Welcome to volume two of my blog paying homage to the football clubs I've visited all over the world and the wonderful people responsible for keeping them going and looking after the stadiums, and in some cases basic grounds.

Since I was a little lad I've been fascinated in football and more so where games are played. With my love of travel and curiosity of the game I wanted to visit as many grounds and see games wherever possible. I was lucky that my Dad also loved the game and spent so much of his spare time taking me to matches. As I got older the boundaries widened owing to my location and increased wages to Europe and indeed the world. The sight of a stand or a floodlight pylon in the distance immediately hightens my senses and eagerness for a closer look.

I hope this site gives you the chance to share in my pleasure and experiences and maybe one day set you on the road to adventure. If you get half as much out of the hobby as I've done I can guarantee some great memories, good friends and stories to pass on to future generations.

Give your local club a go today. They'll be pleased to see you!

Everlasting thanks primarily to my late and very much missed and dearly loved parents; my Dad Bob Bernard and my Mum; Ann, who put up with endless years of football chat and my brothers Nick and Paul who gave me the chance and encouragement to do what I have. Thanks to all my friends who offer encouragement and Sally and Stan who inspire and give me great pride. Young Stan is showing a keen interest in my hobby!

Please feel free to post any comments (please use sensible language - I want everyone to be able to enjoy reading) or ask any questions relating to visiting grounds or events. If you want to see any ground reviewed please let me know. It will take quite some time for everywhere to appear, but make sure you keep having a look as the site is continually updated.

If you click on a lot of the pictures you will get a larger version on your screen.

I have also added links to video clips on youtube where appropriate for those of you who are bored of reading or are filling in time at work. I haven't always gone for the most obvious choices, but items that will be in some cases unusual but always historically interesting.

Click to see volume one of HAOTW.

Rob Bernard

London

September 2015

Monday, February 20, 2017

1. FC Union Berlin (Germany)


1. FC Union Berlin is a professional football club from the German capital, who were formed in 1906, initially through a group of youngsters in the Oberschöneweider district of the city who formed FC Olympia.

Other local clubs; Excelsior, Preußen, Lichtenberger S.C and Vorwarts joined together with Olympia to form Olympia Oberschöneweide on the 17th June 1906 at a meeting at Großkopf restaurant on Luisenstraße.


A further merger took place with B.T.u.F.C. Helgoland 1897, as the club became known as B.T. und F.C. Helgoland/Abteilung Oberschöneweide. Union 92 Berlin had been crowned as champions of Germany in 1905 and invited the new club into their ranks to become B.T. und F.C. Union 92/Abteilung Oberschöneweide.

In January 1909 the club were taken over by Verband Brandenburgischer Ballspielvereine, who renamed them as Union 06 Oberschöneweide.


The area where the club initially played was taken over by factories as Oberschöneweide became an industrial superb. Union moved to a new venue on Wattstraße, where they would remain until 1920.

By 1913 the club had risen to the top tier in local football. A second place finish in 1919-20 saw the club continue with victories over Germania Spandau, Berolina 01 and BTuFC Viktoria to become champions of Berlin. They went on to reach the quarter finals of the German championships before being defeated by Sportfreunden Breslau.


A third place finish the following season saw Union claim a place in the VBB-Oberliga, which was the top level of Berlin football at the time.

Union required a new home as the industry in the area was growing all the time. Some land was found near Köpenick near the hunting lodge at Alten Försterei. 7,000 fans attended the opening game in August 1920 against reigning German champions 1. FC Nürnberg.


The 1922-23 season saw Union finish top of the league and go forward in the German championships. Victories over Vorwärts 1890, Arminia Bielefeld and Fürth before losing the final 3-0, to Hamburger SV in the Grunewald-Stadion, Berlin.

Under the Third Reich, German football was re-organised into sixteen equal top Gauliga divisions. Union were placed in Gauliga Berlin-Brandenburg, going on to defeat Blau-Weiß 90 to become champions in 1939-40.


Following the War, all sports clubs were dissolved. The club changed title to SG (Sportgruppe) Oberschöneweide. They won their divisional title in 1946-47 before defeating SG Wilmersdorf to become champions of Berlin once again.

For the 1948-49 season the club became known as SG Union Oberschöneweide. These were difficult times as Est Germany (DDR) had come into being. Union qualified for the German championship and required special permission to travel to Kiel to play Hamburger SV.


