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THE METAL WORKERS VS THE OLD LADY THE UNIQUE STORY OF THE HERTHA-UNION BERLIN DERBY

“Berlin is the testicles of the west, if I want the west to scream I squeeze on Berlin”. These are the famous words Nikita Krushchev. The former Soviet leader was exemplifying the fact that Berlin was the Capital of not only Europe but also the western world, when Germany was divided many referred to West Berlin as the ‘Island of freedom’. Berlin is recognized as a world city of culture, it enjoys an international reputation for its diversity and liberal nature. It’s said in Berlin that the guy dressed in the sharp suit with a briefcase in hand moving through the chaotic morning big city buzz is looked at weirdly compared to the one lying in a ditch after a hard night of partying. Berlin moves at it’s own pace and is the complete opposite of what you would expect from a big German city. The city lies at the heart of the North German Plain, athwart an east-west commercial and geographic axis that helped make it the capital kingdom of Prussia and then from 1871, of a unified Germany, The city was then divided after world war two with East Berlin becoming the capital of East Germany and West Berlin becoming a state of the Federal Republic of Germany [West Germany].

Berlin is glorious when it comes to art, music and other key cultural and industrial areas earning the nickname The Urban Capital of Germany whilist at it, but the city has always trailed behind in football. The city has been at the centre stage of world sport many times, it’s where Jesse Owens won Gold, It has hosted the World cup among other world sporting events, all that and still Berlin hasn’t cracked the code when it comes to football. Even at some stages become the only capital city not to have a team in the country’s top flight. Despite producing more Bundesliga clubs than any other city in Germany no team from Berlin has won the Bundesliga. Much Smaller cities like Bremen, Stuttgart and Wolfsburg have all had championship winning sides. Berlin Derbies have always been a rarity which might be the football Gods way of saying that the city had been through a lot of division, dislike and hate that are still present today and with the tribalism that comes with football, a Berlin derby would add fuel to the fire. The first Bundesliga Berlin derby took place on 16th November 1974 between Tennis Borussia Berlin and Hertha Berlin at the Olympiastadion with Hertha winning 3-0, The clubs had developed an intense but brief rivalry in the 1950s with a proposal to merge the teams being rejected resoundingly by members from both sides. The teams met for the last time in the Bundesliga on 16th April 1977. Blau Weis 1890 reached the Bundesliga for the first and only time in 1986. In May 2019, 1. Union Berlin gained promotion to the Bundesliga for the first time in their history which meant for the first time in over 40 years there would be Berlin derby in the Bundesliga with Hertha Berlin representing the west and Union Berlin representing the East. The two clubs had always enjoyed a good relationship even whilist divided by the Berlin wall and were in different leagues in different countries, Hertha fans from the west would travel to the east to see Union play, Both set of fans stood together and sang anti regime songs. On 27th January 1990, 79 days after the fall of the Berlin wall, Hertha hosted Union in the Olympiastadion in front of over 50,000 spectators who stood together and sang German reunification songs, Hertha won the game 2-1. The clubs rarely crossed paths in competitive fixtures, prior to the 2019-20 season the clubs had only met four times and all the games were Bundesliga 2 games with both sides enjoying a solemn win over each other sandwiched between two draws. On 8th July 2009 Union and Hertha played in a friendly to celebrate the opening of Union’s stadium after renovations, Hertha won 5-3. After the game Union president Dirk Zingler described the friendship between Hertha and Union as “the love for the mysterious mistress started to crumble”.

Hertha Berlin was formed in 1892 as BFC Hertha 92 taking its name from a steamship with blue and white smokestack; one of the four young men who founded the club a day trip with his father. The name Hertha is a Variation on Nerthus, referring to a fertility Goddess from Germanic mythology. Hertha performed well on the pitch, winning the first Berlin championship final and beating southend united in a friendly, which was seen as a huge achievement because England was were the game originated from and English clubs had dominated the sport. However the club was struggling financially and in 1920 Hertha, the staunchly working class team merged with well-heeled Berliner sport club to form Hertha Berliner sports club. The club enjoyed success with in their division, being regular title challengers and even winning the divisional title in 1935, 1937 and 1944. The club began to fade from prominence after it had been overhauled under Hitler, with Hans Pfeifer a Nazi party member, being instilled as president. At the time of the formation of the Bundesliga in 1963 Hertha were reigning champions and thus become the inaugural member of the new league. The club was relegated in 1965 despite finishing clear of the relegation zone, following attempts to bribe players to play in the city under what had become unpleasant circumstances after the erection of the Berlin wall. This caused somewhat of a crisis for the Bundesliga which for political reasons wanted team from the former capital, this led to the promotion of SC Tasmania Berlin which delivered the worst ever performance by a team in the Bundesliga. Hertha got back up in 1969 and developed a solid following making it Berlin’s top team.

