Sunday, 19 May 2013

The last day of the season - Bochum v Union

On occasion, to understand the present, you must revisit the past. To understand today's clash against Bochum I must first recount 'Spieltag 1' against Kaiserslautern. From the 'diary'...

Spieltag 1

1. FC Kaiserslautern v 1. FC Union Berlin

Sky TV had decided to televise Union’s opening fixture - on a Monday night. It must be a 1500km round-trip I thought (I was only about 100km off). North-east v south-west. What a distance to travel. Last year Kaiserslautern were in the top flight. A huge test for Union. Whilst Germany does not quite shut down in the manner of France or Spain in August, it’s a quiet time of year for the worker. Would there be a 'factory fortnight' where factories shut down as they did in the north-east of England? Would the Unioner be on holiday? Would the match being on TV reduce the away attendance? I had nobody to ask. I’d have to watch and try and discover how many fans had made the trip and decipher the German commentator.

A blunt summary of the first half would be that it was terrible. Goalless at half-time. I sat on my sofa in Neukölln fairly happy with 0-0. I was surprised to see Union’s club captain on the bench. I’d written rave reviews on my blog about Mattuschka. Shit, is he on his way out I thought? Whilst this was my first year with a season ticket I’d watched Union since I arrived in Berlin in the summer of 2010. Mattuschka was the most likely to cause the opposition problems. He was only just over 30 - what was going on? Again, I had nobody to ask. My German was OK but I’d not discovered message boards at this stage and anyway, the ‘eisern virus’ had not caught hold of me at this stage. Not to the extent that I’d later find myself scratching around the club website trying to read as much history about the club as was possible. If I put as much effort into learning the language as I did with Union I’d be fluent. Understanding Union and learning German went hand in hand I always told myself as I wasted more hours searching for news about the club I was becoming addicted to.

Back on the sofa I was sat with my Ringtons tea - flown in via a parcel from my Dad - and was hoping for a point. I’d managed to understand that there were over 30,000 fans in the stadium although the commentator was too quick and I did not catch the exact figure. Fucking German numbers, everything’s backwards - my excuse. With Mattuschka ‘benched’ the midfield included a player I’d rarely seen - Tijani Belaid. The youngster appeared a cut above the rest in the second half which was less than 10 minutes old when Union were 2-0 up. This was brilliant. The season was going to get off to a flyer - momentum is key I told myself. It was just a shame I had nobody to watch the game with. I’d hoped that Union would help ingratiate myself into the city and that I’d meet more Germans. II was delighted but the euphoria was tinged with that lonely feeling that only true football fans will appreciate. Sitting on your own watching your team winning with nobody to celebrate with. I explained to my girlfriend that Union were two up. She humoured me.

As a Sunderland fan I’d seen countless promotions and relegations. I had actually lost count and I was only in my early thirties. Every season we seemed to have something to play for on the last day of the season. However, even if the last day had been spent narrowly avoiding relegation there was almost an optimism. Things would be different. Here Union were two goals to the good against decent opposition and I started to feel optimistic. What a time to start writing about the club. Union were more similar to Sunderland than I thought. They conspired to squander the lead and then the sucker punch - Kaiserslautern scored in the 86th minute to make it 3-2 to the home side. Always the way, I consoled myself. I’d hoped for a draw. That would have only been one point so a defeat is not that bad.

‘Fucking get in’, I screamed. Luisa just looked up and smiled. She was now used to my outbursts at a screen that could not hear me. Nobody who cared about the result could hear me. I did not care though. We’d sneaked a draw - 3-3. It felt like a win. That’s how it starts. They reel you in, they wow you, they disappoint you and in the end everything is as it was. The same. I was getting those same feelings for Union that I got with Sunderland. I just had nobody to share them with apart from Rob who I had bought my season ticket with. I’d said to Rob that as long as we went to about 10 games the ticket would be worth it. I was beginning to realise that I would not want to miss a game. I had to find more people like me.

Ergebnis: 1. FC Kaiserslautern 3:3 1. FC Union Berlin

Date: Friday 3rd August 2012

That was my personal account of the first day of the season and for the last day of the season I'll be watching the game in Zur Traube - or as I call it, The Union Kneiper. I've only been a handful of times but already I'm on first name terms with the staff and a few of the locals. I've written over 60,000 words about Union this season. Some of it published, some of it saved for my book that I'll write one day about the club. I've decided I'll keep a few years worth of diaries and write the book when 'something' happens. The blog was designed as a way to chart my first year with a season ticket. Keep an eye on for the Union news in English and a big announcement in early July...

Oh and if you were wondering - over the course of the season I have found there are plenty more people like me!



  1. Please keep it going next season, great job. See you in Köpenick!

  2. Thanks for the kind words - we'll have a website soon!

    Until next season...