Category Archives: German Football

‘The Fans Who Literally Built Their Club’

Union Berlin are a fascinating football team. I have previously mentioned them, all too briefly, in an article about their protest against RB Leipzig a couple of years ago and I have always wanted to do a little follow-up on this remarkable club. Much like many German teams they have an incredibly strong identity and are not quiet about the things they feel passionate about. Given they are located in Berlin it is difficult to separate German history and the football and they have experienced a fair bit in their 112 year history.


Since German reunification in 1990 they have gone through some incredibly turbulent financial matters and were previously denied (on multiple occasions) entry to 2.Bundesliga due to their monetary problems. They have been a mainstay of the second tier since 2009 but have always suffered from being in the shadow of city rivals Hertha Berlin. Union have never actually played in the Bundesliga. The two city clubs have a rich political history with Hertha belonging to the west of the city and Union the east. It has meant that Union Berlin have always struggled in comparison with their wealthy rivals who also boast one of the world’s most famous footballing arenas in the shape of the Olympic Stadium. They have however managed to avoid much of the political landscape that surrounds Berlin and they consider themselves a ‘free’ club, meaning they don’t align themselves with a particular political party or organisation.

When trying to find out what this club is all about the stadium is probably a good place to start. The story of the ‘Stadion An der Alten Försterei’ (meaning Stadium at the old forester’s house) is one of football’s truly heart warming tales. In 2008 when the old stadium was crumbling into nothingness the club decided that they wanted to rebuild the ground. They didn’t want to move or build a shiny new arena that would alienate the fans so they decide to reconstruct what was already there. Given that money has always been tight for Union it looked like that this was going to be an impossible task but then, as if by miracle, fans started to show up in their hundreds and then thousands. During the construction it was estimated that well over 2,000 Union fans helped in completing the stadium. It of course does not hold a candle to the behemoth spaceship like Olympiastadion across the city (built originally by the Nazis for the Olympic Games in 1936) but it is an incredibly traditional and fan orientated ground with open terraces and a tight atmosphere. The fact that the fans built it themselves (and it is located in a forest) makes the whole thing even more special.

The club have always tried to involve fans and, in the last few years, have organised a number of different unique fan events like their yearly Christmas Carol singing that takes place on the pitch for 90 minutes involving thousands of Union fans. They also turned the entire stadium into a ‘World Cup Living Room’ in 2014. Fans were encouraged to bring their own sofa to place on the pitch so that they could watch World Cup games in comfort on a giant screen.

World Cup 2014 - Public Screening Berlin


In a world dominated by mega rich footballing corporations it is important to remember that clubs like Union Berlin are the reason why people watch football in the first place. They are a community based people’s club that embrace the reality of what this sport is all about.

The story of Union is incredibly rich and I can’t really do it justice within 600 odd words but if you want to watch a short film about the club then the excellent people at Copa90 have a great little documentary (that this post is named after).


‘What The F*** Happened To Football In Leipzig?’

A great little mini-documentary about football in Leipzig. If you have been paying any attention to football over the past few years you will know about the rise of RB Leipzig but the city has a rich footballing history, much of it with deeply political and industrial roots. In this very short film Copa90 go to the derby between Lokomotive Leipzig and Chemie Leipzig; both clubs play in the 4th tier of German football in the Regionalliga Nordost.

If you are interested in the rise of ‘RB’ then I wrote a piece on them a couple of years ago, which you can find here (and it is fascinating reading this now if you look at how big they have become).

You can’t win anything being managed by kids…

How young is too young when it comes to managing a football club? It seems as though recently there has been a trend for younger managers in football but Hoffenheim have taken things one step further by recently announcing that as of next season they will have a new head coach who is only 28 years old. 510px-TSG_1899_Hoffenheim_logo.svgWith the team struggling in the German top flight this season the decision was made earlier this week to relieve manager Markus Gisdol from his duties. The experienced Dutch coach Huub Stevens has been brought in until the summer with one remit, survival. After that however the board at Hoffenheim have decided that they see so much potential in young coach Julian Nagelsmann that they have formally announced him as the new head coach starting next summer. Nagelsmann is a former defender and played with both 1860 Munich and Augsburg before suffering recurring injuries that cut his playing career short. He then turned his hand to coaching and has built an impressive C.V that has attracted some impressive potential employers including Bayern Munich.