Several of Union’s players and officials left Oberschöneweide in East Berlin to form SC Union 06 Berlin in West Berlin in June 1950. Those left behind would play in the DDR Oberliga.

In 1951-52 Union were taken over by the motor company Motor Oberschöneweide to become known as BSG Motor Oberschöneweide. The lower grades at the club continued under their old title. In 1952-53 the team were relegated.


Over the next few years, the club went down a further level with several name changes occurring at the same time, with Union being known as SC Motor Berlin, Klub in Turn-und Sportclub, TSC Oberschöneweide, SC Einheit Berlin and then TSC Berlin in 1963, before a new set up was formed as 1. FC Union Berlin was created in 1966.

Union Berlin won promotion back to the top flight Oberliga before going on to win the local FDGB-Pokal-Sieg in 1967-68 leading to a place in the last eight of the national FDGB-Pokal (East German Cup).


Wins against Sachsenring Zwickau and FC Vorwärts Berlin at Stadion an der Alten Försterei set Union up with a final tie against reigning East German champions, FC Carl Zeiss Jena. Union went on to lift the cup with a 2-1 victory in Halle an der Saale. However, Union could not compete in European competition the following season as the DDR were in political dispute with potential rivals, so they withdrew all their sides.

Union were relegated from the Oberliga after three years in 1972, before returning to the top flight at the conclusion of the 1975-76 campaign. After four years the club were once again relegated, but returned for the 1982-83 season.


Union were relegated following the 1983-84 season after losing in the play-off games against Chemie Leipzig, before returning to their higher status in 1985-86.

It was nearly a double celebration for the club as they also fought their way to the FDGB-Pokal cup final after defeating Dynamo Dresden in the semi-final. In the showpiece at Berlin’s Stadion der Weltjugend, Union went down 5-1 to Lokomotive Leipzig.

Union defeated FC Karl-Marx-Stadt on the final day of the 1987-88 season, but were relegated at the end of the following campaign.


Following the unification of Germany, Union were placed in NOFV-Oberliga Mitte; one of several third tiered divisions around the country. Success came on the field as the team won the league title in 1991-92 and 1992-93, fired by the goals of Matthias Zimmerling and Jacek Mencel. However, because the clubs financial state they were denied promotion.

Goran Markov would become the new goalscoring hero at Stadion an der Alten Försterei as Union made it three league titles on the bounce. After a sustained spell near the top of the table the club eventually got their finances in order to win the Regionalliga Nord title in 2000-01 with Daniel Teixeira leading the scoring charts.


After two decent league finishes, ‘Eiserne’ (The Iron Ones) were relegated back to Regionalliga Nord for the 2004-05 season. Worse was to follow for Union as they suffered a second successive demotion to find themselves in the fourth tier NOFV-Oberliga Nord.

The returning Teixeira fired in the goals to return Union at the first attempt as they lifted the title under head coach Uwe Neuhaus. In 2008-09 Regionalliga Nord became 3. Liga, with Union being awarded a place due to a fourth place finish. They went on to win the inaugural championship and regain their status as a 2. Bundesliga club.


Union soon found their feet again and put in a series of upper mid table finishes. Regular goalscorers included Simon Terodde, Torsten Mattuschka and Sebastian Polter before Neuhaus ended his spell at the club in 2014 after seven years at the club to join rivals Dynamo Dresden.

In 2013 over 2,300 Union fans volunteered to help in carry out the redevelopment work at Stadion an der Alten Försterei.

Norbert Düwel, Sascha Lewandowski and André Hofschneider all had short spells in charge of the team before Jens Keller took over in April 2016.


1. FC Union Berlin will play in 2. Bundesliga in the 2016-17 season.


My visit

1. FC Union Berlin 2 VFL Bochum 1 (Friday 27th January 2017) 2. Bundesliga (att: 19,130)


While I was no stranger to Berlin or football in the city, I was well aware that Union were seen by many to be the real heartbeat of the game in the capital. It was time to find out for myself.

My first impression was very good when my ticket to stand up was only €14. I bought this online before I set off for a weekend which would see me also watching home games of SG Fortuna Köln, Bayer 04 Leverkusen, Karlsruher SC, Mainz 05 and Hannover 96.


It had already been a football packed week as I’d been up north to watch Scarborough Athletic at Stokesley and Hull City take on Manchester United in the semi-final of the League Cup. I arrived at Manchester Airport in good time after spending the night lodging with Fred Firman.

