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Football: Clash of the titans

On February 9, the city's two giants of the pitch, Hertha BSC and 1.FC Union, face off in a surprisingly rare match. Bone up on the history before you're caught off guard by the fever at your Stammkneipe on Saturday.

Image for Football: Clash of the titans
Photo by Oliver Wolters

If you haven’t been following local football, or you can’t even name a single Berlin team, February 11 is your chance for a crash course  as Hertha BSC goes up against 1.FC Union for only the fourth time in the league in recent  history. Tickets are sold out, but chances are your Stammkneipe will be screening the match, so here’s a cheaters’ guide to the basics.

The disappointment felt by many Hertha BSC fans at last year’s relegation from the Bundesliga was only tempered by one thought, that they would get another chance to silence the song that they heard every time they came into contact with the supporters of 1.FC Union: “Stadtmeister, Stadtmeister, Berlin’s nummer 1!” In a weird twist of Berlin history, the city’s two biggest clubs have only met three times in the league since long before the Wall went up. In the 2010/11 season, the decisive fixture was won by the upstart club from the former East with a free kick from Union’s captain Torsten Mattuschka. With the draw at Union’s Alte Försterei home that season, and Hertha’s 2-1 revenge victory there this September, the scores are level again – the status of Stadtmeister is once again up for grabs, and now the sides will meet again at the Olympiastadion to decide who gets the bragging rights for at least one more year.

Union will go into this match sitting in an unprecedented fourth place , while Hertha are in second, again looking for a straight repromotion to the Bundesliga. But this is about far more than points in the table. It is about a rivalry that (due to the few actual games played between the clubs) is still very fresh, but is becoming more heated by the year as younger fans  take the places of their parents who were far from enemies across the divided city. Expect literal fireworks whatever happens on the pitch. This will be a huge, spectacular derby in every sense of the word.

Hertha BSC vs. 1.FC Union Berlin, Feb 9, 20:15