Financial woes once more burdened the club as it found itself in heavy debt. The crisis was resolved and Hertha won promotion back in to the Bundesliga in 1997, this ended Berlin’s six year long drought without a Bundesliga side. The club continued its upward trajoctry the in the following years making appearances in the Champions league and the UEFA cup. The club suffered relegation 2009-10 season after finishing bottom of the table. The club spent the following two season up and down the two top leagues.After winning promotion in to the Bundesliga Hertha established itsef in the top division with a string of top half finishes and even made it back into Europe playing in the Europa League.

Union Berlin were founded in 1906 in Obershoneweide a suburb of Berlin and went by the name FC Olympia Obershoneweide. They took the name Union 06 Obershoneweide in 1910. Union was one of Berlin’s premier clubs in the interwar period, regularly winning local championships and competing at a national level including a German championship final appearance losing 3-0 to Hamburger SV. The team were nicknamed “Schlosserjungs”[metal worker-boys] because of their then all Blue kit, which resembled the typical work clothing in the industrial Obershoneweide district. The popular chant by Union supporters “Eisern union”[Iron Union]emerged at the time. The club has always had a working class image compared to the other Berlin teams most of whom had a middle class image. This was proved right in 2008 when the club decided to mordernise it’s stadium the Stadion An der Alten Forsterei [Old Forester’s house]. Money was tight  so the fans simply built the stadium themselves. More then 2000 Union fans put in 140,000 working hours to create what is now the largest football specific stadium In Berlin.

After the second world war Berlin just like the rest of Germany was split into two. Union found itself in East Germany thus competing in the East German leagues and developing a bitter rivalry with Dynamo Berlin who were backed by the Stasi. Dynamo won 10 titles in a row whilist Union yo yoed between the second and first Division. Union won the East German cup in 1968 after defeating carl zeiss jena 2-1 in the final. After German reunification the club were placed in the third league where they spent much of their time. They were denied promotion in to the second division a couple of times due to their financial problems. They were finally promoted in the 2000-01 season the same year they made it to the German cup final losing to Schalke and the second round of the UEFA cup. They club slipped down the leagues but bounced back again and again and remained in the second tier until 2018-19 when they got promoted to the Bundesliga for the first time in their history, and with Hertha an already established side in that division a Berlin derby was going to take place in the Bundesliga for the first time ever.

The clubs had always had friendly relationship and didn’t see each other as rivals, the first ever competitive fixture between the two sides took place in 2009-10 in the 2. Bundesliga, the game ended 1-1 and the return leg took place at Hertha’s stadium infront of 74,000 fans with Union winning 2-1 courtesy of a free kick by Union cult hero Torsten Mattuschka. The third time the teams met the friendly feeling and one Berlin celebratory feeling was beginning to disappear especially after the game in which Hertha won 2-1 at Union ground, Union goal scorer Christopher Quiring labelled Hertha’s fans Wessis [A semi derogatory term for West Germans], Telling Sport1 “They cheer in our stadium. That makes me puke! You have to digest that first. I don’t give a shit about my goal. When the Wessis cheer in our stadium I get sick!” Union manager Uwe Neuhaus labelled Quiring a great Unioner.

Ahead of the clubs first ever Bundesliga clash Hertha expressed the desire to play the game on the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall but Union president refused, calling the game a class struggle, leading to the game being played a week earlier. An 87th min penalty by Sebastian Polter won the game for Union, A drama filled game which was temporarily suspended, following fireworks by Hertha fans landing on the playing surface and amongst Union fans, Union Ultras attempted to attack Hertha fans by Union goalkeeper Rafael Gikiewicz pursueded them off the pitch. Hertha fans burnt Union shirts,scarfs nad flags. The second derby was held on 22nd may 2020 at an empty Olympiastadion due to the COVID 19 outbreak, The home side ran out 4-0 winners.

The history of Hertha-Union Berlin derby is young and of which started with love and mutual respect but is now taking a new turn of hate and dislike and especially between the younger supporters who didn’t experience the division of Berlin. The Rivalry is beginning to hotten up and with both teams looking to establish themselves in the Bundesliga there is no doubt that their paths will cross again, and what happens then only time will tell, what we know for now is these teams don’t like each other that much nowadays.

By Abdisitar Ali

Football transfer news,rumours and many more

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