1.FC UNION BERLIN
Founded: Jan 20, 1966
Club Members: 49,152
Nickname: Eisern Union
Coach: Nenad Bjelica
Captain: Christopher Trimmel
3.Liga Champions: 1
Landespokal Berlin Winner: 2
In terms of winning trophies, 1.FC Union Berlin are far from being one of football's most successful clubs. They are however one of its big success stories. Living up to their nickname Eisern Union (Iron Union), they survived the communist regime and post re-unification upheaval to become one of the very few former East German clubs still playing professional football today. They were an alternative for punks, hippies, rockers and social outcasts who rejected the GDR ideology. This is a club that has rebelled against the all-out commercialism of modern football and instead has its roots planted firmly in the working class community it represents. This is a club that takes football back to basics. This is a club of the people.
Although a child of the GDR, Union's origins can be traced back as far as 1906 and up until World War 2 they were a largely uncompetitive side playing first as Olympia Oberschöneweide and later as Union Oberschöneweide in regional championships. They moved into their current Stadion an der Altern Försterei home in 1920 but it wasn't until shortly after the war that the story of how they came to be the 1.FC Union Berlin of today really began. At the time, the club had more or less fallen apart as players defected to allied controlled West Berlin, and in the east the Soviets intensified their efforts to stamp out fascism which their paranoia led them to believe was harboured in the minds of sportsmen. As a consequence, the order was given for all sports clubs to disband and start from scratch; and it was as a result of this sporting 'Stunde null ' (zero hour) that 1.FC Union Berlin were formed in 1966.
The state had total control over everyday life including football, and the Stasi (State Security Forces) began to favour certain clubs, with BFC Dynamo a particular favourite. With state sponsorship behind them, and amid accusations of biased refs and corruption which saw the best players 'stolen' from other teams, Dynamo won 10 consecutive East German League titles between 1979 and 1988. Players considered to be past their best were sent to Union who at this time were viewed as perennial underdogs with their only success being an East German Cup win in 1968. After the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989 however, the football landscape in Germany changed markedly as Dynamo's previous dominance disappeared along with the communist leaders; and they tumbled down to non league obscurity. Despite Union having since left their old GDR foe behind, memories remain strong however and Dynamo's name is still Ein Schimpfwort (a swear word) at the Stadion an der Altern Försterei.
After reunification, Union performed well on the pitch but financial troubles during which they sent fake bank drafts to the DFB in order to secure their playing licence saw them twice prevented from being admitted into the Bundesliga.2, before being allowed in at the third time of asking following promotion in 2001. The same year they reached the DFB-Pokal Final which as a third division club was unheard of in German football. Bundesliga heavyweights Schalke 04 denied them glory that day and things gradually began to unravel for Union after that, both on and off the pitch. Relegations were suffered against a backdrop of yet more financial difficulties and only a campaign by supporters called 'Bleed for Union' raised enough cash to secure the club's playing licence in 2004.
Recent years however have seen a return to form for the club and after re-establishing themselves in the second tier as a financially stable club, Union enjoyed a remarkable campaign in 2019 when they beat VfB Stuttgart in a play-off to secure promotion to the Bundesliga for the first time in their history.
Ground Name: Stadion an der Alten Försterei
Year Opened: 1920
Renovations: 1952 - 1955, 1968 - 1970, 1979 - 1983, 2000, 2008 - 2009, 2011 - 2013
Capacity: 22,012 (18,395 standing)
Record Attendance: 22,012 (2015)
Executive Boxes: 27
Wheelchair Spaces: 32
Construction Costs: €18m
Undersoil Heating: Yes
Running Track: No
Playing Surface: Natural Grass
Pitch Size: 105m x 68m
Stadion an der Alten Försterei (1920 - )
The "Old Forester's House", built on the edge of woodland in the Köpenik district of Berlin, is a glorious throwback to a time before 'fully-enclosed, two-tier' stadium design became the norm, and it was here that the workers of East Berlin gathered on the terraces looking for football to give them respite from the bleak austerity of communism.
