They always say Union Berlin is a family. It is probably more like your big love: you almost always love her or him, and sometimes there is intense hate. On a heated derby night we experienced everything yesterday: from a glorious win and boisterous support to idiots and brainless gay haters. And I do have something to say about all that.
Union is a truly special thing for me, and the Alte Försterei a special place. Being able to stand instead of sit during a football match. To drink a beer with friends. To watch football. It feels like a family indeed. Yesterday there was a beautifully shot documentary about that as well on the BBC, with some quotes from yours truly.
What I like so much about Union, is that it is down-to-earth and optimistic. There are some basic rules:
- nobody is bigger than the club
- we respect each and everyone
- we never criticize our players
- we stay until the final whistle, and until the players waved goodbye
And then there are some minor rules. You don’t sing AGAINST your opponent, you sing FOR your team. You don’t throw fireworks on the pitch. And you don’t invade the pitch (unless you get promoted to the 1. Bundesliga of course on a beautiful and historic monday night!).
Red lines crossed
As the always awesome, but unfortunately in German, blog Textilvergehen already wrote, many of these rules were violated yesterday. So one of the reasons for me to write about it, is that English-languaged people can also read about and try to understand Union fan culture.
A small section of our fans did the club and the 98% of other supporters a massive disservice yesterday. Yes, the Hertha fans threw many more flares and rockets into the stands and onto the pitch. But it also happened from our side. And we really really don’t need fan groups stealing flags from eachother and then showing them like some trophy. We are not in the Kindergarten anymore.
The Ultras fan scene (the most fanatical supporters) can be a great thing, and a massive support. They should be the driving force behind the goosebump atmosphere at the Alte Försterei. And they usually are. But the difference between fanatic support and macho violent behaviour is a fine one. And that red line was crossed several times yesterday.
It already happened against Dortmund, where some ‘fans’ thought it was necessary to ‘defend the honour of the club’ and attack the away fans after some provocations. Childish? Rhetorical question. They almost managed to destroy the atmosphere during that historic 3-1 win.
Yesterday the same thing happened after the match. 20-30 guys (always guys) climbed over the fence, with balaclavas over their face. How brave. And they wanted to fight the other side. Some of them even threatened to attack our own players, which would have reflected very badly on the club and on ALL supporters. Only an intervention from goalkeeper Gikiewicz saved the day.
So let me (actually I would love to think ‘we the 98%`) be perfectly clear. We want loud support from the Waldseite. We don’t want people with balaclavas. We don’t want people on the pitch. We don’t need chants against the visiting team. We don’t need your organized, intimidating marches towards the stadium, all dressed in black and shouting that you don’t want to be filmed. As the basic rule said: NOBODY is bigger than the club. So we don’t need your self-importance. We should be talking about the great match and a derby win. Not about you guys.
And then the second reason for me to write about what happened on the stands yesterday. Homophobic banners. In the stadium I didn’t actually perceive it that way, but my German friends told me one banner from the Union ultras could not be interpreted in any other way.
On Textilvergehen the writer asked himself how that would feel towards gay Union fans. Well, again I can’t speak on behalf of all of them. But personally, I actually think it is laughable. Thinking you can provoke away fans by homophobic messages. It feels like some Ultras are trying to prove their own masculinity by hitting out at minorities.
I don’t feel personally attacked or offended. I don’t feel less welcome at Union because, thank god, the 98% have more sane opinions about sexual orientation (and race etc). I will still wear my ‘Eisern – und stolz’ (Unioner and proud) gay shirt at some matches. It would be very good though when the club, at the next home match, would speak out against crossing all these red lines. This is not about me. And maybe nobody gives a fuck about my opinion. But this is about keeping the Union fan culture on the good and sane and healthy side of things.