Friday, 30 November 2012

Ohne Stimme Keine Stimmung 12:12

I'd planned to write about the protests that started this week against the DFB after Union's home game against Bochum tomorrow. However, due to a few requests, I thought I'd have a stab at a Friday lunchtime blog piece about 'Ohne Stimme Keine Stimmung'. The protest started this week and will take place again this weekend and again the following weekend. Teams will play 3 matches where the fans stay silent for the opening salvo.

A banner from one of the midweek fixtures in the Bundesliga

For some background on the DFBs proposals (The Safe Stadium Expeience) read my earlier blog post here and be sure to follow the links as those with more knowledge and better German than me have made a fine attempt at explaining some of the DFBs proposals.

In short, the DFB are looking to erode football fans basic human rights. You may be reading this thinking is this just some daft blogger trying to be controversial to get a few measly hits to his blog. I don't blame you. It sounds absurd. However, when you take time to analyse the way the DFB have manoeuvred the debate then you'll be more shocked at the stats that I can quote than the nonsense that the DFB/media/police have spouted.

So, you've read my previous post and you now know that 1. FC Union Berlin were the only club not to sign up to the DFB/DFLs charter earlier in the year. You'll also now be aware that other clubs released statements backing Union and calling for more dialogue after Union submitted a lengthy document aniliating the DFBs argument.

The next step taken by the fans was direct action. Fan representatives spoke with their clubs and some clubs joined forces with Union. Now all fans are United. United against the DFB, their top down approach and their propaganda that the stadium experience in Germany is unsafe. Go to the fan mile in Berlin. Go to Oktoberfest. All statistically more dangerous than a German football pitch. Points I'll never tire of making. The direct action has brought about the campaign, Ohne Stimme Keine Stimmung which roughly translates to 'No chanting, No atmosphere.'

The scoreboard at Dortmund during the week

On Tuesday we saw the first demonstrations by fans as part of this campaign. Fans refused to sing for the opening 12 minutes and 12 seconds of Bundesliga matches. It was a glorious spectacle to witness and that was just on TV. I can't wait to see Union fans break the silence in the 13th minute of play tomorrow. The ground will erupt. The reason for the length of the silence is that the DFB reconvene on 12th December (12.12) to discuss the next steps.

We live in a world where the state are keen to introduce new measures for 'our safety'. Whether it be full body scanners at airports, vast amounts of CCTV cameras in city centres or the ability to fully strip search away fans. We must rise up and and fight for our civil liberties. Interestingly the DFB are not even a public authority so quite where they summon the audacity for such laws is beyond most sensible people.

The police increased their man hours at games last season by 20%. Could this be a reason for more arrests. Is football getting 'more violent'. If we need to make cuts to the public sector and have less police on the street and arrests fall are we living in a safer world? Unlikely. The phrase 'you can prove anything with stats' is very apt in relation to the police and the DFB and the spin they seem to enjoy taking part in.

Again, proud to be a Unioner and proud to be part of a movement that challenges the status quo rather than just rolling over and accepting further errosions of my basic rights; right to stand, my right to have a beer and overall, my right to be free.

For a video of the midweek match at Kaiserslautern and to see the protest in action click here.

For further information in German click here.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

1. FC Union Berlin 2-2 1860 München - match report

In a week where I took in 3 matches in the capital it was pleasing to get back to my spiritual home - the Stadion An der Alten Försterei. Full credit to 1860 for selling out their full allocation. It upped the dosage in terms of atmosphere and the away fans were quite rightly applauded by the Unioner before kick-off.

It was fitting that Stuff opened the scoring after putting pen to a new deal that sees his stay at Union extended until the summer of 2014. Neuhaus said of the towering defender that he is an integral part of the Union team due to his aerial ability. He demonstrated this with aplomb after Mattuschka whipped in a corner. The "baumlangen" defender rose and deftly guided the ball into the far corner. The former Palace keeper, attired in his gormless light grey tracksuit bottoms, was helpless. An unstoppable header.

Whilst Mattuschka had won the corner that led to the goal with a rasping shot that was turned wide, he found the conditions difficult today. The greasy surface meant that the ball was not glued to his right foot as usual. He was also shackled by a very combative 1860 midfield. The visitors looked sharp and dangerous on the counter-attack. Zoudin provided the highlight of the first half with a dazzling dribble through the heart of the 1860 rearguard. However, as is often the case when a player sees sight of goal after such a run, he ran out of steam and the chance came to nothing. He was starved of possession throughout the game. If Union are to get the most out of the tricky player he needs to see more of the ball.

