Bundesliga

Hertha vs Union: fan view from Berlin’s big two ahead of derby

Ahead of tonight’s clash between Hertha and Union Berlin we speak to supporters about what this fixture means and what to expect.

Hertha vs Union: fan view from Berlin’s big two ahead of derby
JOHN MACDOUGALL AFP

For football fans all around the world local derbies are some of the most hotly anticipated fixtures in the calendar with the opportunity to secure city-wide bragging rights. And in a city as football-crazed as Berlin there will be plenty to brag about in what is only the second ever top flight match between Hertha and Union.

Hertha-Union: Berlin's biggest two clubs

The first game last November saw a late winner for newly-promoted Union, fans invading the pitch and ten minutes of stoppage time due to excessive flares; but this time the stands will be silent.

This match is Hertha’s chance to regain their prominence in the German capital and Hertha fan Jack wants to see his side reaffirm their status as the capital’s best:

“I think this derby now is revenge for the return leg last year where Union beat us. The rivalry has upped a notch since they were promoted, always being the noisy neighbours, but the game tomorrow is narrowly close to call.”

Hertha's German head coach Bruno Labbadia celebrates with German midfielder Arne Maier after their 3-0 victory in the German first division Bundesliga football match against TSG Hoffenheim.

After travelling to the Alte Försterei for the game in November, Hertha would have hoped their home crowd would make the difference in the return fixture. But a derby without fans is a strange concept and Jack worries what effect that will have on the game:

“I think with the atmosphere of a full Olympic stadium and 70,000 fans behind Hertha the result may have been easier to call but behind closed doors anything could happen.

“We can see from last week that it brings a different perspective to the game, with the players and even the referee reacting differently.”

Swapping Liverpool for Union

He will miss out on the chance to see his side welcome their neighbours in their home stadium and it is a memory that Union fan John Richter has fond memories of. John had been a Liverpool fan but, after becoming disillusioned with the how distant the club had become from the fans, went to watch a Union Berlin match and hasn’t looked back:

“I went and felt at home straight away, and then never went anywhere else. There is a culture of acceptance, whatever your nationality, gender, sexuality. Of course there are all sorts of people and views at the club but for me there is a family feel and a sense of socialism that reminds me of Shankly’s Liverpool. You feel like you belong and that there is not a big gap between fans, players and management.

No entry | A fan of Union Berlin gestures outside the Stadion An der Alten Forsterei ahead of the Bundesliga match between FC Union Berlin and FC Bayern Munich on May 17, 2020 in Berlin, Germany.

Of course that is not to say that fans’ behaviour has been perfect and John is critical of those who took to the pitch back in November, but victory in front of a sell-out crowd of 22,012 was an important moment for a club who have been in their rivals’ shadow for so long:

“I watched the November game in the Alte Försterei with my good friends and enjoyed the victory but not the macho posturing by some fans. Being Stadtmeister was of course a great feeling… Fischer will have Union well organised and I anticipate being Stadtmeister again after the game.”

‘Stadmeister’ translates as ‘Master of the Town’ and that will be the aim for both clubs this evening. Even without supporters there to witness it is a battle for supremacy in the German capital, and will be spoken about by the victorious fans for years to come.