-up for getting pissed, a vain attempt to meet likeminded people and of course a remedy for the massive Arsenal and Brentford shaped holes that had appeared in my life. Just as I was gaining some momentum in most of these areas, the bastard snow came down and the football calendar was, by and large, put on hiatus for what seemed like an eternity but was in reality only a few months. Although this is still something that is of great concern to me, I have to say that after standing among the Gluehwein drinking masses in the driving wind at Empor v TeBe a couple of weeks back and after losing the feeling in my toes in Zehlendorf on Saturday, I am more than ready for it this year and following the games last weekend, my weekends are now going to be dedicated to other important things such as the mouthwatering Premier League calendar, The Darts and some of the array of Hallenturnier that will take place across the city.
So, it’s Winterpause o’clock and here’s to hoping that this season it remains within the given timeframe. Of course, when it comes to the prolonged winter that often plagues this city or the heavy handed approach given by the Amt responsible for keeping sport pitches open, no promises can be made by the BFV or the DFB, however, we can all say a collective prayer to the weather gods and keep our fingers and toes firmly crossed for the duration.
Aside from giving us fans and geeks a bit of respite from the cold weather, the Winterpause also gives players and managers a chance to reflect on what has been achieved (or not achieved) and what can be maintained or built upon when the Rueckrunde kicks off in February.
Here is my report on the season so far for the Berlin teams in the top 4 tiers; this will be followed later in the week with an Oberliga and BerlinLiga round up.
I am also very aware that Hertha and Union still have a game left but I’m off back to England at the weekend so won’t get the chance to add anything to what I’ve already seen so far this season.
Last season, there were few more depressing places to watch football than the Olympiastadion. Friday night games against the giants of Ingolstadt and FSV Frankfurt in front of less than 35,000 supporters, who clearly would have rather been anywhere else but there, gave a poor first impression and generally left me feeling both emotionally and literally frozen.
The feeling around the place seems to have changed quite a lot and rightly so, the attendances are up, the quality of the football is improving and the atmosphere is now even close to rivalling the scenes that take place in Koepenick.
This has been largely down to a surprisingly solid return to top flight football. There is no denying that they’ve struggled against the bigger sides in the league and have had a few runs in which they’ve failed to score any goals for prolonged periods of time but you can’t take away from them their league position and the fantastic early season form that saw them only lose 1 game out of the first 10.
With one game to go before the Winterpause hits the top division, Hertha currently find themselves sitting just outside of the UEFA Cup spots in 7th position.
I think a lot of positives can be taken from the first half of the season but a sense of cautious optimism must be kept in mind amongst the players and the fans who will be all too aware of how their team has a refined knack for inconsistency and how the bottom half of the table is all too close for comfort. If they keep their minds in the right place though, a respectable mid-table finish can be achieved and they can begin to look forward to building upon this and remaining in what is seen as their rightful home in the Bundesliga.
League Position – 7th
Predicted League Finish – 11th
Player of the Hinrunde – Adrian Ramos
Average Home Attendance: 52,352
Highlight of the Season so far: a 6-1 opening day of the season destruction of Eintracht Frankfurt
1.FC Union Berlin
If you’d have asked any fan of 1.FC Union back in August how they’d want their side to be sitting come this stage of the season , the usual response would be somewhere between not giving a shit as long as they weren’t disgraced and building upon last seasons relatively impressive 7th place finish. Of course some propaganda about collectivism and atmosphere being the top priority would have followed this but despite the thoughts of some fans, this is something that will not be lost in the Alte Foersterei any time soon and the St Pauliisation of the club is still a long way away.
Following a sluggish opening encounter against Bochum and an away game in Bielefeld that was far from impressive, Union kicked in to life in mid-August and the side went on a 6 game unbeaten run sending them to the unimaginable heights of 1st place in the 2.Bundesliga. Similar to Hertha, it has been the leagues big boys that have proved the biggest problem for the Koepenicker and losses at the hands of Greater Fuerth, Koeln and Kaiserslautern really put things in to perspective for them. This is by no means something for the fans of Union to get worked up about though as going in to the last game of the Hinrunde, they still sit in 5th position in the league and are only 4 points behind the 2nd automatic promotion spot. It seems to me that it’s been a season that has, so far, been a resounding success and something that everyone at the club should be very proud of (not to say that the majority of the fans wouldn’t be extremely proud of their club in any other circumstances mind you!).
Upon reconvening for the home game against Dynamo Dresden in February, Union have nothing to lose, in my eyes, they’ve done enough to remain in the top half of the table and they have enough about them to ensure that this isn’t something that will be easily taken away from them. If they continue to play as they are at the moment and continue to record victories against the divisions lesser sides and those who are, on paper, on par with themselves, the results against the bigger sides won’t matter so much and they can focus on celebrating a job well done come May.
League Position – 5th
Predicted League Finish – 7th
Player of the Hinrunde – Thorsten Mattuschka
Average Home Attendance: 19,798
Highlight of the Season so far: the 3-2 win against St Pauli. Genuinely one of the most incredible matches I’ve ever seen buoyed by an atmosphere that sent chills down the spine. The 2-1 victory against Fortuna Duesseldorf also deserves a mention.
1.FC Union Berlin II
It’s pretty fucking hard to talk about fans expectations when it comes to the Nachwuchs at 1.FC Union Berlin as there doesn’t really seem to be any at all. For a club that is so vocal in it’s support of “Verein” culture, the turnout at 2nd team games is weak and the care for the side really doesn’t seem to be there whatsoever.
