German club Union Berlin were founded in 1966 but like so many clubs all over Europe its historical roots run much deeper than formation in the mid 60’s. Any trail in search of Union will find traces of the club back in 1906 when a side called Olympia 06 Oberschönweide were created.
Numerous periods in the its history (both before and after World War II) can be described as ‘traumatic’. The interwar period saw some success both locally in Berlin and nationally but immediate post war reconstruction saw inner division and the large scale defection of people to the west impacting the club. The construction of the Berlin wall in 1961 was just another milestone towards losing ground on the Stasi club of Dynamo Berlin despite winning the Freier Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund Pokal (GDR Cup) in 1968.
The Stadion An der Alten Försterei has been home to FC Union Berlin and its forerunner clubs since opening in August 1920. For so long this stadium looked no more than another abandoned Cold War outpost, downtrodden and bedraggled by a lack of investment with crumbling terraces. Granted, had it been in this same state today it would be a ‘cult classic’ for any communist nostalgia hunter, but the home of the club is now a modern stadium with a traditional atmosphere.
Built in parts by Union fans and located in the Berlin area of Köpenick it combines a traditional German feel with multiple VIP areas, retail outlets and expansive terracing features.
Union Berlin or ‘Eisern Union’ have a diverse supporter base from foreign incomers through to its more traditional supporter base, many of whom have been with the club since the communist period. The once outdated stadium has undergone detailed periods of phased redevelopment. This new face to the club has helped push it towards promotion to the 1.Bundesliga, an achievement not as yet realised.
The stadium currently provides room for over 22,000 spectators with a unique feature being the ability to house 17,900 fans in three ‘standing room only’ high banking terracing areas.
As its name would suggest the stadium has an inner forest feel location. This feel is added to with surrounding beer gardens, BBQ stations and homely ticket outlets which are available for home supporters. As a footballing location it has distinct character with noticeable and numerous painted colourful club murals and distinctive iron gates all of which are combined with more traditional ticket sales outlets.
See some images from my trip to Union Berlin are here.