Our editor Axel Falk will be in Berlin next weekend for the top clash between Hertha Berlin and FC Köln, two early season candidates for Europe.
An Olympic Stadium, a rare sight in Europe. It's as rare as seeing a filled Olympiastadion in Berlin. Albeit, Berlin's stadium still has the magic and the atmosphere of any other stadium in Germany and when it's filled, it's something extraordinary. I was there in 2006, my first time in Berlin. I was ten years old and excited to watch some World Cup-football. We were lucky enough to get tickets to Sweden's game in Berlin and this marked the beginning of my love for German football stadiums. Since then I have visited Berlin nine times, but haven't set a foot at the stadium since 2006. This will all change next Saturday.
I know the city as well as my own mind, but there's always something in Berlin you haven't experienced. That's the beauty of the city. I have felt both excited and lonely in Berlin (this spring when I left my group to backpack on my own), I have felt inspired and full of life. It's the city that molded my teutophilistic personality and the city that made me experience true love for the first time. From Neukölln to Spandau, ths city itself is one of the biggest in Europe, the biggest in Europe areawise and with a population of a steady 3.5 million, it's stature as one of the best cities in the world won't change anytime soon. However, the one thing that Berlin has missed so far is a good enough football team and now they have one, thanks to Michael Preetz and Pal Dardai, the revolutionaries of Hertha.
In Germany, the success of a club is mostly down to how well it's managed. Borussia Dortmund, Bayern München, Borussia Mönchengladbach and FC Köln are no exceptions to that rule, while Hamburg and Bremen are two clubs who are the opposite, they are run in a very questionable way. Hertha Berlin had been the latter for along time with sporting directors and managers being different from season to season. This was until they found Michael Preetz, the man who transformed Hertha into the bear it is today. After having brought in Pal Dardai and made him quit his part-time job as a national team coach in Hungary, they had a coach who was hungry for success. They just needed a squad that felt the same. His management at the club has been more than proper and after having had a horrible pre-season this season, he put a few moaning players on the bench and let other players start instead. He managed to turn Mitchell Weiser into a world beater and made Vladimir Darida an even more complete player than he was before. Add to this his way of finding a great balance in whatever part of the club he likes and you have a great coach.
Hertha's failure in Europa League was seen as a sign of things to come for them. People suggested they would fall and finish in the bottom half of the table and possibly even fight to avoid relegation. Some suggested last season was just a fluke. Maybe it was, but then this season and this season's stability is a fluke as well and the rule is, one time might be a fluke, but two times... that's a pattern. This season has shown that Dardai is a top level coach and that Hertha Berlin is a top level side that can challenge even the biggest stars of German football. Berlin finally has a team worthy of the city, the Berliners finally have something to hope for. Endlich ist er da, long may Dardai's rule continue.
Next week I'm lucky enough to be in Berlin the same day they play against fellow surprise package FC Köln, another club on the rise due to a great manager in Peter Stöger. This game will be something extra. Two high pressing teams, lots of great fans and a real football fiesta in Berlin awaits. I am definitely looking forward to it, especially as I'm going to watch Frankfurt smash Hamburg at Volksparkstadion the night before. I'll wake up with a smile on my face and that smile will grow for every minute of the day.
editor and would like to recommend Ristorante Avanti at Rankestrasse, Berlin- Best Carbonara in Brandenburg.