I’m not going to lie; somewhere I didn’t expect to end up on my visit to Berlin was at a football match. I don’t even watch sport back in the UK so, with so much to squeeze into a four-day trip in the city, hanging out with a load of local footy fans was not really top of my agenda.
But, as the females in our group were outnumbered by the males, we somehow ended up being persuaded to go along. The city had been pretty chilly during the day, so I piled on every layer I’d brought and even took along a hat and gloves to be ultra-prepared. If I had to watch football I was at least going to be warm doing it!
We took the city’s ever-so-easy Metro system to the stadium and were pleasantly surprised to find that getting to it involved a short walk through a woodland area, which I guess makes sense if you think about its name: Stadion An der Alten Forsterei, which translates as Stadium near the old Forester’s house.
The home team FC Union Berlin was playing SV Sandhausen and the local fans were out in force in their red and white football shirts. One of the stories I loved about the stadium was that when it badly needed redeveloping in 2007/08, most of the work was carried out by more than 2,300 supporter volunteers. Now that really is commitment to your team.
Inside the stadium we were in the stands and the fans were already well into their stride with the chants. The only one we could join in with was the chant for “Union” (pronounced like “onion” for us English speakers) but the atmosphere was contagious.
I won’t actually insult any football fans by trying to describe what happened on the pitch.
But I can tell you the following: Union won 3-0, we made some new German friends despite not speaking the same language (it mostly involved lots of cheering, backslaps and handshakes) and the FC Berlin football fans are brilliant. My favourite part of the match was when they all took off their scarves and waved them around their heads in a windmill motion. Oh, and you can also get pretzels during half-time. What more could you want?
It was so good it *almost* convinced me to go to a football match back at home.