Athletic Club will face Bundesliga side FC Union Berlin on Saturday, July 31 (15:30 CEST) at the Berlin-based outfit’s Stadion An der Alten Försterei. It will be the first time the two sides have met, and the Lions’ German opponents are one of the most fascinating sides in Europe.
We’ve put together a list of interesting facts to help you learn more about Union Berlin.
- Fans refer to the team as Die Eisernen (the Iron Ones). The nickname derives from the fact that Union were known as Schlosserjungs (the locksmith boys) in their earlier days. The club was initially formed as FC Olympia 06 Oberschöneweide in the Berlin district of Oberschöneweide, and the side’s all-blue kits looked like the all-blue overalls worn by metal workers in the area. In 1910, the team became SC Union 06 Oberschöneweide. After several name changes, 1. FC Union Berlin emerged in 1966. They have donned red-and-white kits ever since, but the fans have never forgotten their roots.
- Union Berlin’s fanbase are renowned for their passion and creativity. On several occasions they have shown their willingness to sacrifice literal blood, sweat and tears for their club. In 2004, with the side on the brink of bankruptcy, fans organised a fundraiser known as ‘Bleed for Union’. In Germany you get paid for giving blood, so thousands of fans turned up at their nearest blood banks and sent the money received back to the club, saving it from extinction.
- In 2008, supporters rolled up their sleeves once more. Union’s home, Stadion An der Alten Försterei, desperately needed renovating, but they couldn’t afford the work that needed to be done. As a result, the fans did it themselves. Over 2,300 people put in around 140,000 hours of work to ensure the job got done. The ground has a capacity of 22,012 (18,395 standing and 3,617 seated).
- Union Berlin often hold social events at the Stadion An der Alten Forsterei. For example, every December thousands of fans meet at the stadium to drink mulled wine, eat biscuits and sing Christmas carols. What’s more, in 2014 supporters brought their sofas to the ground, turning it into their own personal living room for the World Cup. There were 750 sofas out on the pitch as fans watched the tournament on the big screen.
- In 2018-19, Union became the first club from East Berlin to reach the Bundesliga, and last season they qualified for Europe after finishing seventh.
- However, the upcoming season won’t be the club’s first competing in European football. In 1968, they got into Europe after winning the East German Cup. However, after the Prague Uprising, UEFA wouldn’t let East German sides compete. More recently, in 2000-01, Union, at that time competing in the third tier, reached the final of the German Cup after a magnificent run which included a penalty shootout win over Borussia Monchengladbach in the semi-finals. They lost 0-2 against FC Schalke 04 at the final hurdle, but as Schalke had already qualified for the Champions League, Union were awarded with a place in the following season’s UEFA Cup. After knocking out Finnish side FC Haka in the first round, Union were eliminated by Bulgaria’s Litex Lovech in the second round.
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