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German Football - FC Union Berlin

Was on a stag do in Berlin last weekend, and on Friday night 13 of us (all dressed up like birds in ridiculous 70s fancy dress gear) went to see Union Berlin, in the German 2nd tier. Never been to watch German football before, but (removing my emotional attachment to Charlton and the adrenaline/enjoyment that brings, and comparing the two from a purely objective perspective) have to say the experience of that game completely and utterly outshone any English game I've ever been to.

Don't know a lot of background but from what I've read and speaking to their fans at the game, they seem relatively comparable to us. Not particularly glamorous and not much money to chuck about, runners up in the cup once and runners up in the league once in the 1920s. Their ground has been recently rebuilt after it was set to be closed down cos it wasnt up to standard a few years back - this was predominantly funded / carried out by the supporters, spoke to one fan who was pointing at some of the steps and explaining that he built them himself. Holds about 18,000, 15,000 of which is new standing.

They are 8th in the 2nd tier, which has 18 teams, and were playing 7th. So it was a fairly insignificant, mid-table championship game, and not a local derby of any sort. Game was almost a sell out, and the atmosphere was absolutely superb. As you walk up to the ground pre-match you could hear the place was absolutely buzzing, sort of atmosphere you'd be lucky to get before a cup semi-final over here. Before the game they all hold scarfs up and hang these flags down from the stand. Then for the entire 90 minutes, non-stop, the crowd were singing with proper passion but not a sign of trouble. Obviously we stood out ridiculously with our fancy dress on but the fans were friendly, loads of them were coming over to us and asking us why we were at the game, who we supported in England (they thought Charlton were in the prem), telling us what to chant, shaking our hands etc etc. In the opposite corner, the away allocation was sold out, probably about 800-1000, again terracing and they were also bouncing about waving flags and making a right racket throughout the game.

Game was very average, quality wasn't great although on the plus side both teams passed it about and didn't lump it. Union won 1-0, and at the end nobody left the ground. The players then go round to each stand doing this post-match ritual thing where the supporters all wave their flags etc and go mad. If you'd walked in at the end and had a look you'd have thought they'd just clinched the title. Apparently they do it every week. Even if the game had been utterly dire and they'd lost 3-0, you'd still have a good time cos the atmosphere and experience is brilliant. Can move about and talk to randoms, everybody absolutely loves the club and there are blokes wandering up and down the gangways carrying beer kegs so you can just buy pints and drink during the game, none of the hassle of queuing at the bar for the entirety of half-time. And certainly no sitting freezing with booing and moaning and whining. Cost 13euros to get in the ground.

Probably sounds like a disaster in England being able to stand and drink freely overlooking the pitch, but for whatever reason it works there and felt completely safe. Been said before, but the FA could learn a lot from how it is out there. Would strongly recommend anyone, regardless of age or gender, to go down if they're ever over there. Was gutted to miss Carlisle, but this was a half decent consolation to get my football quota in for the weekend.

On a separate note, met a few other English fellas at the game, Watford fans, who referred to Powell as a Watford Legend. Just looked on wikipedia, he played 15 games for them. Tells you all you need to know.

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Comments

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    Nice to see games when you are abroad, and seeing the other football culture.
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    Most things in Germany are better than here.
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    Having been to Germany many times, I completely recognise what you've described. It's odd how peacable they are in the way they follow football. Maybe it has something to do with their..ahem...past. (Someone had to say it.)
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    Most things in Germany are better than here.
    I find myself agreeing ever so slightly with you.

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    Having been to Germany many times, I completely recognise what you've described. It's odd how peacable they are in the way they follow football. Maybe it has something to do with their..ahem...past. (Someone had to say it.)
    Having said that, the chanting was fairly military in its delivery
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    Old habits...
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    most importantly, what were the women like?
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    edited April 2012
    Proper chanting by a few thousand testosterone fuelled young men is awesome. Throw in a few "Oi"s and grunts and it is very intimidating, especeially delivered in a military fashion. Certainly better than singing.

    Ohhhhh! I need a cold shower and a cup of bromine I think. I've come over all unnecessary!
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    most importantly, what were the women like?
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    Thanks for a really interesting posting very well written which I enjoyed very much.

