Es gibt inzwischen ziemlich viele englischsprachige Texte, die sich mit dem 1.FC Union Berlin beschäftigen. Genannt seien etwa der Wikipedia-Eintrag von Richard Miller, die Blogs ludoeule.posterous.com und unionberlin.com oder die wöchentlichen Beiträge von Jacob Sweetman für den Exberliner. Einige der Genannten schreiben ausschließlich über Union, andere betrachten den Gesamtberliner Fußball. Um große Namen, Arenen und Hummermayonnaise geht es dabei kaum, es kann sich demnach nur um Fußball handeln, vermute ich. Deshalb habe ich Jacob Sweetman gefragt, was ihn eigentlich nach Köpenick gebracht hat. Er hat´s aufgeschrieben, und weil mein Englisch und sein Deutsch von vergleichbarer Brillanz sind, haben wir uns entschlossen, den Text genauso stehen zu lassen. Dass nach allem, was er im Fußball gesehen hat, sein bewegendster Fußballmoment der Blick in die Gesichter der Stadionbauer bei der Wiedereröffnung der neuen Alten Försterei war, versteht ihr sicher auch so.
von Jacob Sweetman
I was at the Alte Försterei on Wednesday for the press conference prior to the first match of the difficult second album, sorry season, in the 2nd division for FC. Union Berlin. The assorted members of the press eyed me suspiciosly. I can see them wondering if this scruffy looking bloke can even speak English, let alone German. What is he doing here?
Well, they may have a good question there. I moved to Berlin three and a half years ago as a drummer for a nominally successful English Rock and roll band who had given up to the dogfight. It was hard work certainly, and financially suicidal, but in Germany we were always treated well and almost, y‘know, respected as musicians so moving to Berlin seemed a pretty straightforward idea, the offer of work making the decision to up sticks easier to make.
Having written for a long time for the fantastic Ipswich Town fanzine „Those Were The Days“- I was 7 days old when Town beat Arsenal in the FA Cup final and have been stuck with them since- journalism always seemed like an excellent dying industry to add to my portfolio after fifteen years of watching record shops in terminal decline from within. It fit‘s perfectly well as someone who derives an almost sexual pleasure from construing tenuous links between the works of Willie Nelson and a bunch of overpaid blokes kicking a ball around. I eventually bullied the excellent Exberliner magazine to make me sportswriter, giving a platform to extemporise all the shit floating around my brain, with the Beatles Bsides and rules for crossing the road meeting up with the sight of Ruud Gullit playing as a very old man sweeper for Chelsea against Town in a league cup match, beautifully pinging pinpoint 50 yard balls to feet like he was a machine.
My frst visit to Köpenick was coincdentally Uwe Neuhaus‘s first league game in charge at Union, a 0-1 loss to Fortuna Dusseldorf in the Regionalliga Nord, my third a last minute 1-0 in a classic Berlin shitstorm of rain in the ultra exposed old Alte forsterei, when the weather was so miserable you couldnt make out the ecer present chimney stacks in the distance that lent the old place so much atmosphere. This was „against modern football“ like so manner baners across Europe were screaming, and I felt immediately at home. The contrasts with the bloated football scene in England where Manchester City would pass through the hands of a reviled dictator and Portsmouth would be led down the road to near extinction by the shady son of an internationally wanted arms dealer. My own team, Ispwich Town, for so long the epitomy of a local club with „roots“ were bought by a billionarie who has still never had his face shown in public- though his name adorns the stadium and the proud blue shirts.
In my time in Berlin I‘ve seen Hertha beat Hoffenheim at a time when they were marauding through the league to finish top at Christmas and I‘ve seen Türkiyemspor‘s triumphant end to last season when they miraculously stayed in the Regionalliga. I sat in front of Werner Lorant at his first game at Tennis Borussia and seen England beat Germany at the Olympiastadion surrounded by increasingly annoyed Dortmunders but nothing comes close to witnessing first hand the tears streaming down the faces of hundreds of ordinary looking men in red plastic builders hats as fireworks ripped the sky apart above the brand new Alte Försterei stadium that they had built themselves. A scene especially poignant to me as having lived in Brighton for ten years I knew how much home really means. The Seagulls‘ will finally have their own stadium a the start of next season for the first time in over 15 years as the old Goldstone Ground was sold off to make space for a Toys R Us.
What I have experienced, and hopefully will continue to, in German football is modern football with more than a wink to the past. As the numbers of English groundhoppers coming over here at weekends multiply like three dicked pigeons, it is strange to reflect on how the home of football has changed and priced out so many of thse who it is supposed to represent in the first place. At Ipswich there is a small movement called Section 6, trying to create a more European atmosphere in the library like silence of Portman Rd with flags and drums. It‘s a huge minority, but as English stadiums grow quieter and pricier it makes me realise how lucky I am here to be involved in such a vibrant football scene, even if my fellow members of the press dont understand a word I‘m going on about.