Monday, 29 October 2012

Union win fans but not points against Paderborn

I met with a superb crowd before the Union v Paderborn game. There were 9 of us in total. One of the gang was Lewis, a student at the local Uni, in Berlin for 1 semester. Being a man of vast intelligence, after only a short time in the capital he tried to extend his stay by another semester. Sadly, it was not to be but he'll be in Berlin until early next year. He's seen Hertha play. Now it was Union. Read his take on Union below.

The Union atmosphere was like one I've never experienced before. Being a massive Aberdeen fan, it takes heart to admit that the home games I'm used to are pretty dull with a sporadic crowd in low voice.

At the Stadion An der Alten Försterei, it was the complete opposite. I've attended the Olympiastadion twice this season, and despite the Ostkurve 'ultras' being extremely vocal and inspiring, the fact the rest of the stadium was half empty put a slight dampener on the whole 'football experience'.

The Alte Försterei was full to the rafters, each and every fan in unison and full voice. It's just a pity the result on the pitch wasn't quite as satisfying... Despite Paderborn having their fair share of chances, Union did too and wasted them all - striker Adam Nemec was ironically cheered off by the home faithful after being substituted in the 2nd half.

The winner seemed a complete freak goal - the players and fans were as surprised as each other as the ball somehow looped over the keeper and into the net. If there is one thing Union can look at Hertha and be jealous of though, then it's a striker like Ramos who can score a goal or two.

Even so, this and the disappointing result aside, I've definitely been converted to the East side. A full terracing capacity of passionate fans in red and white, chanting their team on in between gulping down a pint of fine German beer, it genuinely is as good as it gets... If only it existed in the north-east of Scotland.

Thanks to Lewis & Felix at Groundhopping etc for the photographs.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Union Berlin huff and puff against 10 man Frankfurt

Due to making sure 15 Irish lads got in the ground OK, I took a week off blogging duties and @robinberlin kindly wrote the blog this week. As usual, he's bang on the money.

After an early season wobble Union are now looking resembling a solid resolute outfit. However, their inability to create and take chances in front of goal remains a cause for concern.

In the balmy late October sunshine, Union were lead out by the “King of St Pauli”, Thorsten Mattuschka, whose exploits in their last fixture had rescued a point away in Hamburg.

The new stand is taking shape and building work is ahead of schedule.

The fact that FSV Frankfurt were on the wrong end of a 4-0 shellacking last year was cause for optimism amongst Union fans who were keen to secure a third home win on the bounce.

After an fairly unremarkable opening ten minutes, the game turned on a decision from the referee to award a twelfth minute penalty to Union following a deliberate handball by Frankfurt defender Marc Heitmeier . For this offence he received his second yellow card and FSV were down to ten men.

Mattuschka never looked like missing and he slotted the ball home to score his third goal in two games. Happy days – the sun was out, Union had the extra man and this correspondent was looking forward to an afternoon goal fest.

Mattuschka sends the keeper the wrong way

Nothing quite rolls of the tongue like a classic footballing cliché. Italian defences are always “well very organised”, Brazil always play “samba football” and it is always, always harder to play against ten men.

This is a view I’ve never subscribed to. How can it be harder to play against a team having to compensate for having one fewer man? However, having seen Union struggle for the remaining 80 minutes against 10 men, I’ve decided that for the time being at least, all football clichés much be true.

At times it was impossible to determine which team had the extra man. Frankfurt stubbornly defended the fleeting Union attacks and then looked the more threatening going forward.

Long balls at the heart of the Union defence caused panic and resulted in yellow cards for both Union centre backs Christian Stuff (the poor man’s Per Mertesacker) and Roberto Puncec.

Before the half was out Björn Jopek was taken off. It was an afternoon of mixed emotion for Jopek. The crowd had loudly cheered the news of his contract extension, but in truth he had a bit of a shocker and was “hooked” before the half was out. I can only imagine the signing on fee must have gone to his head.

The second half plodded along and for the most part, Union were uninspired and sloppy. It felt like the international break and the early goal had taken all the sharpness and urgency out of their play.

Protest banner pointing out that Rauball (league President) has a few stains on his CV. The second anti-DFB/DFL banner to be unfurled during the game

Simple passes were being misplaced and FSV still appeared to be the most likely team to score. One ray of quality in an afternoon of mediocrity was shown by Stuff who drilled a swerving 25 yard shot onto the bar.

The game was characterised by one of its last acts. After a swift counter following an FSV attack, Union created a clear chance. Mattuschka was one on one with the keeper. Having dragged the ball on to his less favoured left foot, he shot over from 12 yards out.

