Wolfgang Wruck looks over his shoulder towards the camera, his tongue sticking cheekily out between his teeth as his skipper, Ulrich Prüfke, and Ralf Quest hold up the massive bronze weight of the FDGB Pokal. To this day this photo represents l. FC Union’s biggest on-field triumph, a high water mark for this defiantly sea-level club. It remains a triumph of grit and determination and iron will.
Last night a version of that famous photo covered the height of the Waldseite, but instead of the bulky statue was the DFB Pokal. Wruck’s tongue was still sticking out, but this time it was pointed directly at the packed stand opposite. He beamed at the Kaiserslautern fans massed in the away end, bellowing lustily away, and just for a second it looked like he winked. For just that second it looked like Wolfgang Wruck knew in the back of his mind that lightning could strike twice. read full article
The plastic seats of the Werner-Seelenbinder-Sportpark are of a fading red that has turned a weathered pink, and there is a clock above the goal that stopped at 10:43 on an unnamed day a long time ago. It’s a lovely ground, but I noted all of this as I sat down just to make a cheap metaphor about the faded grandeur of the home side, SV Tasmania Berlin. I would need that, I thought. As well as I would need the hip-flask nestling in my top pocket next to the spare pen that I never use and a couple of old team sheets from games long since past that nobody remembers any more.
Certain that this was going to be boring, a slog between two average, mid-table, teams on a muddy mess of a pitch that would offer up few favours in its bobbling and sticky quagmire, the cheap booze and a cheap metaphor would be necessary, you see. read full article
The striker who had led SV Blau-Weiss Berlin into the Bundesliga with his 26 goals in 1985/86 answered the question only after pausing. Leo Bunk, for it was he, looked awkward. Here he was on the nation’s biggest sport programme, Sportschau, having just sung along to the astonishingly bad new song that would accompany the club into the nation’s consciousness for a year, but he wasn’t going to be hanging around for the party. He had already signed for Stuttgart. His erstwhile team-mates were all sat behind him on cheap plastic chairs, with his captain to the left and the president to the right. “Why are you leaving, then?”
The pause took a lifetime but eventually he just said “…the sporting perspective is better there”. It made sense, he knew it, they all knew it – but no one wanted to say it – Blau-Weiss’s Bundesliga experience was, in all likelihood, going to be a pretty short one. And it was. Bunk’s replacement – a little striker called Karl-Heinz Riedle, you may have heard of him – scored eight goals the next year, but still Blau-Weiss went down, never to return. read full article
Photo courtesy of www.unveu.de
No one ever said it was going to be easy, least of all that arch pragmatist Uwe Neuhaus – a man whose very demeanour screams of Calvinist virtue and that tugging thought at the back of one’s mind that says that this, all of this, could go wrong at any second. No, no one ever said it was going to be easy, but through its very hardship Union can be incredibly proud of their position at the apex of the 2.Liga. They have, at times this season, reinvented themselves as a rapier edged blur of attacking intent and constant intricate movement, but that is often easier when one plays against teams who are willing to join in the dance, sides who understand that to carve out opportunities one must always be prepared to sacrifice some of that solidity at the other end.
But at other times one has to wait, to be patient. The joy lies in the thrill of the chase, one learns that as one gets older. read full article
This was exactly what the powers that be would have had in mind when they formed the new Viktoria. They would have seen the smart Lichterfelde stadium underneath a sky blue Viktora flag with over 1,500 fans inside, making a racket on the terraces. There were drums and there was singing and there were goals. And if they could have held on in the face of an onslaught for another few seconds then they would have had three points too. read full article
There is a noise particular to certain fields on certain quiet days in certain parts of cities all over the more civilised parts of the world. It is a cross between a machine gun crack and the rim-shot of a drummer whose free booze has run out. It cuts through you like a knife, eliciting a shudder, a look away. A clenching of the teeth and of the buttocks. Crrrrack, it goes as two big men come together chasing the shadow of a ball long since passed. It is the sound of boot on flimsy plastic shin-pad on bone and immediately it prompts the question: is it all worth this? read full article
I’ve been trying for days now to nail this one down. It should be simple enough, just a simple match report about a simple victory, taking a simple side up to a simple third place in the league with a simple bit of daylight starting to open up behind them. Union beat a Sandhausen side so static, so rigid in their flat 4-4-2, that you could use them to navigate at night by, so easily and, yes, so simply, but you have read about that already. You have probably seen the goals and you have cast your eyes over a thousand references to the star of the show whose birthday it was.
