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[FM20] Rising Above The Past - An 1. FC Union Berlin Journey

1. FC Union Berlin are a club just promoted to the Bundesliga, with a passionate, anti-establishment fan base. This story follows the club and various interesting characters around it.
Started on 30 May 2020 by Zed
Latest Reply on 5 August 2020 by ScottT
Absolutely sickening scenes. :O
Shocking news that shouldn't be seen in football. Hopefully those items stolen will quickly be found and restored to their rightful owners. Nothing worse than jealous fans!
It's not so much that it has been stolen, it's the fact of its significance to the Grunwald's and Union itself.
Everyone: indeed sickening scenes, let's see if these items will be brought back ;)

Dynamo fans rioting with away fans.

Stefan Grünwald | October 2019

I hoped I would have never to write this post in my journey of covering my favourite club. But after what happened a couple of days ago, I think it’s best I tell you this story. You may have noticed that I have told you a lot about myself and my father. But I have never mentioned anything about my mother; Margarete Grünwald. Well, her story comes now. And it will hopefully make you understand how me and my father’s hatred but mostly fear for BFC Dynamo is even bigger than it is for most.

My father, after helping establish Union Berlin, took place on the club’s board. He held that position for years, and helped Union achieve its biggest successes in East Germany. As I said, he’s proud of this period and the club in general. Therefore, when Erich Mielke started visibly helping BFC Dynamo win title after title, he effectively destroyed any chance for Union to win further trophies.

This upset my father greatly. As a loyal member of the Socialist Unity Party, he started going against party lines to openly criticise Erich Mielke and the Stasi with the platform he had as a party official. Despite his anger at Mielke’s practices, my father remained calm and collected in his critiques: he just condemned the head of the Stasi for his involvement in BFC Dynamo, but nothing else. After all, he was still a believer in the East German socialist society – and still is, judging by his nostalgia.

Despite this mild – and in his eyes fair – critique on Erich Mielke, the despotic statesman reacted furiously. He publicised an open letter in response to my father in Neues Deutschland, East Germany’s main state-controlled newspaper. Mielke accused his Union rival of trying to discredit Dynamo’s successes, and called him a traitor to the socialist cause.

Mielke – pictured in the middle – among two other high ranking Stasi officials

Many of my father’s friends within the party sided with him, allowing him to keep his position within the party. However, BFC Dynamo’s hooligans of course did not side with my father. They sided with Erich Mielke instead. As retribution for my father’s criticism on their hero, some fans decided to vandalise our house. At the time, I was 10 years old, so I vaguely remember waking up to the noise of shattering windows in the middle of the night.

My parents were outraged by this act, with my mother telling me we should leave the house for a while. At the time, it seemed like a logical thing to do. In hindsight, it was exactly what the BFC hooligans wanted. They were waiting for the moment we left; out in the open we were at our most vulnerable.

As soon as we loaded up our car with suitcases, and were ready to leave for our holiday home at sea, a young man appeared seemingly out of the blue and knocked out my father before he could even respond. With my father on the ground, my mother and I were paralysed – shocked by the image of my father unconsciously laying on the side of the road. Before I could snap back into reality, two more men approached my mother and me from behind, each grabbing onto her and throwing her into a parked van.

The van – a white Volkswagen, I remember it like it happened yesterday – then drove off quickly, leaving 10-year-old me shocked by the sheer violence of what had just happened. As my father regained conscience, I told him the men had taken my mother. That’s when it hit me: she’s gone. Will I ever see her again?

For a couple of days, that question remained unanswered. My father went to the police as soon as his shock had worn off, but their investigation led to nothing. A few days later, my dad woke me up with three words that shattered my until-then innocent world view forever: “they killed her” he stammered, holding a letter in his hand. He would not let me see it.

Years later, when I was a young adult and we had both learned to live without our Margarete, my dad finally showed me the letter. I will not share it in full here, but I will tell you it was sent by a BFC hooligan, who wrote that we had “hopefully learned that criticising our Mielke comes at a high price.”

After the events of 1984, my dad decided to resign from his role as Union board member, fearing further actions against himself or me. Only after the fall of East Germany, he dared to go back to the stadium for the first time.

The robbery that took place a few days ago brought up this tragic death of Margarete again. My dad came over to see if I was okay, but it was him who seemed most struck by the events a few days prior. He told me he would not join me to visit Union in the next couple of matches. I hope these events are not the start of a renewed gang war between hooligans of the two clubs, as our family knows like no other how much pain can be inflicted by these hooligans.

Yet another fantastic update. It's awful to read what happened to Margarete. Absolutely, let us hope that the tales of the past haven't been renewed once again.
These guys took your family and your history, someone's gotta do something
BFC Dynamo and their fans sound like a right bunch of pricks. Very emotional update, and the backstory going on here is so interesting to follow. Great update, and looking forward to the next one!
A terrifying update that something as little as football can lead to the death of somebody's mother. It echoes the time of the secret police and the wall of government officials that simply could not be touched. As a result of this, it is strange to see Andrea still supportive of the East German regime.
Horrific to hear such abuse from the Dynamo fans. It is clear why there is such a hatred towards them from your point of view with the way in which they harmed your family in the worst of ways.
ScottT: thank you :) let's hope things cool off!
Tango: we'll see about that! ;)
J_ames: thanks! Glad you're enjoying it :)
Jack: it's quite similar to the people nostalgic for the Soviet Union, in that there were plenty of bad things but still less bad things than after the collapse. That's why the saying goes "1 year of capitalism did what 70 years of communism couldn't do: make communism look good" :)
TheLFCFan: darker times indeed!