The Unioner look on from a packed stand

After the re-start 1860 played like a team who just been told they could win the match. They looked sharp and were confident in possession. The half was a mere 6 minutes old when "Mr 1860", Benjamin Lauth scored with a tap in. The ball was worked wide and after an inviting cross was fired across the six yard box he smashed the ball home.

The team from München were in the ascendancy and it was no surprise when Union's lead went up in smoke. The goal had been coming. The ball was again worked wide and when the cross evaded all of the Union defence, Lauth notched his second. A header that Haas managed to save - unfortunately he was three yards inside his goal.

Union's lead goes up in smoke as a Pyro greets the visitors second goal

There was twenty minutes remaining and Union were facing the ignominy of a fourth home defeat this term. To put this in to context this would have meant that only second bottom Regensburg would have had a worse home record. In Union's defence two of all of these defeats have come by the odd goal. However, Union's inability to break sides down at home is very apparent.

Neuhaus made two key substitutions. Silvio was replaced by Nemec and Quirring came on for Zoudini. Silvio's first touch is a pass but he works tirelessly and is constant handful for defenders. He's a striker though and rarely looks like scoring. On far too many occasions he was playing behind Mattuschka and Terrode. Surely this is not at the instruction of Neuhaus.

Nemec provided Union with a share of the spoils. The giant Stuff once again won the aerial duel and when Király spilled the header, Nemec pounced to stab home from close range. My 3-2 prediction pre-match never looked a real possibility. It was one point gained rather than two lost was the consensus amongst the English Unioner. Neuhaus ascribed the draw to bad passing from the Berliners in his post-match press conference.

On Wednesday night (5:30pm) Union travel to Duisburg who are third from bottom. The game is a must-win for Union if they want to better their points tally and 7th place finish of last season. The game will also be notable for the 12 minutes and 12 seconds of silence that is part of a protest against the DFB and their 'secure stadiums' propaganda. A manifesto to infringe on basic human rights. I have written about this previously here.

English speaking FC Union Berlin fan club

We're in the process of setting up an English speaking, FC Union Berlin fan club. We're hoping to get expressions of interest throughout 2012/13 season and become an official fan club in time for the 2013/14 season. We wrote to the club this week and will be looking to organise a meeting (in a pub) the weekend of the Berlin derby. E-mail or tweet @unioninenglisch if you like idea or fancy coming along for a beer.

Pictures today were brought to you by the excellent Ballspanner-Unterwegs.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Hertha BSC v 1. FC Union Berlin - 20:15 Monday 11th February 2013

Updated 23rd November 2012 at 5:30pm with KO date and time

Due to the amount of correspondence I receive about the Berlin derby I decided I'd try and cover some of the main points about tickets for this fixture in a blog piece.

Image courtesy of

I want sit/stand in the away end

Unless you're a member or have a season ticket at Union this is going to be difficult. Even with a membership card you only have until Wednesday 14th November at 8pm to travel to the ticket office and you are only eligible for one ticket per person. If you are a member who lives outside Berlin you can e-mail the club. Membership is €80 per season. Details here. You get a free scarf and a few other bits and bobs - chiefly, priority for away games.

Some people on Union forums have decried the fact that the club have not moved with the times and used the internet. Perhaps I am bias but there was something about having the morning off work and standing in the cold for 4 hours. I'm not sure what that something is. The sense of achievement? If you have membership and authorise someone to use the membership card on your behalf then they can buy you a ticket. "Vollmacht" is the German word for this. There was quite a bit of this going on.

Edit: Union have sold their full allocation. Ausverkauft is the German word for this.

When is the fixture?

Sky TV have not chosen their matches for the second half of the season yet. A farcical situation of buying a ticket for a match that could be on one of 4 days across the 2nd weekend in February. Not much help for international fans flying to Berlin for the game I know - unless you fancy coming Friday until Tuesday of course.

Can you buy tickets in the Hertha end yet?

Yes you can. These have been on sale for a while now. The game sold out in 2011 so I see no reason why it won't sell out again. (Edit - less than 5,000 tickets left according to Hertha site)

The official site is here. Block K.1 or Blocks 12 - 14.2 would be a good shout if you're looking to be near the Union faithful. (Edit - no tickets now available near Union fans.)