All this aside, they have played pretty well so far this season and currently sit in 4th place. The side has only lost once all season and that was in a very well contested match against the current league leaders, TSG Neustrelitz.
Considering the pre-season transfer market saw them completely revamp their side with quite a few new players and a new manager, they were able to gel quickly and are playing a style of football that seems to beautifully mimic the attacking brand utilized at the Alte Foersterei for 2.Bundesliga games. This has been reflected in some of the high scoring encounters they have been involved in so far.
The team and the handful of fans that attend their matches should be very proud of how much they’ve achieved in such a short space of time and can only look continue in the same vein come February. Of course, winning the league means nothing as they would probably be unwilling to make the jump in to the 3.Liga next year (and, I believe, unable to unless the 1st team get promoted) but it does bode well for the club as a whole to have a strong group of players in reserve, plying their trade at a reasonable level of football.
League Position – 4th
Predicted League Finish – 3rd
Player of the Hinrunde– David Hollwitz
Average Home Attendance: 425
Highlight of the Season so far: Winning 3-8 away at Germania Halberstadt which saw them score 6 times in the 2nd half
Berliner Athletik Klub 07
BAK are solid club with clear ambitions of winning the race to become Berlin’s 3rd footballing power. As it stands, they are the highest ranked club outside of the “Big 2” (with the exception of Union’s 2nd team) and are slowly but surely growing themselves a solid fan base across the city, including quite a strong section of fans from other clubs who enjoy the friendly atmosphere and reasonable quality of football.
They won the hearts of many last season when they knocked Hoffenheim out of the DFB Pokal but this season the focus has been fully on the league and despite starting very strongly, their form has started to tail off somewhat and they now sit in 5th place.
Starting the season on an unbeaten run of 10 games, BAK really looked as if they were the team to beat. They have, however, had some relatively poor results of late including back to back losses at the hands of TSG Neustrelitz, VFC Plauen and Wacker Nordhausen. Recording these results going in the Winterpause is a far from ideal situation and the players and fans will be hoping that there side can come back rejuvenated for the “Derby” against Viktoria in February and that the team can start the Rueckrunde in the same emphatic fashion as they did at the beginning of this season.
League Position – 5th
Predicted League Finish – 3rd
Player of the Hinrunde – Christian Siemund
Average Home Attendance: 1,208 in the Poststadion
Highlight of the Season so far: Winning 3-1 against Magdeburg in the Friedrich Ludwig Jahnsportpark
FC Viktoria 1889 Berlin Lichterfelde-Tempelhof e.V
Still the football club with the catchiest name in Berlin, FV1BLTEV came in to this season with high hopes and ambitions to rival BAK for that much coveted “3rd Power” title. Formed after a merger between the Traditionsverein FC Viktoria Berlin and the well set up Lichterfelder FC 1892, the club have an enviable mix of history and infrastructure that was supposed to set them in good stead for the season(s) ahead.
In terms of the football, the FV1BLTEV experiment has spluttered and stuttered in to action and has not quite reached the exciting level that the founders of the fusion club would have hoped to have been able to attain in order to grow the supporter base of this new club. Their home form has been particularly disappointing and they’ve been unable to win once at Stadion Lichterfelde throughout the Hinrunde which is not ideal for a new club looking to bolster their home support.
Currently sitting firmly in mid-table, the season has been neither massively disappointing nor any good. They managed to achieve the bizarre record of drawing 9 out of the first 15 games which, depending on how you look at it, can be seen as an indicator of their defensive resilience and ability to hold out the opposition or as a failure of their strikers and their inability to close off games.
I think it is probably a case of “what could have been” for Thomas Herbst’s side and it will be hard for them not to dwell on the fact that a lot of these draws will be viewed as points dropped rather than gained, particularly as their 3 wins have come against 3 of the leagues bottom 4 sides. Aside from this, it’s not a terrible first showing in the Regionalliga for the new club and they can be encouraged by the fact that they’ve only lost 3 matches all season. This, coupled with the fact that Hertha II and Lok Leipzig are already finding themselves cut adrift at the bottom of the table, should be enough to ensure that they will have a place in the Regionalliga Nordost and with that, a platform to build upon come the end of this season.
League Position – 11th
Predicted League Finish – 14th
Player of the Hinrunde – Uemit Ergirdi
Average Home Attendance: 809
Highlight of the Season so far: The 1-2 away victory in the Amateurstadion against the Hertha BSC II team
Hertha BSC II
Considering last seasons impressive 6th place finish, you’d have been forgiven for thinking that this was a side that would be at least in the running for a top half finish and potentially more. Well, as we reach the halfway stage it’s got to be said that they have been far from impressive and have limped in to the Winterpause with only 8 points, having only been out of the relegation zone once all season.
With only 2 victories all season, it’s hard to take many positives out of the overall situation that they find themselves in. In order to remain in the division next term, the second half of the season has to see some dramatic improvement and results against the other teams who find themselves at the wrong end of the table are going to be vital and decisive to their league position come May.
The only positive that can be taken out of it is that attendances are up and have increased for the 2nd year running. It’s hard to see how this will be maintained if the results keep going in the wrong direction.
League Position – 15th
Predicted League Finish – 15th
Player of the Hinrunde – Fabian Holland
Average Home Attendance: 550
Highlight of the Season so far: a 5-2 home victory against a recently relegated SV Babelsberg 03 side is undoubtedly the best performance and result of their season so far
Photos are included with thanks to Ian at No Dice Magazine (www.facebook.com/nodicemagazine)