Union blaze wide - again.

And that was pretty much that . 2-0 would have flattered Union, and 1-0 was probably unfair to FSV who least laid to rest the ghosts of last year’s drubbing.

Union will have to play better this weekend if they want to beat and leapfrog Paderborn.

Maybe Union should just start with 10 men…

Big thank you to Groundhoppping etc. for the photographs. Do check out the facebook page and click like. Superb Berlin photography of the beautiful game.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

FC Union Berlin respond to DFB/DFL

Clocking in at over 4,000 words nobody can accuse FC Union Berlin of a knee-jerk reaction in relation to the DFB ‘security summit’. Today, Union published a response to the summit, and through the well argued document, set out their reasoning for non-compliance with the DFB.

I tweeted a few of my favourite comments earlier today when I scanned the document.

I think it is important to know the full story. I previously blogged about it here but I was offering a view on why English fans in particular are drawn to Union. For a much deeper analysis from someone who knows much more about German football do take the time to read this blog piece by @valedave.

It was telling that Union declared on their website today that after "intensiver Diskussionen" with fan groups they had drafted this document. The fans should be at the heart of every football club. At Union the fans are largely from the local community and Union actively seek out their opinions. That is opposed to your 'fans' being a largely disparate group spread across the world and referred to as a 'market'.

I'll consider all of my tweets and the points they raise in the chronological order I made them. So, starting from the bottom...


Firstly, it's funny. Secondly, what a superb way to make a serious point and take a side-swipe at an acceptable part of German 'culture' that most people are aware of. The Oktoberfest point is clever in many ways. Primarily Oktoberfest is a tourist attraction. If you're unaware of what it is I suggest you read wikipedia. It's clearly a cash cow with drink prices increasing annually. In the last decade the average price of beer has increased by 43%. Oktoberfest is just a bit of fun though. Attending football matches though is dangerous and full of louts. The media (more of them later) lap it up and print pictures of drunk youths and scantily clad woman. Union point out, that compared to the Bundesliga, the world's largest fair is akin to a civil war zone. I've never been so can't comment. My friends have and agree it is carnage. All I can say is that fans at Union drink responsibly and it's much better value.

The fan mile

The 'fan mile' comment from Union was at first glance slightly perplexing, but when you look deeper, extremely shrewd. The 'fan mile' is always heralded by the media as a great success but Union expose the myth by noting that 99 arrests were made when Germany played Italy in Euro 2012. Has a Bundesliga game ever featured 99 arrests I wonder?

The Media

The demonisation of football fans in most countries is due to the media. I'll not waste time in covering well known examples. Suffice to say, Union make this point very well throughout their document. Ultras as the Taliban is so absurd it makes a mockery of the modern day media outlets that publish such rubbish. Again, I can only speak from experience but I have never witnessed any trouble at Union. Strangely, it is a question that I am often asked on Twitter and via my blog - I wonder why...

Social Responsibility

Social responsibility, a buzzword in the corporate world, is used often by Union throughout the lengthy submission. Ridding grounds of a standing area has had a devastating effect on the demographic of football matches in the UK. Whatever your views on stadiums and standing it is not right that local communities are priced out of watching live football. It's cheaper to watch Union than non-league football at Gateshead in the north-east of England. A damning indictment on the English game.

Union are a community club and rarely a week passes without a news story on the club website about an initiative, players attending a fan association or a youth camp. You get the picture and so do they. They know the community is their lifeblood. They invest time and money in building an association that is more than just a football team that plays 34 league fixtures a season.

The Taylor Report

All-seater stadiums are seen as the panacea by the DFB. The DFB believe that with the help of the Goddess of Universal Remedy they can cure German football of its image problems (and create lots of money). They appear blind to the fact that football changed immeasurably for fans after the introduction of all-seater stadiums in the UK. Union, in standing up to the DFB are standing up for the civil rights of every fan in Germany. Long may standing continue as it is one of the best aspects when attending a Union game. I can't imagine sitting at Union and nor can most people I speak with.

Banning orders

One of the main issues Union had with the DFB/DFL concerned banning orders. This is covered in the document but I'm not blessed with sufficient German skills to objectively comment. Luckily St Pauli have a Yorkshire Fan Club and have produced a great blog piece you can view here. David of Vale fame has also produced a very interesting and detailed blog piece here. A must read.

unsre Liebe, unsre Mannschaft, unser Stolz, unser Verein

I'm proud to have a season ticket at Union. Union have a phrase and I feel it is apt to explain it for those who are not aware of what UNVEU stands for. It means "und niemals vergessen eisern union". Nobody should ever forget 'Iron' Union for their courage in being the only club to stand up to the DFB with such eloquence. I only wish I understood every word!


