This is the third in a series of short articles following a recent trip to Berlin. The first article, A weekend in Berlin, provides some historical context while the second, A bike tour through Stasiland, describes a bike trip from Neukölln, taking in the Soviet War Memorial at Treptower Park, the Stasi Museum and the Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial.
This article recalls an unforgettable football match at the incomparable "Stadium by the old forester's house" (Stadion An der Alten Försterei) of FC Union Berlin.
For football fans visiting Berlin, the obvious impulse is to go to the cavernous Olympic Stadium and see Hertha Berlin, the city's most famous club (currently behind only Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund in the German Bundesliga). Indeed, I did the same myself on a previous visit.
But, for a more fulfilling experience, you would be better advised to head out of town to the forrest of Köpenick. Here you will find the Stadion An der Alten Försterei, home of FC Union Berlin. Playing in the German second tier, there is nothing second division about the atmosphere inside the ground. With only 3,500 seats in a stadium with a capacity of a little over 22,000, the place was literarily bouncing. It's a stadium purpose built for football, with no athletics track to create a gap between the fans and the action. The stadium hosts a stunning annual christmas carol service (Weihnachtssingen 2015) and in 2014 the club allowed fans to bring their own sofas to the ground to watch World Cup matches on the stadium's big screens (Fans leap off the sofa at 5-0 lead over Brazil)!
The football wasn't half bad either. A three-one victory over a well supported TSV Eintracht Braunschweig side, including a goal by promising young Hawaiin striker Bobby Wood (who Liverpool are reportedly following closely), and a brace from Croatian midfielder Damir Kreilach. Everyone in the stadium was on their feet for the entire match and the singing, chanting and drumming didn't relent for a single moment, creating an unforgettable atmosphere. With beer available from roaming vendors and delicious steak burgers on sale at half-time, supporting FC Union Berlin was a truly memorable way to spend a fantastic evening in the German capital!
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Richard Hough writes about history, football, wine, whisky, culture + travel.