Philip Butler says...
I have to admit Germany football comes quite low down on my watch list during normal circumstances with my usual continental fix coming from further South in Serie A. However, with little sign of any football in the other top five leagues, it’s about time I chose a Germany side to cheer on for the next few weeks.
The team lumbered with my support is Union Berlin, traditionally the second biggest club in the German capital but are currently a couple of points - and places - above cross-city rivals Hertha with the season about to restart.
With relegation looking off the menu for the club which spend a decade in the second tier before becoming the first club from former East Berlin to compete in the Bundesliga after winning a promotion playoff last season, I’ll be hoping the Iron Men can finish above Hertha and mound a late push for the Europa League, even if the latter goal looks unlikely with 7 points to be made up on David Wagner’s Schalke.
In truth it’s nothing to do with players or league position which makes me pick Union, but the natural draw to a working class club with passionate fans - 2300 of whom helped to renovate the stadium during financial difficulties back in 2008 - looking to upset the apple cart in the top tier.
Their first win of the season came against Dortmund back in September and that, like the play off win against Stuttgart last May, led to great scenes on the terraces (only 3600 seats are available at the 22000 capacity Stadium at the Old Forster’s House) and for me there’s something almost religious about the red mist which descents from the flares of a side’s more hardcore supporters.
So, for the next few weeks at least, I’m an honorary Eisernen. Please God tell me it’s not as painful as watching Sunderland.
Rich Speight says...
We should definitely keep an eye out for FC St Pauli Hamburg. These days the perennial 2. Bundesliga side, based near the city’s famous Reeperbahn, are the German club of choice for many a bearded football hipster, but I’m proud to say that I was following them way before they were cool.
As a 16 year old in 1998 I was taken to a game by my German exchange partner, Malte, and it was a complete revelation; cans of cold beer sold out of fridges behind the stands, cages separating us from the pitch, and more gnarled bikers than I’d seen before or since.
St Pauli fans have gained a reputation for their anti-fascist ultras, their support for refugees and, like Sunderland, their close embrace of the local community and good causes.
They are often in the shadow of their noisy neighbours, Hamburger SV, but a 2-0 home victory in the local derby at the start of the season brought much joy for fans of Die Piraten everywhere - only to see the result mirrored in the return fixture in February.
This Sunday’s game against Nuremberg should be a great match with neither team yet assured of second-tier football next term.