Dortmund sent home empty-handed as Union get their first win
Union Berlin 3; Bülter (22. & 50.) Andersson (75.)
Borussia Dortmund 1; Alcacér (25.)
I don’t like international breaks. I now have to wait almost two weeks to see Union again. And when every game seems to get better and better, not just off the pitch but on it as well, those two weeks are gonna feel even longer. To be perfectly honest I don’t really remember an awful lot from this game, certainly nothing interesting enough to fill a blog with anyway. What I do know is Saturday justified the 2 main reasons why I wanted to ditch England and move to Berlin; music and football. The music bit is obvious, which is why I spent a lot of Saturday night after the football inside a former power station in the heart of Berlin at the excellent Berlin Atonal festival. The football bit is maybe not so obvious, which is why I found the video published by Deutsche Welle an excellent reminder of just how much football goes on in Berlin even if this is the first time in 43 years that two Berlin clubs have been in the Bundesliga. Speaking of obvious things, it shouldn’t take a brain surgeon to work out that even a speaker system comprised of thousands of watts can’t quite leave your head ringing like an evening at the Alte Försterei can. Although I also feel like I might need a brain surgeon to help with the lost brain cells because when you deservedly beat Dortmund 3-1 at home to earn your first Bundesliga win you tend to go and celebrate in a way that only Berlin can offer.
Thinking about the game I am reminded of one thing however. Well actually I’m reminded of two things. The first is that the club handed out 20,000 free t-shirts to supporters before the game which meant I had that much needed second t-shirt. Much needed because of being absolutely drenched in beer in the aftermath of the second and third goals. But mainly I’m reminded that back in July in an interview with the local Berliner Kurier newspaper, goalkeeper Rafal Gikiewicz was quoted that despite the tough start he wanted between 4 and 7 points from the first 3 games. After losing 4-0 at home on the opening weekend and still with Dortmund to play you could have been forgiven for thinking that Union might be lucky to even get 1 point. But then if you did think that you probably never watched Union play much last season. Time and time again last season Union rescued points from losing positions and won points from drawing positions with late goals. Even after the disappointment of Bochum away on the last day of the season Union picked themselves up and 4 days later put in their best away performance of the season in Stuttgart, a game in which they also came back from behind twice in.
People have rightly pointed out that the acquisitions of Gentner and Subotic have been vital for bringing in Bundesliga experience. But not enough has been made of those who remain. Gentner himself when he joined was keen to highlight that the dressing room was already full of strong characters keeping the squad in check, with Gentner name-checking Gikiewicz among others. Gikiewicz is a man who sets targets. Attainable targets sure, but not without hard work. Last year’s targets included a minumum number of clean sheets (achieved; each crossed off on a list hanging on the kitchen fridge in the family home) as well getting back into the Polish national squad (also achieved). Then there’s the fact that he doesn’t drink stating, “I can drink once my career has ended”. In a similar interview for Kicker over the summer he was asked if he thought he’d had a good career so far. His answer? “I’ve not had a career yet. When I’ve played a good season in the Bundesliga, then I can talk about a career, until now I’ve just got a super hobby that I’m good at”. I’m someone who grew up supporting a team with Roy Keane as captain, a man who took dedication and ambition to the extreme, so it’s difficult not find the way Gikiewicz approaches the game fantastic.
All of this circles back to the Dortmund result and the opening 3 games in general. President Dirk Zingler said that Union weren’t going to change just because they’ve reached the Bundesliga. He might have been talking more about the club itself but on the pitch we’re starting to see that Union Berlin team that got promoted. The fans might be enjoying the off field activities - well this fan definitely is - but Union Berlin are not just here to make up the numbers in the Bundesliga or be this season’s in vogue cult club, a term which tends to get the backs up of many of the fans I’ve spoken to. This squad is packed full of players with mental toughness who - as in the case of Sheraldo Becker at the weekend - will literally run and run until they can no longer stand. If you want to beat us, you need to earn it. Dortmund didn’t get close. It might have taken a few games but Union are finally starting to show less and less respect to their opponents and demanding that they themselves be respected. No one can say the Dortmund win wasn’t fully deserved, nor indeed deny that they don’t deserve to have collected Gikiewicz’s target of the 4 points they currently have. All of which isn’t to say that Union aren’t also capable of playing football. Andersson’s third goal in which the Dortmund defence was carved apart proves they are. (Also the advert for the DVD Season Review from last season also proves this.)
Urs Fischer has always made a point of saying that hard work deserves rewards and has given his squad 3 days off to spend with family. Breaking down the season into smaller segments might be a useful way of navigating what is a long season. The next set of 4 games are full of equally tough games in which Union would do well to get 6 points. If only I didn’t have to wait those 2 weeks before it all starts again.