Is it a poisonous atmosphere like at other derby matches?

Certainly not. A heavy police presence, an alcohol ban in the stadium and away fans herded into the ground like cattle - yes. Bad atmosphere - no. Such points are always subjective of course but I can only go on my own experience. I called Hertha a few days before the game, and was lucky enough to get a ticket for the 2011 derby, as some players had returned their allocation. I was in the expensive seats and a few Union fans jumped up when we scored. Some even wore colours. I would not recommend this but I hope you take my point. This is not Newcastle v Sunderland or Celtic v Rangers. I've not been to a Merseyside derby but it's probably closer to that end of the spectrum than the Manchester derby. As ever, take care.

Traveling with the Union fans to the game

I was fortunate to do this in 2011. The U2 line runs from Alexanderplatz to the Olympiastadion and the journey is very lively. Well worth doing.

Pre-match drinking

Keep an eye on the blog and I'll be covering where and when to have a pre and post-match drink.


Numerous friends have stayed here and been very impressed. A hotel style hostel. Read a few of the reviews.

Where can I party that weekend?

Check out this website from Mogli Oak. They have their finger on the pulse of what is happening each weekend.

I love Berlin and want to move to Berlin!

Do it. For more about Berlin life check out Überlin website, Slow Travel Berlin website and this guide to moving to Berlin which is also hosted by the team behind Überlin. You can ask them anything!


Picture courtesy of Groundhopping etc

Videos from the famous 1-2 win in 2011

Videos courtesy of Groundhopping etc

Monday, 5 November 2012

FC United of Manchester feature FC Union Berlin in matchday programme

Guest post from FC United of Manchester co-owner

I'm delighted to share a guest post that featured in the FC United of Manchester programme yesterday. Peter Thwaites came to Berlin and writes a superb piece on why FC Union are such a pull for English fans who rally against modern football.

About FC United of Manchester

In 2005 FC United of Manchester were formed by a group of Manchester Unites supporters. The catalyst was the Glazer family takeover. They were set up as a community club and are the antithesis to the current Manchester United business model. As the club website states, "The material theft of a Manchester institution, forcibly taken from the people of Manchester, was the tip of a pyramid of destruction, with changing kick off times for the benefit of television, soulless all-seater stadia full of 'new' supporters intent to sit back and watch rather than partake in the occasion, heavy handed stewarding and ridiculously priced tickets propping it all up. By May 2005 some supporters had had enough." You can read more about FC United of Manchester here.

Eisern Union by Peter Thwaites

Berlin has many attractions as a city - museums, nightlife, architecture, eating and drinking not to mention the immense history that hangs over it. But wherever you go in the world there is always football to experience.

Most visiting football fans, I suspect, would gravitate towards Hertha Berlin. Indeed it is worth a visit if only to see the “ground” - the iconic Olympiastadion, originally built in neoclassical style for the 1936 Berlin Olympics and, despite being refurbished in 1993, retaining much of the original architecture and stonework.

But Hertha are not the only show in town or even, in fact, the best. One Friday evening I decided to head out on the S-Bahn to Köpenick, a historic town incorporated into Berlin in 1920 and home to 1. FC Union Berlin. Whilst Berlin is viewed historically as the seat of Nazi power, it was in fact originally a Communist stronghold, particularly among the working class of Berlin. No more so than Köpenick where, on the day Hitler came to power on 30 January 1933, a red flag flew from the chimney of a brewery. The subsequent reprisal from the Nazis followed in June during the “Köpenicker Blutwoche” (week of blood) when 500 people were imprisoned and 91 murdered.

FC Union Berlin (pronounced Un-Yun) were originally a works team, metalworkers, hence the nickname "Eisern Union" (Iron Union). They play at level 2 Bundesliga and their ground is the Stadion An der Alten Försterei. No matter what name we eventually decide on for our ground in Moston, I can guarantee we will not get anything nearly as evocative as the “Stadium near the old Forester's house”! They are a fans-owned club, with a very similar ethos and outlook to FC United, particularly in their opposition to the commercialisation of football.

Köpenick turns out to enjoy a picturesque setting, indeed by a forest and on the banks of the Spree. (I later discover that you can take a boat trip out here from Treptower Park. While you’re at it, visit the fantastic Soviet War Memorial at Treptower, then enjoy a drink on the boat cruise to Köpenick before going on to an Union game – perfect day!)

