Union run riot in Halberstadt
Union Berlin 6; Schlotterbeck (27.), Andersson (65.), Lenz (67.), Mees (71.), Andrich (76.), Ujah (89.)
It’s a long summer when there’s no European Championship or World Cup, especially when you’re waiting your first ever season in the Bundesliga. Pretty much every Union fan I meet stood on the grass bank at Halberstadt is bored and just wants the season to start. Boredom might be there but that doesn’t mean optimism isn’t. It doesn’t take long for a few songs to start up about the fact Union could play in Europe should they win the DFB Pokal. Personally I made a small little prediction on the podcast I’m a part of (Bundesliga Diaries - have a listen, it’s on Spotify/iTunes etc) that Union will at least make the semi’s. And why not? We’re very hard to break down, have brought in some good attacking talent over the summer and with the right draw there’s no reason why we can’t follow the likes of Hamburg last season and get close to the final.
I could probably come up with many reasons as to why I love Union. Over the course of this blog throughout the season I’ll probably mention a good number. On the way back to Berlin I find myself sat amongst a load of Union fans on the train who start talking to me as they recognise I’m on my own. “Who are you?” and, “what are you doing here?” tend to be some of the questions I’ve grown accustomed to answering, especially when people realise I’m English. The third question is usually, “why Union?”…. “It’s Union, they’re fucking amazing” is my usual answer. It’s probably not the most eloquent answer, but my knowledge of german adjectives can be patchy at times so I find, “sie sind einfach fucking geil” tends to get the point across. But after the match on Sunday I can give another reason. During a rather energetic song that had everyone on the grassy bank jumping up and down and moving from side to side, I lose my wallet. A few minutes later someone notices me searching through all my stuff with all the panic of a man who realises he could be stuck in the arse end of Germany with absolutely no money or bank card. (No offence Halberstadt, you seemed like a nice place really.)
“Did you lose your wallet?”
“It’s down the front with the ultras”
I look forward and see my wallet being hold aloft looking for its owner. 30 seconds later it’s back in my possession simply down to the sheer kind-heartedness of a fellow fan. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen such a thing. It’s not uncommon to see message on an Union Facebook group talking about someone having picked up an Union scarf left behind on a train. Chances are this kind of thing probably happens at every club with every set of supporters so perhaps I should have written this as another reason as to why I love football. It’s a feeling probably every match-going fan has; that sense of belonging to a community who look out for one another. To be honest l never really experienced that growing up in England, but it’s certainly one I’ve grown accustomed to in the past 5 seasons following Union, and whether it be finding lost items or sharing beers with complete randoms on a train through Germany, it’s one I’m still yet to get bored of.
In any normal year the season would be well under way but as the Bundesliga starts later this represents the first competitive game of the season. You couldn’t really ask for a better start than a 6-0 win on a sunny day in a small stadium packed with a load of travelling Union fans. Even though the atmosphere is great, filled with a lot of excitement about the coming season, the planned 15 minute boycott against Leipzig is a common conversation topic which has definitely split the support. I run into a guy I’ve met on a few aways who says to me, “it’s shit… I understand it, but it’s shit” which to be honest is probably the best summation I’ve heard. Thankfully everyone can just ignore that today and just concentrate on the cup and a decent performance and only worry about how badly they've been sunburnt (just me then?!)
As for that decent performance, it’s difficult to read too much into it although it’s pleasing how efficient Union are at dispatching Halberstadt, especially in the second half and with some very nice football to boot. Urs Fischer has made numerous comments throughout the summer about the standards he expects from the team. In particular regarding how much more efficient the team needs to be this season compared with last. Fewer misplaced passes, converting more chances, winning more tackles, the list goes on. So it might only be against lower league opposition but a 6-0 win is a 6-0 win and sets us up nicely for that first ever Bundesliga game. And after all, only 4 more games now to reach those semi-finals.