“I am looking forward to a very tempting task and I would like to thank everybody for the trust and the opportunity given to me,” Nagelsmann, who coached Hoffenheim’s junior team to the 2014 German title, said in a club statement.

It is certainly an intriguing appointment but it is one that has been made with careful consideration. There are a number of successful current managers who had a short playing career and started managing at a young age but Julian Nagelsmann is going to be only 29 when he takes full charge of Hoffenheim and he will be making Bundesliga history in the process. That is a great deal of pressure for such a young manager.



In yet another show of positivity towards refugees from the German footballing community it has been announced that all clubs playing in both the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 next weekend will display a patch on their shirts showing support to many hundreds of thousands of people across Europe caught up in the recent refugee crisis.


The patch to be displayed on all shirts is part of a “We Help” campaign that was launched by the Bild newspaper in Germany.

Refugees Welcome

In the current political climate it is only natural that football has once again become a platform for social change. The refugee crisis in Europe has produced a wide range of responses and arguments but over the last week we have seen a very clear message from Germany and German football clubs. The message from the terraces of clubs up and down Germany was clear “refugees welcome“. Such a bold statement is evidence of the liberal attitude that Germany has taken towards the acceptance of refugees.
From Bayern to Dortmund there was a very clear message for politicians across Europe. Clubs also got involved in handing out free tickets to refugees (Dortmund and Mainz) as well as handing out free clothing and kits (Hannover).
With so many clubs and fans actually coordinating their intentions it certainly makes you feel proud that football can do its bit for people suffering in the most horrible way.

Unquestionable Loyalty.

Who says footballers are not a loyal bunch? In the modern age of year to year contracts and multiple clubs it is always nice to hear a story that shows that football can still be a game of emotion, attachment and club loyalty.


In the last few days it has been announced that Marcell Jansen has decided to retire from football at the age of 29. That is a young age for someone who is not injury prone and has 45 caps for Germany (plus nearly 300 Bundesliga appearances). 800px-HSV-Logo.svgFor anyone who doesn’t know Jansen he has spent the majority of his career in Hamburg playing for HSV. Having started out playing for his home club of Borussia Mönchengladbach the fullback moved to Bayern Munich before signing for Hamburg in 2007. Jansen had a long and successful spell for the German national team but agonisingly missed out on the final World Cup squad last summer. Following a difficult 2014/15 season the decision was made to release Jansen from his contract at HSV.

Marcell Jansen 


Rather than find another club (something he would have been able to do with relative ease) the German decided it was time to call a halt to his footballing career. He gave the following reason –

“I thought about it on holiday. There were a lot of good offers but for me carrying on is not an option,” Jansen told German newspaper Bild. “I am fit, can move on a free transfer, could still earn good money but I prefer to renounce the money.

“In the last few years I was very emotionally tied to HSV. I will continue to live in Hamburg and will always love this club. Gladbach, of course, as well. But now some new club? No, I don’t want to lie or deceive some other club or fans when I am no longer fully behind it. I can’t just suddenly kiss another badge now. That wouldn’t be right. I am myself too much of a fan for that.”

Pretty honest stuff and although it might seem strange it is a very positive decision for him personally by the sounds of things. Janssen proves that football is still about the sport and still about the passion at the end of the day. Hats of to him then and all the best for the future!


Danke Jürgen.

After seven years at the helm of Borussia Dortmund today was Jürgen Klopp’s farewell match at home. The charismatic manager has decided to call time on a very successful and eventful period in charge of Dortmund. His next step in football is still a mystery but hopefully it will not be too long before we see him on another touchline.

Klopp still has a chance to win the German Cup and his side gave him a 3-2 victory this afternoon against Werder Bremen (securing Europa League football). Today was also an emotional farewell for Sebastian Kehl who is retiring for football and has been at Dortmund for 14 years.

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The Schalke Tunnel

Banner-FansFC Schalke’s 61,000 seated Veltins Arena is definitely one of the more impressive sights in world football. Die Knappen have played there since the stadium opened in 2001 and it has become something of a fortress in German football.


The club known for its close links to the mining industry in Gelsenkirchen recently decided  that for the start of the 2014/15 season they would give their player’s tunnel a bit of a refurbishment but they did this in a way that would acknowledge the club’s history and links to the community. The result is an impressive (and pretty intimidating) ‘coal mine’, which gives Schalke probably the most unique tunnel in all of football. Very impressive.

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