    No thanks for reminding me that during my lifetime this Country has gone to the dogs !
    ( With apologies to our canine friends ).
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    Great post always wanted to go to a German match. Always actually found German football mainly boring, but Borussia's win in 97 and the fact it's so cheap to get in to league matches makes me cast as wishful glance towards them. Cheers sturgy.
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    yer, I thought it was a really interesting post as well.

    does it tell you more about the people who go to watch football in the respective countries or the powers that run it? cos from what you're describing I know which scenario i'd choose over the other. the bit about blokes wandering up & down with beer kegs got me...imagine that in this country..no way they'd allow it..irresponsible, breach of H & S laws etc
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    Most things in Germany are better than here.
    I find myself agreeing ever so slightly with you.

    I fully agree with Chirpy. My favourite country in continental Europe. There football embarrasses ours, £18 for a top flight game, terracing and standing, how can it work there and not here? I've never seen a league game out there (my opinion of the country is based on more than sport) but would love to one day.
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    Went to Munich V Hamburg a few years back and it was like that there (minus beer kegs), the fans were amazing and all fans mixed in before/after the game!! Munich was brilliant
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    most importantly, what were the women like?
    Some amazing birds out there, but a lot are quite alternative / edgy. Was standing at a bar next to this cute blonde local, started chatting her up then when she turned round and I saw the other side of her head, she had a grade 1 on one side of it.

    Second time out in Berlin, night life is top notch, they proper go for it. Quite cheap as well cos Berlin's not a wealthy city.
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    yer, I thought it was a really interesting post as well.

    does it tell you more about the people who go to watch football in the respective countries or the powers that run it? cos from what you're describing I know which scenario i'd choose over the other. the bit about blokes wandering up & down with beer kegs got me...imagine that in this country..no way they'd allow it..irresponsible, breach of H & S laws etc
    Exactly, that's what you imagine that it would be nightmare over here but I don't understand why. There were as many women in the ground as you get in England I reckon (so still a minority, but enough to notice they're there). But then there are also plenty of lairy looking shaven headed german hooligan types strutting about who certainly don't look like they'd shy out of a scrap. But they seem to behave themselves despite the lager. I don't see in principle why it should be any different in England, unless it is simple fact that as a country we are more aggressive and just uncontrollable.
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    I felt the same when I went to see Fortuna Dusseldorf at home to Dynamo Dresden in November. Even the fact that they use the ESPIRIT Arena (popular venue choice of the Klitschkos) as their home stadium didn't quell the intimacy of sub-top-flight football.

    The fact that it was the only stadium on our trip which took cash for beer and snacks rather than forcing you to 'invest' in a rip-off club card helped, too.
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    I felt the same when I went to see Fortuna Dusseldorf at home to Dynamo Dresden in November. Even the fact that they use the ESPIRIT Arena (popular venue choice of the Klitschkos) as their home stadium didn't quell the intimacy of sub-top-flight football.

    The fact that it was the only stadium on our trip which took cash for beer and snacks rather than forcing you to 'invest' in a rip-off club card helped, too.
    What a coincidence, I was at that game too! Proper good value for buncey.

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    great watching football in germany ... I've been to Eintracht Frankfurt quite a few times whilst working over there and a few other grounds as well ... terrific atmosphere in the ground, few beers, and rarely a hint of trouble
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    I've seen Hertha and Nurnberg play while in Germany. Cracking atmosphere, especially in the old Olympic Stadium in Berlin. The football itself has been rubbish both times, but the fans more than make up for that. I really like Germany, Berlin's a great city.
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    ... Berlin's a great city.
    definitely
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    Maybe it just shows if you treat people like adults they'll behave accordingly. I often think that the attitude of the Police towards fans in this country actually causes more problems than anything. What was the police presence/attitude at the Berlin game like ?
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    I felt the same when I went to see Fortuna Dusseldorf at home to Dynamo Dresden in November. Even the fact that they use the ESPIRIT Arena (popular venue choice of the Klitschkos) as their home stadium didn't quell the intimacy of sub-top-flight football.

    The fact that it was the only stadium on our trip which took cash for beer and snacks rather than forcing you to 'invest' in a rip-off club card helped, too.
    What a coincidence, I was at that game too! Proper good value for buncey.

    Superb - that was my first-ever goal with the last kick of the game, too. I may or may not have brained someone by throwing my plastic beer pitcher up into the air in celebration...

