When I started this blog all of 7 days ago, I promised myself that I would avoid writing too much about 1.FC Union as there are already some top quality English language materials on the subject of all things Eisern available that are well written and comprehensive in their content (check out www.union-berlin.com and of course, http://www.nodicemagazine.com). However, after heading along to the Stadion An der Alten Försterei for last nights 2.Bundesliga duel against Fortuna Duesseldorf, I could not resist but to share my experience. In all honesty, this is acting as some sort of therapy that I have found myself needing to go through today as I battle my way through a rather dull day in a poorly air-conditioned office, coming to terms with what I witnessed last night. I also promised a lot of my friends that I wouldn’t over romanticise about football and would not write anything that could be classed as self indulgent wank. Look away now guys.
The night began early with some pre-game beers during an all-important and routine trip to the Abseitsfalle with some of the ever-growing army of English Unioners, spirits were high and conversations were had on topics as diverse and opinion splitting as Unions chances to build on the 2 relatively successful years in the 2nd flight of German football, the many reasons why Arsenal are completely and utterly fucked, safe standing in the English game and Marmite. After a short walk to the ground, I took up a position next to the scoreboard in Sektor 2, an area of the ground that I usually tend to avoid due to my opinions on Ultra fandom (a story for another day) and soaked up the last hour leading up to the kick off. As it always is with Union, the atmosphere builds and bubbles as kick off approaches with the usual array of punk rock classics, Union focussed rock songs and chants of “Union, Union” all culminating in the quite frankly mental sight of seeing 20,000 Ost-Berliners completely losing their shit to what can only be described as a punk rock infused rap metal power ballad in the shape of Nina Hagen’s Eisern Union.
After one of the most powerful renditions of this song I’ve heard in the dozens of times I’ve been along to the A.F, the teams got under way and despite being made to play on the back foot for the opening exchanges, Union were able to settle in to the game nicely and created a number of good chances early on. Fortuna looked a well organised unit for the best part of the first half and looked very dangerous on the counter attack, however, time and time again, we saw Christian Stuff and the Union defence that he held together working tirelessly to close down the on rushing hoards of Turquoise (in the top 1 of the worst kit I’ve seen all season contest). Union were then able to really settle down and get a hold on the game and this was rewarded when Köhler whipped the ball in to the box to be met by the towering head of none other than my personal favourite Unioner and the hero of last seasons Berlin Derby, Adam Nemec. This is when the atmosphere turned. A very standard first half display of noise just seemed to boil over in that 1 second when Nemec met the ball with his head and this set the tone going forward and provides a lot of justification as to why the focus of this report shifts a little bit from here on in.
After a quick half time pint and a fistful of cigarettes, I was ready to take in the 2nd half but no amount of nicotine and alcohol could prepare me for what was about to happen. The building and bubbling atmosphere I referred to earlier went passed boiling point, stopping somewhere miles after the thermometer had exploded under the weight of its own job and throughout the second half the noise reached a level that left even the most boring of Groundhoppers completely speechless. Relentless chanting from all 4 sides of the stadium meant that the cauldron of noise that is the Alte Foeresterei was transformed in to quite possibly one of the greatest and loudest sights that there is in Football. Some sort of football match was being played on the pitch as well and just 10 minutes in to the 2nd half, Union were awarded a free kick to the right hand side of the area. This was floated in by none other than the Fussballgott himself, Torsten Mattuschka, whose pass was duly met by that man Nemec again. Now, this is the point when what I can only describe as complete pandemonium took over, the whole ground was rocking from kick off onwards and we were now in a situation where Union were 2-0 up against one of leagues big boys, on the T.V and in front of a full house. There was no other outcome to be expected. The next 35 minutes saw some unbelievable scenes on the terraces as what seemed like the whole of Koepenick was singing Zombie Nation and Unser Liebe etc… All I can remember of the game from this point on is that Daniel Haas made a save that seemed to feel more important than the 2 goals and was celebrated by Unioner across the stadium accordingly. Oh and Fortuna scored a goal following some pretty shocking Union defending but that was such an unimportant footnote on the overall evening, I am not even going to go in to detail.
The game ended 2-1 and was celebrated throughout the stadium as despite the late kick off time, every single Unioner remained in the ground long after the final whistle. The whole team, including Uwe Neuhaus who was coaxed out of the dressing room by some repetitive screams of his name, celebrated in front of the Wuhleseite faithful and even engaged in some quite impressive rave moves to the tune of the whole stadium continuing their Zombie Nation rendition. This was a night in which Union as a collective continued to amaze me, the team continuing to amaze their supporters and it was obvious for all to see that this feeling was very much mutual. The smiles on the faces of new boys Martin Dausch and Damir Kreilach during the post match celebrations speak volumes that back that previous statement up.
So, to conclude, it was another night at the Alte Foeresterei where football ended up playing second fiddle to the complete mayhem going on around the pitch. There is no denying that this was a resolute and battling performance from an Union side who are starting to find their feet a little bit and that they deserve great credit for the performance put in and the result achieved, I just wonder if I’d have enjoyed myself to the extent that I genuinely needed a cigarette, a cup of tea and a lie down if the Unioner were not the Unioner. No matter what your thoughts are on the club, the collective mentality and the die hard attitude of some elements of the support, there is no denying that on nights like last night, there is no club in this city, maybe this country, maybe this entire world that comes close to mirroring Union.
Photos included in this article are taken by Felix at Groundhopping Etc (www.facebook.com/groundhoppingetc and http://www.union-berlin.com) and Ian at No Dice Magazine (www.nodicemagazine.com and http://www.facebook.com/nodicemagazine). Thanks a lot for passing them over.