As the Berlin sun slunk behind the home end at the ‘Alte Foresterei’ another Berlin son appeared. This son had a similar effect. He brightened up the game and provided the much needed spark that Union Berlin had lacked in the first period. Enter Torsten Matusschka on the hour mark. Union’s favourite son.
Photo courtesy of fc-union-berlin.de
We are led to believe pre-season friendlies tell us very little about the coming season. They are a combination of mis-matches and games played at half-pace. The quality of Union’s opposition is evident with their previous games yielding an astonishing 63 goals scored in 6 played with only 2 conceded. Hibernian arrived on the back of a mixed set of results during their pre-season tour of Belgium. The scene was set for a low-octane encounter made bearable for the fans by the arrival of the Berlin summer.
The Hibernian fans that had travelled were under no illusion about their team. I spoke to some fans on the short train journey to leafy Köpenick from Ostkreuz. ‘So who do we need to watch out for, who are your key players?’ The reply, drenched in Scots humour, yet seemingly true, ‘Nobody, we don’t have any.’ I was hoping to drop in my knowledge gleaned from Wikipedia about captain James McPake. I’d have nonchalantly dropped in his dismissal against Rangers on his debut. Alas, the conversation ground to a halt as the train did likewise and we headed to the nearest bar with a BBQ.
On leaving the station, I had amassed a group and felt like a tour guide. My new ‘Twitter friend’ Dom, holidaying in Berlin with his girlfriend Vanessa, quipped, ‘All you need is a flag to guide the group.’ I’d arranged to meet Dom and Vanessa at Ostkreuz. The inter-railing David and Scott met us at half time. At this juncture, I was guiding a group of 6 as we had the 4 ‘Hibbies’ in tow. My offer of showing them a place to get a cold Berlin beer was much appreciated judging by the speed in which they drank.
A crowd of almost 5,000 had turned up and were in good voice considering that this was a friendly. They belted out Nina Hager’s punk hit with the usual gusto. The first half contained a few meaty challenges. I’d insert a pun about the steak in a bun I had prior to kick-off but I’ll spare you all on this occasion. The first half was notable for only one thing. The referee decided instead of simply passing the ball back to the player on the touchline, he’d first juggle with the ball then neatly stroke it back. It was without doubt the finest moment of the first period.
The second half provided Union with a chance to make a significant amount of changes and as the Union coach rightly pointed out, they were seamless. In most friendlies, changes en masse change the game for the worst. Mattuschka came on with Silvio and they were the two players that caused the Edinburgh side the most problems. Silvio’s power and Mattuschka’s vision - which was highlighted by two exquisite passes - meant that Union were very much on top for large swathes of the later stages.
Union scored their first goal from a free-kick. It was whipped in and needed only the slightest of touches as the ball was glanced into the bottom corner from the head of Parensen. Union’s second came with the last kick of the game, deep in to stoppage time, leaving Hibs no time to re-start. Silvio barged his way past a Hibs defender to salvage a lost cause and managed to pull the back across the face of the goal for the simplest of tap-ins for Quiring.
What did we learn? An inebriated man in front of us told us that Union’s players were football Gods. I’d be changing religion if I was him. There was only one Messiah, the Son of Union and his name is Torsten Mattuschka. He knitted everything together for Union, pressing higher up the pitch than is custom and made sure we left knowing that he is the way, the truth and the light for FC Union Berlin this season.
PS - Quote of the day belongs to @dce8 - ‘I’m not saying there is a right way to travel but there is certainly a wrong way.’ So put your iphones, ipads and laptops away if you are reading this in a youth hostel and go and socialise.