I walk from the Aldstadt (old town) out to the ground. The first thing I notice is that, despite the capacity being only 17,000 or so, there seems to be a disproportionately high police presence. Union are playing Eintracht Braunschweig but I don’t know whether this is normal or whether the clubs have “previous”. There are some Eintracht fans congregating with cans bought from the garage next to the ground but they don’t seem in any way threatening. I wander around and walk into what I think is the ticket office but is actually the main reception where a nice lady directs me to the next door along.

Despite my “BBC Steps” attempt at the language the guy in the ticket office immediately spots that I’m not German, “Dutch…? Oh, English… great to have English people here!” He advises me that Block P in the main stand would be a good place to stand and sells me a ticket for €11. I didn’t know this at the time but the ground I’m about to go into was refurbished in 2009 and rebuilt by the fans. I don’t mean just through financial contributions – they actually built it! 75,000 man hours, up to 1600 different volunteers supervised by 6 professional builders and saving the club €2.5M! As I come to realise, there are fans clubs in Germany but Union really are a fans club.

So it’s a warm spring Friday evening by the forest, food stalls, drink stalls, plenty of red and white in evidence. The ground inside is very like an old English Division 3 ground but none the worse for that. It’s mainly standing with the long main stand and the area behind one of the goals being the more populated areas. It’s a very relaxed atmosphere, much more down to earth than the grandeur of the Olympiastadion. Supporters stand on the terraces enjoying a beer or a fag (the attitude to smoking in Berlin is so relaxed, it’s almost compulsory). I haven’t really read up on the club at this point so I’m unprepared for what happens next.

As the teams come out, something is starting to happen over the loudspeakers and music starts to swell. Behind the goal, a huge transparent flag begins to rise, outlined with black and white images of what I presume are famous players. Then the “Union Hymn” begins. This is “Eisern Union” sung by the East German punk singer, Nina Hagen (not to be confused with Nena who sang “99 Red Balloons”). It’s a surreal mixture of hymn, anthem and heavy rock but an impressive spectacle as the whole crowd joins in.

Some other interesting banners on display; “weil das Herz weiß, was du tun musst” = “Because the heart knows you have to do” and “unsere Liebe, unsere Mannschaft, unser Stolz, unser Verein” = “our love, our team, our pride, our club”.

In the meantime, the Eintracht fans, who are penned into what is appropriately Block Z, set off around a dozen flares simultaneously to welcome their team onto the pitch. They’re completely obscured by smoke for about 5 minutes and any asthma sufferers should look away now.

The atmosphere throughout the match is very similar to what we experience at FC. The actual game itself can hardly live up to that spectacle but is enjoyable nonetheless as Union run out 1-0 winners with mazy dribbling midfielder, Chinedu Ede, catching the eye. I hope to be able to come back for their final home game (v Hansa Rostock) but unfortunately it is restricted to “members only” and is a sell-out, not to mention a 5-4 victory for Union.

There doesn’t appear to be any serious rivalry between Hertha and Union. During the time of the Berlin Wall, Hertha were in the West and Union were in the East. In the East but not of the East. When the Wall came down, one of the first things they did was to play a friendly against each other. In fact the first competitive game between the two didn’t occur until 2011 when Hertha found themselves in 2 Bundesliga, an event which is now repeated this season.

The same cannot be said of Dynamo Berlin however. If Köpenick stuck two fingers up at the Nazis, they were equally at odds with the old East German, GDR regime. FC Union’s bitter rivals were the state sponsored Dynamo Berlin who won 10 consecutive league titles between 1979-1988 due to state sponsored favouritism that extended to fixed transfers and crooked referees. However, once the Wall came down, the patronage that Dynamo had enjoyed from Erich Mielke, head of East Germany's Stasi (the secret police), could no longer help them.

If you find yourself at a football ground in Berlin, you may be taken in by the architecture and the scale and the history of the Olympiastadion but you will surely find your spiritual home closer to the house of the old forester. Eisern Union!

The matchday programme that the article featured in is handed over to the Eiserne Botschafter modern museum

English speaking FC Union Berlin fan club

We're in the process of setting up an English speaking, FC Union Berlin fan club. We're hoping to get expressions of interest throughout 2012/13 season and become an official fan club in time for the 2013/14 season. E-mail and follow our new Twitter account @unioninenglisch for more details.