Friday 5th November 2021
There are no riots or riots
Bitter Europe lesson for Union Berlin
By Sebastian Schneider, Berlin
Union Berlin plays in Europe. That alone is crazy. It is the reward for the incredible rise of the Iron in recent years. But now they are faced with some new problems. So far, they have collected few points on their way, but many memories.
Floodlights, a sold-out stadium, European Cup – and yet everything is sometimes annoying. Even “Ritter Keule”, the otherwise powerful mascot, sagged. Union Berlin is actually living the dream of a Bundesliga club right now: European competition. The Köpenickers do what their blue and white city rivals can only dream of at the moment and are busy collecting memories. Not for the first time on their way through the UEFA Conference League, when they lost 2-1 to Feyenoord Rotterdam, that the Iron Party found out that not everything is fantastic.
Because bankruptcy can actually be summed up in one word: unnecessary. Not only because the bottom of the group now has to win the last two games in order to progress. But also how it came about: Most of the time, the Berliners have the game under control. Shortly before half-time, captain Christopher Trimmel compensates for the deficit after a quarter of an hour.
After the break, Union is even close to making the 2-1. But then Union goalkeeper Andreas Luthe is the doom of Berlin’s continuous rain. The goalkeeper slips on the “shitty place” (as Rani Khedira called the muddy grass), a Rotterdam player can slide in to make it 1: 2. “Football is a mistake game. That was one mistake too many. That turned the game around,” said Union coach Urs Fischer after the game.
He doesn’t blame the goalkeeper very much. Rather, another thing bothers Fischer: “I mean, not scoring a goal, that could also be described as a mistake.” With that he means the unused big chance of Sheraldo Becker in the sixth minute and the remaining chance utilization. As it is sometimes the case, shortly before the end there are two more actions that are not needed: First captain Trimmel flies, then the substitute Cedric Teuchert from the field. “We beat ourselves today,” said defense chief Robin Knoche.
At the international level, the Köpenicker collect apprenticeship money. The rhythm is unfamiliar, it changes the processes, it takes up time. As coach Fischer also knows how to report. “We can’t work at the moment. If you play a game every third day, it’s mainly about regeneration,” he explains before the game, when asked about possible training corrections after the 2: 5 against Bayern on Saturday. Suddenly Union is confronted with the big problem of a top club: the triple burden of league, cup and international competition. “That is the biggest difference to last season: That we don’t have a week to prepare for an opponent.” That’s why a lot goes through video analysis and conversations.
Of course, that’s not an excuse for the two defeats, and neither is yesterday’s venue. Again, Union has to move to the unpopular Olympic Stadium for international competition. And although the air line to the actual home, the Alte Försterei, is only 23 kilometers, a person from Köpenick already complains about “the longest train journey” of his life on the way there. In the stadium, the fans make it clear what they think of the guest appearance in Berlin’s Westend. Nothing. First with a banner (“We need the Alte Försterei like air for life”), then with chants (“Alte, Alte, Alte Försterei”). The guests from Rotterdam don’t look much happier either. The rain whipped through the marathon goal in the back for the entire season.
There is no escalation
Still, it’s probably the best possible venue. Because since the beginning of the pandemic, the nervous capital has been experiencing its first real risk game. Feyenoords fans are notorious across Europe. The Berliners feel that too. The Unioner delegation is attacked before the first leg. Around 2000 officials are on duty for the second leg in Berlin. The routes to the fan camps will be separated, while those from Rotterdam will be guided through the spacious Olympic Park at the stadium.
The first provocation of the guests takes place on Wednesday morning. At two o’clock in the morning, two Dutch citizens are picked up at the East Side Gallery in Berlin – still with the paint on their hands. They sprayed a big “Feyenoord” on the Berlin Wall. In total, more than 70 people, mostly from the Netherlands, were arrested before the game. In the days before there were rumors that ultras from Poland, Denmark, Rostock and Gladbach will also move to the city. Immediately before the game, the police reported attacks, property damage and the burning of pyro torches near the stadium and in underground stations. This excitement! The fans, the city and the capital’s press, which is rarely confronted with such scenarios. Berlin and Europe. Everyone has to get used to it.
An evening in an unloved stadium ends with a completely unnecessary defeat. Europe is not always easy. For Fischer there was “certainly one thing or the other to address” after the game. But again there is no time for more. It’s the Bundesliga on Sunday. At 1. FC Köln. Back in the gray everyday. In the stadium, a few stewards set up “Knight Club”. You want a selfie with the rare guest in Berlin’s Westend. Collect memories. Floodlights, a stadium sold out under pandemic conditions, European Cup. That will stay.