Friday, 5 October 2012

Englische Woche - Union v Energie Cottbus

The term 'Englische Woche' had bamboozled the small crowd of Auslanders (foreigners) that had gathered to watch Union's third game in 9 days. We should have guessed. The term 'Englische Woche' came about in Germany to describe a week where 3 games are played - a happening synonymous with the English game that harks back to a time when games were scheduled this way to accommodate the cricket season.

The Köln game on a Friday night had kicked off the 'trilogy' with Union coming from behind to win 2-1. It was a very English affair. Not pretty but both teams were scrapping for the points. The fans carried Union over the finish line.

The Wednesday saw Union face FC Erzgebirge Aue who were, at that stage, second bottom and on the same points as Union - five. Union took the lead after 7 minutes through Terodde. Last term the fixture had finished 1-1 and with Union's defence looking frail and devoid of confidence on more than one occasion, it was no surprise that Erzgebirge leveled 7 minutes from time. All very symmetrical. However, whilst a point was not ideal it meant that Union went in to their home game against local rivals Cottbus undefeated during Englische Woche.

My first Union away game was against Cottbus. On the trip to that game a group of youngsters had informed me that Cottbus fans were, and I paraphrase and translate, 'a bunch of farmers from the middle of nowhere.' On arrival in Cottbus on a Sunday morning it was hard to disagree. Whilst there were a few more police around than usual at Ostkreuz Station there was no hint of trouble. Judging by my visit to Cottbus the away fans had probably been shepherded in to the ground en masse.

One of the reasons for writing a blog and following Union was to widen my circle of acquaintances. The four of us who managed to meet up at Ostkreuz were a 50/50 split of Americans and Brits. Matt, who I met at the Köln game, has promised (slightly under the influence) to write a blog piece in the coming months. He knows the offside rule and likes a beer - it will be good material I'm sure.

The game was a sell out for the fourth consecutive home game in a row. The 16,750 capacity crowd were in good voice and the Union home end looked awesome decked out in red and white. The Energie contingent had brought along some very strange reflective boards in gold and red. They looked almost mystical when held aloft.

Nemec started up front with Terodde as Neuhaus opted to go 4-4-2 - this has to be Union's best formation at the Stadion An der Alten Försterei. It was just after the half hour mark when Terodde scored after Mattuschka had salvaged a short-corner gone awry. Much to the amusement of our group as Rob had just stated, "we never score from short corners." The corner routine did not work but the ball fell kindly to Mattuschka who scooped in a cross and Terodde was quickest to act and headed home, via a ricochet from the keeper, for his 2nd goal in as many games. (Click here to see Terodde score the quickest hat-trick I have ever seen in under 3 minutes - albeit in a friendly.)

Union came out for the second half and looked a touch off the pace. They were punished by a well taken goal from Adlung. The ball broke to the Energie player just inside the box and he placed the ball in the top right. Haas, the Union keeper, had no chance. As luck would have it, Rob had just uttered that Energie looked poor! The Energie euphoria was short lived however as Union hit back within five minutes. Terodde slid a neat ball through to Quiring. The Union right winger is full of running and it was his pace that led to the Union goal in the first half, when he won a corner. The goal was just reward for an energetic display. 2-1 Union.

There are times during a season when you just know you're going to win. This was one of those days. Or had the half-time pint just kicked in? On 70 minutes Union conceded a penalty and were down to 10 men. A huge turning point in a physical encounter. However, the touch was minimal and whilst the referee had no option but to point to the spot, the sending off of Schönheim was harsh, as there appeared to be a Union defender alongside him.

It would be easy to say that Energie squandered the goal scoring opportunity that had been gifted but that does a disservice to Haas. He guessed left and was half way across the goal by the time the Energie striker shot. He palmed the ball away with a strong left arm and Union were able to welly the ball out for a corner. Mattuschka was like a man possessed and raced over to congratulate his team mate and clearly realised the significance of the save. It was match winning.

The drama continued as Adlung was sent off to even things up a bit. It must have been for something he said to the linesman. We didn't care. The game opened up with Cottbus throwing everything forward. In the closing stages their keeper was in the Union box on more than one occasion. In injury time Union sealed the points with a goal on the counter-attack. Union had a man over although due to a neat shimmy by Jopek he was not required, and the midfielder drove the ball home to make it 3-1.

7 points from 9 in Englishce Woche. St Pauli next up in the Friday night game on October 5th. Union are on the up!

Massive thanks to Groundhopping etc. for the photos. They are brilliant and really capture the key moments and bring the blog to life.