But I didn’t want to mention that. After all it is always somebody’s birthday somewhere. Today is Thelonious Monk’s, tomorrow John Lennon’s. I don’t have the pressure of deadlines so there must be more to the story of Friday night’s game, and FC Union’s entrenching of their place in third, than the tale of one man, of his rapturous and raucous birthday greetings from the thousands packed into the Waldseite after he had inspired his side to a victory that required little more than patience and a determination to keep working away against a side who knew their limitations, but also how to make them work in their favour. read full article
Rarely have the weight of expectations felt so great at the Alte Försterei as before the clash with Greuther Fürth on Friday night. Though not amongst everyone, of course. There are battled scarred faces in the crowd there with deep cravasses etched into their skin like the Grand Canyon that tell of bad old tales from the bad old days, of the relegation to the Oberliga and of the battle to rescue the club from the pits of financial misery, board room ineptitude and performances on the pitch that would give lie to the fact we still call football the beautiful game.
At half time with Union 1-0 up through a neat finish from Benjamin Köhler, with those very expectations boiling up to a crescendo with the noise and the colour and the pride and the glory bursting out from the terraces, it seemed as if the only thing holding the roof down onto the top of the Alte Försterei was the rain hammering down on to it from above. But things were about to change, Sören Brandy – a skittish ever present danger – was to go off injured after a crunching lunge, and Torsten Mattuschka was about to commit the very un-Mattuschka-ish sin of missing a golden opportunity to make it 2-0 when he bore down on Wolfgang Hesl in the Fürth goal, but contrived only to find the keeper’s knees instead of the yawning, gaping net. read full article
FC Union’s Under 23′s had been leading SV Babelsberg 1-0 since the 7th minute when Eroll Zejnullahu had slipped a delightful ball through for Stephen Skrzybski coming into the channel on the right to slot past the ‘keeper Dominik Feber. Zejnullahu had robbed a sleeping defender and the two young players knocked it between themselves, cutting through the Babelsberg defence like a knife through butter.
This was a glimpse of what many hope will be the future of FC Union, Torsten Mattuschka’s ordained successor at the top of midfield and a young striker who all too often looks too good for the fourth division, but not yet quite excelling in the second, wearing the big man’s shirt, the fabled number 17.
The goal was a precise delight, using clever angles, speed of thought and with the innate understanding of two players who know exactly where the other one was going at all times. But it was a killer for the first hour of the match. It allowed Union to take their time, to content themselves with breaking up Babelsberg’s natural passing game – which they did with ease, as the likes of David Hollwitz clogged up the midfield with a mixture of excellent timing, controlled aggression, and no little fear of sticking the odd boot in if necessary. Up front, Babelsberg’s Lukas Albrecht was beginning to look lonelier than the only stoner at a young Christians’ afternoon of abstinence. read full article
No one ever said that football had to be engrossing, and it was hardly enshrined in the original laws of the game that it was the absolute duty of the players to ensure a fair and rollicking encounter, with incumbent drama, action at both ends, and a natural sense of tension that loosens the bowels and incapacitates all appreciation of the outside world for ninety full minutes (plus time added on for additional intrigue).
No, even in knock out ties between supposedly mismatched teams in the first round of a cup competition that could ensure the survival of your potless club for the next five years (in the, admittedly unlikely, chance that you would win the damn thing in the end) football does not have to be any good to watch. read full article