Ryan Air are generally reliable as a budget airline, so I was a bit concerned to find that my flight was delayed. I tried to find out some information, but the staff were pretty vague. I was concerned as I had my large bag with me and I needed to offload it before the game.


Some staff told me not to worry as I could check it straight in on arrival at Berlin Schönefeld Airport in readiness for my later flight to Bonn/Cologne if I paid for it online. While reluctant I paid the £14 fee on my App.

Eventually the plane arrived. I tried to relax on the flight, but I was surrounded by a group who were either drunk or just plain excited. The late teens proceeded to shout insults across at each other and generally act like kids. My mood was not fantastic.


It worsened as we arrived ninety minutes late. There was no way I’d see the 6.30pm kick off. The baggage queue was huge so I sought out a member of staff to try and help me out. I was hardly thrilled when he told me that not only could he help out, but baggage could only be checked in two hours before a flight. In short, I’d been fobbed off back in Manchester.

My bag would have to go with me. My Bahn App suggested that a train was held up and I may just make it. It wasn’t a short walk from the station to the terminal. There was also a real lack of information regarding departures. I ran up the ramp and got to the train doors just as they closed and it pulled away.


By now I was simmering. Eventually I was on my way fifteen minutes later and heading towards Berlin-Schöneweide where I alighted to catch the number 60 tram. Just to round things off, it terminated a mile short of the stadium at Freizeit-und Erholungszentrum. After another delay I eventually arrived.

Next up was the issue of my bag. The young steward started to look inside but fortunately he gave up within seconds. At last I was inside but then there was the problem of getting onto the terracing. I decided that I’d wait until half time and watch until then from flat standing next to the Main Stand.


My mood was gradually mellowing as I enjoyed a bratwurst and a gluhwein; followed up by a local beer. However, the Union fans were less than happy within a few minutes of my arrival.

Peniel Mlapa put the visitors ahead just five minutes before the break. He headed home a Marco Stiepermann cross, which went in off the unfortunate home defender Michael Parensen. Simon Hedlung really should have equalised immediately but he sent his header over. Bochum created a couple more chances before the referee blew his whistle for half time.


This was the opportunity I was looking for as I went behind the goal and wandered round to the opposite corner where my ticket was for before climbing to the back from the rear. Plenty of fans had left their spots to use the facilities or queue for more sausages and beer. I found a position right at the back next to a stanchion where I could place my bag.

Stadion an der Alten Försterei was my kind of football stadium. The Main Stand was completely separate with its large block of seats and hospitality suits at the back. The other three sides were covered with a continuous roof and were all terracing. This really aided the atmosphere.

The second half was ideal for me. The home fans really got behind their side. It certainly seemed to inspire the players. Several crosses were dealt with at easy by the visiting keeper Manuel Riemann.


It took a goal of basic simplicity to equal the scores. A long ball from Pedersen was aimed towards Sebastian Polster. Bochum defender Felix Bastians slipped in pursuit, Riemann came rushing out and Polster pushed the ball past him before scoring into an empty net. The place went wild.

The singing from the home fans was incessant, even though neither side looked likely to forge a winning goal. Then with ten minutes to go Riemann punched another cross away, only this time it found Union’s Felix Kroos who set up Steven Skrzybski to score.

The Berliners had another couple of late chances to make the score more emphatic but they seemed happy enough at full time; as did the passionate home supporters. I hung around to watch the celebrations after a win that put Union in fourth place.

Click here to see the crowd celebrations


Eventually I drifted out down the tunnel and through the park and past the old lodge, before finding my way to the Köpenick station. A train took me towards the city at Karlshorst where I changed for another non stop service directly to the airport.

My travel issues continued as the flight to Bonn/Cologne was delayed by forty minutes. I got a bit of a surprise when I looked up from reading in the departure area. As well as a few Bochum supporters, the team had arrived and were sitting in the cafeteria. They returned home on the same flight as us.


On our arrival I went straight downstairs to find that my train had been cancelled and there would be a thirty minutes wait for the next one. The only shock was that the KFC was still open when I got out at the Frankfurter Straße station. I didn’t need much rocking when I hit the sack at the Hotel ibis budget Koeln Porz.

What a day of travel! Despite all the hold ups I would have done the same the next day.







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