Home to 1.FC Union Berlin since 1920, for a long time the Stadion an der Altern Försterei didn't keep pace with the club's on-field progress and in turn hampered it's efforts to move further up the leagues. It wasn't until 1970 in fact that the first renovations were undertaken with the rebuilding of the original Gegengerade terrace, and although further works were carried out in the early 1980s, the stadium quickly fell into a state of disrepair as money became tight due to falling football attendances across East Germany throughout the decade.
Like many clubs in the former GDR, Union struggled financially in the years after reunification, and by 2006 the spartan facilities on offer forced the German FA to remove the stadium's licence thus preventing it from hosting matches in the top three leagues. Faced with the prospect of having to leave their spiritual home the club embarked on a major programme of renovation in 2008 and called on supporters to lend-a-hand. Football fans have always had a strong bond for terraces, and nowhere is it stronger than at Union Berlin as 2000 Unioners came forward, volunteering their skills and over 140,000 man hours to literally rebuild their own ground. The crumbling stone terraces were recast with concrete complete with roofing; and new perimeter fencing, undersoil heating and a digital scoreboard were also added before the stadium reopened in May 2009 with a friendly match against city rivals Hertha Berlin. A second phase of renovation took place in 2013 when the club, realising the part commercialism can play in modern football, built a smart new main stand complete with VIP areas and a grand facade - thanks again in part to contributions from supporters.
Today, the stadium has a capacity of 22,000 which, given the Olympiastadion's athletics background, makes the Stadion an der Altern Försterei the largest football-only venue in the German capital. There are three fully covered connected terraces, save for a small area of seating in the south stand which is given over to visiting supporters. The single-tier main stand complete with executive boxes is not connected to the terraces and both corners of the ground are therefore open. The home end for Union supporters is the Waldseite (North Stand) and away followers are put in Sektor 5 of the opposite Wuhleseite (South Stand).
Apart from football, the stadium is also famous for events that engage with the local community. In 2003, 89 fans attended the first Union Weihnachtssingen which at the time was an unofficial gathering to drink glühwein, wave candles, light flares and sing Christmas carols. By 2013 the 23rd December event had become an annual fixture and over 27,000 people were there, including players and fans from clubs all over Europe.
In 2014, the club followed this up with the idea of inviting fans to bring their own sofas to the ground to watch the entire World Cup Tournament. More than 800 sofas were brought onto the pitch in front of a big screen, and Weltmeisterschaft Wohnzimmer was recognised with the 'Fan Experience' Award in 2015.
2022-2023: 21,888 (Bundesliga)
2021-2022: 13,965 (Bundesliga) *
2020-2021: N/A *
2019-2020: 15,440 (Bundesliga) *
2018-2019: 21,231 (Bundesliga.2)
* Season affected by COVID pandemic
Expected Ticket Availability
If it wasn't already hard enough in previous seasons, you've now got a real job on your hands trying to get a ticket following Union's promotion to the Bundesliga. Season ticket holders and club members (through a ballot system) hoover up allocations long before they get anywhere close to being made available via general sale.
The club run an online ticketing shop (www.union-zeughaus.de) in both German and English so this would be your first port of call. You could also give them a ring and plead your case. Although the folks who run it are very helpful and will listen sympathetically, any request for tickets is still likely to be met with the same reply -"Nein".
Although it goes against the 'spirit' of club membership, purely as a tactic for getting into a game it may be worth considering becoming one of Union's 40,000+ members. You will have to pay six months membership in advance and then go through the lottery of the members ballot but it gives you a chance of getting in to see a match. If you do go down this route, don't forget to cancel your membership (firstname.lastname@example.org) at least four weeks before it's due to expire - otherwise you'll be hit with a bill for another six months membership, and this all made 1.FC Union Berlin v FC Köln on 31st January 2019 a VERY expensive match for us !
Information about visiting the Stadion an der Alten Försterei for fans with disabilities can be found at:
If the stars do align and you have the opportunity to buy a ticket then roughly speaking, for adults, expect to pay €30 - €45 for a seat in the main stand, and it's €13 - €15 to watch the action from the terraces.
There is a club approved secondary market accessible from the ticketing website but your chances whilst Union remain in the Bundesliga must be considered somewhere between slim and zero. The only option you have left is to head to the ground and ask around for people who may have tickets (or at the very best - 'a' ticket) for sale. If, as expected, you're out of luck then at least it's only a short walk back to the bars of Köpenik where you can drown your sorrows and tell everyone your sad tale.
