Es kommt nicht darauf an, wo du herkommst, sondern wo du bist

Simon Hedlund lächelt, streckt seinen Arm nach hinten über das Sofa aus und schlägt die Beine übereinander. Er sinkt in die Kissen als wären sie Treibsand. Neben ihm sitzt Sebastian Andersson, den Rücken deutlich gerader haltend, etwas nach vorn gelehnt und mit seinen Knien eng aneinander. Es ist ein kleines Sofa. Ihre Beine berühren sich nicht, aber fast. Andersson trägt Straßenklamotten, Hedlund einen Trainingsanzug. Beide lächeln weiter. Ob sie es wirklich sind oder nicht: Aber immerhin erscheinen Unions Schweden entspannt, zufrieden und so, als hätten sie Spaß. “Wetter wie in England”, sagt Hedlund. Und er hat recht damit. Es liegt eine Feuchtigkeit in der Luft, die die Trainingseinheit gerade eben sehr viel angenehmer gemacht hat.

Simon Hedlund nach seiner Verpflichtung durch Union 2016, Foto: Matze Koch

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It doesn’t matter where you’re from, really. It’s where you’re at.

Simon Hedlund smiles, stretches his left arm out along the back of the sofa and crosses his legs broadly. He sinks back into it like it is quicksand. Sebastian Andersson is sat next to him, his back perceptibly straighter, leaning slightly forward, his knees together. It’s a small sofa, their legs don’t touch but they are close. He’s in his civvies, Hedlund in his tracksuit. They keep smiling. They may not be, of course, but they look relaxed and happy and like they are having fun. “It’s English weather,” says Hedlund, which it is. There is drizzle in the air, and it made things a damn sight more pleasant during the training session they’ve just finished.

Simon Hedlund after being signed in 2016, Foto: Matze Koch

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Urs Fischer: “The day I stop being nervous before a game is the day I will give up.”

Urs Fischer mulled over the first question he’d been asked, before speaking slowly. Very slowly. He placed his words deliberately, like a master builder laying a cornerstone. Because on top of them would come everything else, and if you get the first piece wrong then at some point the whole damn edifice will collapse.

But he’d just been asked how he was.

“Good…”

Urs Fischer during his press conference, Foto: Matze Koch

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Von Dämonen und Tigern. Die Menschen bei Union und ihre Saison 2016/17.

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Jens Keller schaute das erste Mal auf die ausverkauften Ränge der Alten Försterei, auf denen die Fans an diesem Abend besonders sangesfreudig waren. Er hatte erwartet, dass es laut werden würde. Schließlich hatte er Champions-League-Erfahrung. Doch das hier war mehr. Zu seiner Rechten summten die Fans von Dresden in schwarz-gelb wie tausend und ein paar wütende sächsische Hornissen. Überall sonst im Stadion: die Unioner in rot und weiß oder in schwarz. Die altmodisch wirkenden Ränge der Alten Försterei waren zum Bersten voll mit Fans, dicht aneinander gedrängt. Von ganz oben auf den Rängen, wo man sich eigentlich nur um 180 Grad drehen müsste, um den steilen Hang hinunter zu pissen – bis hin zum, nur von einen roten Stahlzaun getrennten, Spielfeldrand.

Die Waldseite vor dem Anpfiff des Heimspiels gegen Dresden, Foto: Tobi/unveu.de

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Of Demons and Tigers. The people of Union Berlin and their 2016-17 season.

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Jens Keller looked out at the packed stands of the Alte Försterei for the first time, they were in fine voice this evening. He had expected it to be loud, and he’d managed in the Champions League after all, but this was really something. The Dynamo Dresden fans in yellow and black buzzed malevolently to his right, a thousand and some ugly Saxon hornets. The Unioner were in red and white and black everywhere else, the old fashioned terraces of the Alte Försterei were filled to bursting with fans stood cheek by jowl, from the tops of the stands where people used to only have to turn around 180 degrees to piss off the back down the steep dirt slope, to the very edge of the pitch, separated from it only by a brutal red steel fence undermining everything the German football authorities say about treating fans like people.

Die Waldseite vor dem Anpfiff des Heimspiels gegen Dresden, Foto: Tobi/unveu.de

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Steven Skrzybski und die hart erarbeitete Kunst des improvisierten Tors

Als er 12 Jahre alt war, traf Steven Skrzybski im entscheidenden Spiel der Saison gegen Hertha BSC. Union hatte in dem Jahr jedes Spiel gewonnen – außer im Pokal. Sie dominierten den Wettbewerb. In der Liga thronten sie über allem, aber hier im D-Jugend-Finale kassierten sie zwei dämliche Tore, und 400 Zuschauer sahen zu, wie sie versuchten, nicht alle Vorschusslorbeeren wegzuwerfen. Der Ball landete auf Steven Skrzybskis rechten Fuß. Dort, wo er ihn am liebsten hat. Er sprintete los, driftete dabei etwas auf rechts ab, eine Eigenschaft, die er noch heute hat. Dann sah es so aus, als wäre der Winkel für einen Abschluss zu spitz geworden.

Illustration: Emily Sweetman

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Steven Skrzybski and the hard earned art of the improvised goal

When he was 12 years old Steven Skrzybski scored against Hertha BSC in the season’s decisive fixture. Union had won every single game that year bar one in the cup. They had destroyed the competition, torn the league up, but here in the D-Jugend final they had conceded two stupid goals and 400 people were watching them trying not to throw all that promise away. The ball came to him on his right foot, where he likes it best, and he raced on, drifting out towards the right, a trait he still has, but it looked like he had left too tight an angle to shoot.