    Which other games did you do while out there, if any? We were at Schalke's 0-0 draw with Larnaca in the Europa League the previous day, and watching Dortmund thump Wolfsburg 5-1 the following day (while Charlton put five past Preston back home).

    I definitely want to get back over there for more games. My friend who came with me and I even discussed how we could go to Dusseldorf again, perhaps do another Fortuna game and then take in 2 or 3 entirely different clubs in the local area such as Cologne etc.
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    Maybe it just shows if you treat people like adults they'll behave accordingly. I often think that the attitude of the Police towards fans in this country actually causes more problems than anything. What was the police presence/attitude at the Berlin game like ?
    Interesting point. Wasn't markedly different from over here from what I noticed, there were probably about 10 police stood at the gangway running along the back of the stand just keeping an eye out, but that was it apart from the odd steward.

    As you say though, over here many of the problems I have seen in grounds with ejections etc are where stewards/police are being unnecessarily anal about making people who are causing no harm or danger sit down etc. I guess the fact that people can stand if they want (which they obviously do, hence the only unsold spaces in the ground were a few of the 3,000 seats) means that there is no need for any of that unnecessary conflict.

    Having said that, there was a net hung down in front of the stand, obviously to prevent things being thrown on the pitch, not that I saw any evidence of that.
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    Superb - that was my first-ever goal with the last kick of the game, too. I may or may not have brained someone by throwing my plastic beer pitcher up into the air in celebration...

    Which other games did you do while out there, if any? We were at Schalke's 0-0 draw with Larnaca in the Europa League the previous day, and watching Dortmund thump Wolfsburg 5-1 the following day (while Charlton put five past Preston back home).

    I definitely want to get back over there for more games. My friend who came with me and I even discussed how we could go to Dusseldorf again, perhaps do another Fortuna game and then take in 2 or 3 entirely different clubs in the local area such as Cologne etc.
    Same games, was a shame kickoffs fell that way otherwise Leverkusen may have been doable as well. Did you at least make it to the Erotik Messe?

    It was a good weekend but I was in really bad company, should've gone with my mate Scott instead.

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    Ha. What provoked the name change to animal humper from Italia/biking hard-on?

    And good to see you were too busy to show your face today with good reason. Were not lying when you said you were 'doing a Scott' eh?
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    Thanks for a really interesting posting very well written which I enjoyed very much.

    No thanks for reminding me that during my lifetime this Country has gone to the dogs !
    ( With apologies to our canine friends ).
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    I went to see St Pauli v Erzgebirge Aue when visiting Hamburg last October - also a second division match. The football wasn't all that - surprised how slow it was - but the atmosphere was terrific. The match was a sell-out, but if the executive seats aren't all taken at St Pauli, they sell them on for €50 a pop. Had a mad guy next to me who kept buying me beer... and during the second half, we were given the free beer the executive seat-holders get. St Pauli managed to throw the game away (felt very like Parkinson-era Charlton...) and lost, but I'm pleased I shelled out for a posh seat.

    St Pauli's very much an "alternative" club - like FC Union, I believe (might explain your blonde friend, paulsturgess!) - but that's what makes it all the more fascinating. Worth a visit if you're ever in Hamburg, even if it's just to the club shop (sadly no longer in a graffiti-covered portacabin).

    I'll second everything about Berlin nightlife, by the way, it's a terrific place. And if you're good at table football, the little bars off the Reeperbahn in Hamburg will suit you down to the ground...
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    Maybe it just shows if you treat people like adults they'll behave accordingly. I often think that the attitude of the Police towards fans in this country actually causes more problems than anything. What was the police presence/attitude at the Berlin game like ?
    Interesting point. Wasn't markedly different from over here from what I noticed, there were probably about 10 police stood at the gangway running along the back of the stand just keeping an eye out, but that was it apart from the odd steward.

    As you say though, over here many of the problems I have seen in grounds with ejections etc are where stewards/police are being unnecessarily anal about making people who are causing no harm or danger sit down etc. I guess the fact that people can stand if they want (which they obviously do, hence the only unsold spaces in the ground were a few of the 3,000 seats) means that there is no need for any of that unnecessary conflict.

    Having said that, there was a net hung down in front of the stand, obviously to prevent things being thrown on the pitch, not that I saw any evidence of that.
    German polizi carry guns!
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