In Germany, many supporters groups have been able to gain a stake in their clubs, allowing them to become a catalyst for community building. For Union, legacy, history, and tradition are not defined by trophies won or the players that once wore their colors. The identity of this club is forged out a history of resistance.
Throughout the Cold War as Berlin was split by east and west, Union were the rival team of the Stazi’s team, BFC Dynamo. Union matches, particularly the Derby, became the opportunity to express dissatisfaction over the DDR, and quickly gathered support amongst alternative youths.
Today, much like Sankt Pauli, Union Berlin matches attract supporters from all over the world who identify with their rebellious, DIY philosophy. But unlike Sankt Pauli though, Union is not committed to a political ideology. At Union the football comes first, so long as the club remains in the hands of the supporters.
At the north end of the “Anderaltenforsterei” located in Köpenick, East Berlin sits a statue of a red helmet, with the names of all the volunteers who help construct Union’s 24,000 seater stadium.
As one fan told me, “I never imagined I would have a statue as part of my legacy but now I do. My daughter came with me to shovel the foundation of the ground every weekend. Her name is on the statue as well. It is a memory we will always have together, even when I am gone.” This kind of emotional attachment is indicative of the role that a club like Union can play in people’s lives.
Possibly the most committed fans in the world, Union fans built their stadium with their own hands, bled for the club when it was in need, and are rewarded with a club that is truly their own. An inspiration for football fans, and teams, everywhere.
To find out more about what it’s like to experience a game with the Union Berlin fans check out the below article originally posted on MoreSport…