HERTHA BSC vs. 1. FC UNION BERLIN, BERLIN DERBY
Updated: Jun 16, 2020
This article was originally published on May 27th, 2020.
Unlike other European countries, Germany is unable to compete when it comes to high scale soccer rivalries. Where fans are able to look back at long histories of past encounters and memorable moments.
This season Germany's capital has been looking to change this. Union Berlin's promotion to the Bundesliga set up a historic 'Battle of Berlin' against the long time established Hertha.
However, one component that this rivalry is missing is the fact that Hertha and Union have hardly ever played one another. Historically the teams' fans have even shared a friendship, while the city was divided between East and West.
Despite not producing a Bundesliga derby since 1977, Berlin has been home to more top-flight clubs than any other in Germany.
After the war, Berlin became home to a heated rivalry between Tennis Borussia Berlin and Hertha developed.
The two teams would be West Berlin's main representatives in West Germany's soccer system. However, they would face each other in the Bundesliga for the final time in 1977, with Tennis Borussia coming out 2-1 winners.
In East Germany, however, Berlin derbies were more mainstream. The Stasi sponsored
Dynamo Berlin was the most successful side in the East, even winning ten consecutive Oberliga titles between 1979 and 1988. Allegations of sporting misconduct began to fuel a rivalry with Union Berlin, with fights often breaking out.
During the years of a divided Germany, fans of both Hertha and Union developed the chant, "there are only two teams on the Spree, Union and Hertha BSC." This being designed to directly target the Stasi-backed Dynamo.
After the Berlin Wall fell an exhibition game between West Germany's Hertha and East Germany's Union was organized at the Olympiastadion. Over 51,000 people attended, with both sets of fans paying in East and West Germany's respective currencies. While they sang songs praising German reunification.
German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel, wrote at the time, "At the Berlin football 'family festival' there was not the slightest hint of differing views excitement and joy prevailed on all sides."
When the Oberliga was integrated into the Bundesliga system, there where no Berlin sides in the German top division.
Hertha can trace their history back to 1892, when they would take the name BFC Hertha 92. The club would get its name and color scheme from a steamship with a blue and white smokestack.
Hertha would see some early success, winning the first Berlin championship final in 1905. However, the club's on-field early success was not matched financially. Therefore, in 1920 the staunchly working-class Hertha merged with the affluent club Berliner Sport-Club to form Hertha Berliner Sport-Club.
They would go on to win the German title in 1930 and 31. However, Berliner Sport-Club would choose to separate and become an independent club again after the combined side's first championship.
During the rule of the Third Reich, the club would see its upper management being replaced by party members. After the war, Allied authorities banned soccer clubs. Therefore, Hertha was reformed as SG Gesundbrunnen playing in the post-war Oberliga Berlin league. By the end of 1949, they would reclaim their identity as Hertha BSC and earned a return to the top-flight. After tensions between the occupying Allies and Soviets, Hertha was banned from playing team in the East of Berlin.
Their success in the Oberliga would see them become a founding member of the Bundesliga in 1963. The same year they would move to their new home at the Olympiastadion.
However, Hertha's Bundesliga stay lasted only two years. As they were relegated for a bribery scandal after they tried to persuade players to move to the city after the erection of the Berlin Wall.
The managed to return to the Bundesliga for the 1968-69 season, but would again get caught up in a scandal. In 1971 a number of Bundesliga clubs including Hertha were involved in a match-fixing scandal.
During the course of the match-fixing scandal investigation, a 6 million DM ($3.4 million) debt was uncovered. With the threat of financial disaster, the club was forced to sell their former home stadium.
Hertha would recover and enjoy some success throughout the 1970s, with a second-place Bundesliga finish, a semi-final UEFA Cup appearance, and two appearances in the DFB-Pokal final.
However, in 1980 the club would be relegated to Bundesliga 2, where they would find themselves competing for 13 of the next 17 seasons. Hertha even managed to slip down to the German third tier Amateur Oberliga Berlin, for two seasons between 1986 and 88.