Union Communications Team | October 2019

After a dark ending to the month of September, which shook all of us at the club, we wanted to show Germany that we were truly an Iron Union, and get back to doing what we do best as quickly as possible; football. So, we asked the German football federation not to postpone our matches. This way, we reasoned, we would heal our wounds quicker than by dwelling on these acts.

The first opportunity Union had to show they survived this period relatively unfazed, was away against VfL Wolfsburg. Union travelled to the city of Volkswagen without the injured Yunus Malli, who was replaced by Julius Kade. Anthony Ujah, who had scored a lot winning goal as a sub against Frankfurt, kept his place in the starting eleven ahead of Sebastian Andersson.

At the start of the match, Union supporters unfurled a banner that read “no room for fascism in Berlin,” with the word fascism painted on in the colour of BFC Dynamo’s home kit, and in reference to the many far-right fans the club has.

The first half, Union were completely dominated by Wolfsburg: 11 shots against 1. Wolfsburg only converted one of these shots through a Wout Weghorst header, meaning FCU went into the break 1-0 behind. Urs Fischer used half-time to bring on both right-back Christopher Trimmel and striker Andersson, hoping to turn the tie around.

This turn-around seemed to materialise in the second half, as Union created some big chances. However, this period of dominance failed to result in any goals, meaning the final score was 1-0 to Wolfsburg.

After an international break, Union returned to An der alten Försterei for a home match against SC Freiburg. Urs Fischer made three changes to his starting eleven, with Akaki Gogia and Malli returning after injury, and Andersson replacing Ujah as starting striker. The number nine position – as predicted before the season – again seemed a hotly contested position.

Looking to pick up their fourth home win in five match, Union started aggressively. After only four minutes, Andersson had already given Union the lead by heading home a corner. FCU dominated from that moment on, but a foul inside the eighteen-yard box by Manuel Schmiedebach gave Freiburg the opportunity to equalise, which Luca Waldschmidt confidently did.

After that disappointing equaliser, Freiburg got themselves into the game a bit more, but remained on the back footing for the remainder of the first half. The second half saw Union continue in this way, rewarding themselves in the 66th minute, with our very own Swedish international Andersson scoring his second of the game.

FCU seemed sure to grab a deserved three points. However, the football gods showed that they were certainly no Union fans, as Freiburg scored a remarkable three goals in the last 10 minutes. As the final whistle sounded, our players collapsed on the pitch. So much hard work to show Germany they were back had gone up in smoke in 10 short minutes. 2-4. Zero points for Union.

A week later Union faced the reigning champion away from home: Bayern München. The third defeat in a row for FCU seemed a formality. The team started with the same eleven that had faced Freiburg the week before.

After only 1 minute and 1 second, Thomas Müller had given Bayern the lead with their first shot. It was clear this was to be a long evening for Union. Exactly ten minutes later, left-back Lucas Hernández doubled the lead of the outfit from Bavaria. Bayern’s dominance continued throughout the first half, but our keeper Rafal Gikiewicz prevented Bayern from extending their lead even further.

In the second half, Bayern only needed 15 minutes to score a third, again through Müller. Only four minutes later, Goretzka had already given Bayern a fourth. Union were absolutely outclassed by the Munich outfit, who luckily spared Union in the last half an hour, resulting in a final score of “only” 4-0. This meant FCU had now only picked up one point in four Bundesliga away matches, and the relegation zone was not far away anymore.

In the final match of October, Union had to make sure their run of bad results did not turn into a full-blown crisis so early on in their first Bundesliga season. An away match against Eintracht Frankfurt in the DFB Pokal was the decor for a match under high tension for Union. Urs Fischer opted not to change his starting eleven for the match, while opposition manager Adi Hütter also fielded a full-strength Eintracht.

The first half again saw a hesitant FCU. Eintracht took advantage of this through André Silva in the 22nd minute. The first half ended with only this goal on the scoreboard: 1-0 to Eintracht. After some tactical changes at half-time, Union played more positive football. However, this created space between midfield and defence for Frankfurt to exploit, which Silva did in the 70th minute, deciding the tie in Frankfurt’s favour. Another loss for Union.

A dramatic month for Union. Four straight losses leave Union hovering just above the relegation zone in fourteenth place with 10 points. What was supposed to be a month where Union showed they had left the violent raid of last month behind, turned into a month where it instead became very clear FCU were impacted heavily by these events. With the important club artefacts still missing, perhaps gone forever, the team need to mount a revival in November to bring back smiles to our fans’ faces.

What a trainwreck for a month
Ouch, a month that'll really bring everyone back to earth! I wonder if the events of the last few weeks had an impact on the players. Either way, something needs to change next month! Good to see the fans taking a stand against Dynamo though with the banner making a large statement.
As Seb said, that really is a reality check for Union. The honeymoon period of being in the top-flight is now well over and now begins the hard work of actually achieving the club goals. There's no point in all of the previous celebrations if you can't stay in the league!

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