Illustration: Emily Sweetman

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Atop a rocket whose fuse had already been lit

Collin Quaner didn’t saunter out onto the pitch when his time had come He didn’t lope or lollop or swagger or stroll or any of the other terms that were lazily applied to him and his inferred laissez faire attitude during his earliest days at Union. No, he ran onto the pitch, his eyes blazing. He’d been annoyed over the last couple of weeks at missing out, at running the risk of losing his place to one of the many would be usurpers clogging up the striking ranks in Köpenick. For he had hit his stride, he had scored as many goals already this season as he had in the first four years of his career and then his fucking shoulder went.

So on his return, with time running out, he made sure we noticed as he Ran onto the pitch.

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Neuhaus’ return to his old house

Jens Keller looked sterner and less patient than he does in photographs. And somehow younger, too, at the same time. Like a silver haired Tintin with a sore head. He had already been waiting for a couple of minutes, tapping at the sides of his espresso cup as he tetchily drained away the contents, pacing slightly, tentatively, next to his lectern. He was still fuming about the goals.

Uwe Neuhaus (r.) und Jens Keller, Foto: Matze Koch

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Frankly FIFA, I don’t give a damn

Jacob hat nicht nur den besten Text zum Montagsspiel geschrieben, der geschrieben wurde. Nein, er hat noch davor einen Text über die Wahl der Austragungsorte für die Weltmeisterschaften 2018 und 2022 geschrieben, für dessen verspätete Publikation wir uns entschuldigen möchten.
Steffi & Sebastian

In Gone With The Wind there is a scene where, having lost all her former riches, Scarlett O’Hara tears down the beautiful green drapes that are all that is left of her furnishings to make a new dress. The idea is that she will be better able to get the 300 dollars she needs to save the family home if she has all the trappings and the appearance of wealth. It is a scene not disimilar to that of the English FA in Zurich last week as they desparately tried to impress the FIFA executive commitee members of the worth of their bid to land the 2018 World Cup. In the Guardian, David Conn pointed out that as David Cameron’s government slashed school sports funding back in the home of football, he was in a five star Zurich hotel, shaking hands with some of the most odious and dictatorial scumbags in the world.

But none of this was a surprise. Germany know very well about the morals of the FA when it comes to landing the biggest fish of all, the World Cup. When England promised Germany their full support for the 2006 tournament in exchange for Germany’s for EURO ’96 it was a deal made with crossed fingers. A gentlemans agreement only works between gentlemen, and the FA were certainly not that. They went for 2006 all the same, fuck the agreement. The obvious ending being that Germany became hosts and the English slunk home with their heads in their hands wondering why everybody thought they were so arrogant.

They always said that this time was different. The moral highground was there for the taking, and the bid had received the best possible reception. It was, finally, time for football to come home. To come home to a country where sport could help to eradicate society’s evils. Where Violence in the grounds had been all but banished and where the seeds of a new football had taken root in the fertile ground of that capitalists wet dream, the Premiership (“the Greatest League on Earth” SKY TV always tell us).

But, surprise, surprise, it didn’t work. I wrote a piece before the announcement of the winners saying how I didn’t want England to win the bid. It was just too unedifying to be cosying up to these guys who could make the Catholic Church look like a progressive, morally sound organisation. Where was the shame, the humility? To what ends would we go to win the bid, to make the big money? The BBC had broadcast a documentary on the eve of the decision accusing four further members of the executive committee of accepting bribes, but what was Cameron’s response to this? It was “irresponsible” of the BBC to harm the bid so. That two voters were already suspended because of similar accusations in the English press was seen as more than unfortunate. They could have been useful for the bid. For the BBC to be called unpatriotic and unhelpful was as fucking disgraceful as it was untrue. Although the previous experiment had shown that moral bankruptcy didn’t necessarily mean winning, why change now?

But the deal had already gone down. So it was with a huge surprise that I found myself seething with rage that Russia had won. Not because I don’t think that they equally deserve to host a World Cup (they do, and have never had one before…. no problem there) but because we looked like such pitiful losers. Apparently David Beckham is still a footballer, but he is closer to a handpuppet, let out of his Gucci leather lined box when hands need shaking, when Sepp wants to feel like royalty. The presense of “Dave” Cameron and Prince William was worse. These fuckers represent everything that is wrong with modern football in England, a representation of the gormless, money and celebrity driven Premiership that thinks football was invented in 1992, and they neither like nor know anything about the national sport other than the fact that to associate oneself with it lends a certain credibility.

I don’t need to spill more bile about the choice of Qatar to host in 2022. This was a decision that could only have come from FIFA, but the very fact that our elected leaders (not you, William. Sorry mate you don’t count as such) saw fit to hang the BBC out to dry was sickening. Could we not be proud of our press and it’s pursuit of the truth? Of course every good Conservative knows the BBC is a pseudo communist agency undermining the idea that morals and ability come second to the school one attended but it was just incredibly sad that it should have come to this. To feel the need to attack the countries most internationally respected body was inevitable, but it also still didn’t work as a tactic. Cameron still came home looking like a loser, and the FIFA executives are still happy now that it has been proved that their endemic corruption is deemed as being completely irrelevant. Life in their Swiss dream factory goes on unencumbered by trivial things like taxes and responsibility. So, let them have the World Cup wherever they like. Let it become even more bloated, and hang the consequences. Fuck them. To paraphrase Rhett Butler’s payoff line to Scarlett at the end of Gone With The Wind, “Frankly FIFA, I don’t give a damn”.