GETTING THERE & AWAY
An der Wuhlheide
Coming by car isn't advisable given the public transport options available in Berlin. Oh, and the fact that apart from the 30 disabled spaces in Car Park 'P1', you'll do well to find anywhere to park up in the immediate vicinity of the ground. The club advise heading to Forum Köpenick (Bahnhofstraße 33 - 38, 12555 Berlin) but note that this is only open until 9pm - good for weekends, not so good for midweek matches. Free Park+Ride spaces are available at the Altglienicke S-Bahn station. Catch the S45 (Direction: Südkreuz) or S9 (Direction: Spandau) from here to Schöneweide, then hop on trams 60 or 67 to 'Alte Försterei' (see below).
Match tickets (if you're lucky enough to get one! - see 'Buying Tickets' ) are NOT valid for use on public transport. Getting to the stadium from the centre of Berlin will be covered by an 'AB' ticket and will cost €3.20 each way but don't forget to validate it by stamping your ticket at the yellow or red boxes on platforms, in buses or trams. It's called 'Entwerten ' in German and anyone caught travelling without a stamped ticket escapes only with a red face and a €60 on-the-spot fine.
From Berlin's Hauptbahnhof, take S3 (Direction: Erkner) for the 25-minute journey to Berlin-Köpenick station. From here, come out of the station and turn left along Am Bahndamm parallel to the railway line. Turn left onto Hämelingstraße and just past the railway bridge you'll see a number of Union buildings on the right including the Abseitsfalle Fankneipe packed with fans on matchday. After stopping for a pre-match drink, take the first right onto Friedenstraße which leads you the final few hundred yards to the stadium.
You can also travel to the stadium by catching trams 60 (Direction: Altes Wasserwerk) or 67 (Direction: Krankenhause Köpenick) from Berlin-Schöneweide station and jumping off at the 'Alte Försterei' stop. It's a five-minute walk from here to the ground.
Other than the directions given above, walking doesn't make sense so use public transport.
FAN SHOP, MUSEUM & STADIUM TOURS
Union have club shops at a number of locations across Berlin. The main and most convenient one is at Union Zeughaus Bahnhofstraße (Bahnhofstrasse 23-25 12555 Berlin; 10am-8pm, Mon-Sat), just along the street from the Köpenik S-Bahn Station.
There are also stores at:
Union Zeughaus Ring-Center (Frankfurter Allee 111 10247 Berlin,10am-8pm, Mon-Sat).
Union Zeughaus Waldseite (at Stadion an der Alten Försterei, 11am-6pm, Mon-Fri; 11am-4pm, Sat)
Guided tours (adults/concessions/children under 6, €9/€7/Free) of the 'Old Forester's House' started again in October 2021. Further info about the tour, prices and booking can be found here. You can also give yourself motion sickness and 'go inside' the stadium through a 360° Virtual Tour here.
FOOD & DRINK OPTIONS
The Abseitsfalle Fankneipe at Hämmerlingstraße 80 is in our opinion the best pre/post-match bar in Germany and less than a 5-minute walk from the stadium. Translating as 'Offside Trap', it's a Union stronghold and gets very crowded on matchday - but is the perfect place to enjoy a drink with members of Union's support. Another favourite is the Bierstübchen Hauptmann von Köpenik - an old fashioned Eck-Kneipe (corner pub) at the junction of Mahlsdorfer Straße and Stellingdamm outside the Köpenik S-Bahn station although, despite the best efforts of staff, it may take a little time to get served.
Inside the ground you'll find the usual German football offerings: bratwurst, steak and polish sausage etc. The official beer with which to wash everything down is Berliner Pilsner (€4.50 for 0.5L) and you'll be relieved to know that you can pay for everything with cash.
OTHER CLUBS IN THE AREA
BUNDESLIGA: RB Leipzig
BUNDESLIGA 2: FC Hansa Rostock, Hertha BSC
3.LIGA: FC Erzgebirge Aue, Hallescher FC, SG Dynamo Dresden