I’d been looking forward to this one. Partly because it’s the first time since the first game of The Project that I’ve had a ticket in advance. And even then, The Eleven Berlin Teams Project didn’t exist in my head when I went to that Hertha BSC v Eintracht Frankfurt game. I looked for tickets on the day of the last 1. FC Union Berlin home game, and it was sold out. So I went down to the team store the next day to get a ticket for the next game. When I got there at around lunchtime, there were just 13 standing tickets left. Twelve left after I’d bought mine (€13).
1. FC Union Berlin are in the 2. Bundesliga. (Quick note about German: “1.” means first, “2.” means second, etc., and while I’m quick noting: “Union” is pronounced “un-yon”) Before the game, Union were fourth, two points behind the leaders, with the top two teams being promoted to the 1. Bundesliga. Union have never been in the top division of reunified German football. People are excited. I was excited. For more than one reason. I have no allegiance or fandom of Union, but it was the first time I would be visiting the renovated stadium. And it’s the first time since going to Lincoln City back in the late 80s that I’ve been in an actual proper standing section. I’ve stood up at several of The Project games, but this is different: to be in a standing section at a busy game in a proper stadium.
About the stadium. The last time I went to the Stadion An der Alten Försterei was maybe 2003 or 2004. Back then, it looked like this:
(Photo by Seppalot13 via Wikipedia)
The club had to renovate it, didn’t have the money to do it, so fans literally bled for their team. You get money for donating blood in Germany, so fans did that to raise money. And when it came to rebuilding the station, they did that too. They gave their time and skills to totally renovate the stadium. More about that here on this Copa90 video.
I like it when you go to a game, and your public transport route from home sees more and more people also going to the game. On my local S-Bahn platform, I saw two people which Union scarves and shirts. A few more joined the train before we got to Ostkreuz station, and changed to a different line. The platform there had regular people going home, but mostly Union fans, and when we all got out at Köpenick, the platform was packed, a solid block of people leaving the station. There were a handful of people stood around at the station entrance holding up print outs with the words SUCHE KARTE. I felt a moment of guilt that a real fan was searching for a ticket, yet I was going to the game just cos of some dumb little personal project.
The first real joy you get when you go to see Union is the walk there. After about ten minutes, you’re near the ground, and suddenly you’re walking through a forest towards a stadium that you see glimpses of through the trees.
Inside the stadium grounds, it still feels like a lower league team. There are no big plazas. It kinda feels like a temporary football-themed market has been set up. The toilets are like those building site cabins. There’s an old van, and a monument to the people who helped build the stadium with a hard hat on top and the names of those who helped around the sides.
I got a beer. €5 for half a litre, but that included a one euro deposit for the cup which had a photo design thingy on it, so, y’know: a cheap souvenir if you want to take it home. Inside the stadium, things get really interesting. On the face of it, there’s nothing particularly impressive about the stadium. It’s not La Bombonera, Olympiastadion, or Estadio Azteca, but three sides of the ground are terraces. You can stand up and watch a game of football. And you look around at the other people knowing that a decent amount of those people actually build the bloody thing.
This was like travelling back in time. The last time I stood on the terraces was nearly thirty years ago. It was genuinely a little overwhelming. I stood there, looking around, up and down, muttering to myself. Mostly “wow!” Then a good song would come on over the PA, and I’d be nodded out of my own little world and singing Gravel Pit by Wu-Tang Clan to myself.
The stadium filled up around me (attendance: 20,877). The fans held up their scarves, sang songs. The away fans, too, in the other half of the end where I was stood made a ton of noise. When the home team was announced, every player’s name was greeted with the home fans shouting “Fußball Gott!” (football god).
The game felt a bit nervy. The visitors, Erzgebirge Aue, are close to the relegation zone, so they needed a win just as much as Union. And indeed, the visitors scored a cracker in the 79th minute. And that’s how it ended. The top team in the division had already played the day before, and the teams in second and third place both drew. Union missed a chance to go top. But, y’know, they’re still only two points off the top and one point off second place with seven games to play. Here’s some video highlights.
My ninth game, and the fifth home defeat (W1 D3 L5). If my Project were a team, I’d be getting the sack soon.
Only two more teams to see in The Project. I’ve gotta wait over a week for the next one and I’ve not gone more than three days without a game in the last three weeks. I might have to see if I can nip to a game by someone else this weekend, a non-canonical, supplementary reading kinda thing.
The Eleven Berlin Teams Project:
Hertha BSC v Eintracht Frankfurt, (25/2/17)
FC Viktoria 1889 Berlin v 1. FC Lokomotive Leipzig (18/3/17)
FC Hertha 03 Zehlendorf v SV Lichtenberg 47, (19/3/17)
Berliner AK 07 v FC Schönberg 95, (22/3/17)
VSG Altglienicke v FC Viktoria 1889 Berlin, (25/3/17)
Berliner FC Dynamo v Hertha BSC II, (29/3/17)
Hertha BSC II v FSV Union Fürstenwalde, (1/4/17)
Charlottenburger FC Hertha 06 v 1. FC Frankfurt, (2/4/17)
1. FC Union Berlin v Erzgebirge Aue, (5/4/17)
Remaining teams to see:
SV Lichtenberg 47
Tennis Borussia Berlin
The Eleven Berlin Teams Project (supplementary game):
SV Empor Berlin v 1. FC Union Berlin, (23/3/17)
A wee bit of artwork
Here’s a cat, y’all.
The song in my head when I woke up this morning
Valerie by the Zutons
On this day
Me on ESPN.com, 6 April 2010
Here’s an interesting Wikipedia article