Hertha would manage to scramble their way back to the Bundesliga in 1997. Starting the club's yo-yo years between the top and bottom of the Bundesliga.
Over the years Hertha has picked up a number of nicknames including ‘Die Alte Dame’ (‘the old lady’) and ‘Die Blau-Weßen’ (the blue-whites).
Union can trace its routes back almost as far as Hertha. Starting with the FC Olympia 06 Oberschöneweide which was founded in 1906.
In 1910 the club would take the name SC Union 06 Oberschöneweide. They would earn the nickname 'schlosserjungs' ('metalworker-boys'), thanks to the club's all blue uniform which looked like traditional work clothing worn in the local factories. The club would lean into the working-class image as a way to distance itself from other local teams.
Union would prove to be a rather unremarkable side in German soccer, reaching one German Championship Final in its first 40 years.
After World War II the club was dissolved but would reform under the name SG Oberschöneweide. Despite reforming they would fail to qualify for the newly created Oberliga Berlin in 1946 but would be promoted the following year. At the same time, they would regain club status as SG Union 06 Oberschöneweide.
After promotion, the club would find success winning the Oberliga Berlin in their first season and finishing second in their second. Despite the second-place finish in the 1949-50 season and qualifying to compete in national competitions they would find themselves missing out. Escalating Cold War tensions led Soviet authorities to refuse the team's permission to travel to take part.
As a result, the team would see a split as a number of players and coaches fled to West Berlin to create Sport-Club Union 06 Berlin. Which would go on to fulfill the club's scheduled playoff games.
The remaining East Berlin players carried on as Union Oberschöneweide, before changing to BSG Motor Oberschöneweide, in 1951 then SC Motor Berlin, in 1955, then TSC Oberschöneweide, in 1957, then TSC Berlin in 1963. Before finally becoming deciding1. FC Union Berlin in 1966.
Throughout their time in East Germany Union would yo-yo between the top-level DDR-Oberliga and the second tier DDR-Liga. With only one East German Cup victory the club's only high point.
After the German reunification, Union would struggle with financial difficulties. Causing the club to be rejected a license to play Bundesliga 2 in both 1993 and 1994.
During Union's period of financial difficulties, the club's fans started the campaign “Bleed for Union.” Which saw supporters donate blood, and give the money they received to the club.
They would remain in the lower levels of the German soccer system until 2009, where they would win promotion to Bundesliga 2. It was there that the sporting rivalry with Hertha finally emerged.
Ten years later they would finally secure their first-ever promotion to the Bundesliga, after defeating Stuttgart in the playoffs.
Union now became the first club to reach the Bundesliga from East Berlin and only the fifth from East Germany.
Union's promotion to the Bundesliga set up the historic All-Berlin Derby.
The first time the two teams faced each other was only back in the 2010/11 season, while both teams were in Bundesliga 2.
Union's Stadion an der Alten Försterei played host to a 1-1 tie. Hertha won the reverse fixture 2-1 at home, on their way to topping the league.
Two years later Hertha would again be relegated back to the second tier. This time they lost 2-1 on their short trip east before a 2-2 tie at the Olympiastadion, meaning the competitive record between the two clubs was evenly balanced.
This season played host to only the teams' fifth and sixth meetings, but this time in the historic location of the Bundesliga.
The first Bundesliga derby between East and West Berlin was temporarily stopped after flares were thrown on to the pitch.
Sebastian Polter's (@polti1991) 90th-minute penalty for Union, earned them a famous win over rivals Hertha.
Play was halted at the beginning of the second half as fans threw flares, leading to 10 minutes of stoppage time.
This weekend's game swung in the opposite direction. As four goals in 26 second-half minutes crushed Union Berlin and gave Hertha the revenge they had been searching for in the silent Olympiastadion.
The Berlin Derby may not have those iconic historical moments. However, Union's cult supporters alongside the colorful Hertha fans look set to create one of Europe's most unique rivalries moving forward.