In Hipster's Choice we choose a team of our liking and analyze it in many different ways regarding history, tradition and recent or current success. This month, Axel looks at the less known club from Eastern Berlin, the very relevant Union Berlin.
JANUARY: 1. FC Union Berlin
I've been to Berlin more times than I can count and I'm planning two further trips this spring to the capital of Europe (I wish). However, I have only watched one game of Bundesliga whenever I've visited and that was this autumn, Hertha vs Köln. But every time I have visited, I've seen more Union Berlin fans than Herthans, more Union flags than Hertha flags, more Union scarves than Hertha ones, more Union posters than Herthan. It does seem like Union Berlin truly is the city's team, Berlin's pride. But are they, though? Not really, Hertha has more fans, but one could argue that Union's fans are more devout.
This image epitomizes Union Berlin, who, since they were founded, have been the financial underdogs in Berlin. They seem to enjoy that image, they even flourish in it. It's been the case for a long time and it doesn't seem like they will overshadow their western neighbours for some time, considering Hertha's rise on the hands of Preetz and Dardai. This being said, Union berlin has had one of their best seasons in quite some time and they are one of the teams pushing for promotion in 2. Liga. If we are very lucky, we might just be able to watch a Berlin derby come next season.
Union's strength since a few seasons back has been the use of strong and agile strikers to accommodate Kreilach in midfield. Players like Bobby Wood and, most recently, Collin Quaner and Steven Skrzybski has made it possible for Union's very potent midfield to flourish. Another true strength is their patience. They believe in their players. Players like Collin Quaner and Steven Skrzybski, who have been at the club since they were embryos, and some others like Christopher Quiring, who a few days ago left the club for more playing time at resurgent Hansa Rostock. This belief and patience makes it possible for their players to keep on developing until they are fit enough to start for the club. It's admirable and humbling to see.
Clever signings and good youth development has been key for them. They acquired Toni Kroos' brother Felix from Werder Bremen for 500 000 € this summer, which is very cheap for a player of that quality. Kroos has since scored one and assisted three. Another proper key player is centre back Toni Leistner who joined from Dynamo Dresden for 400 000€ in 2014. Damir Kreilach, probably their best player, came from croatian club HNK Rijeka in 2013 for 450 000€, which now seems like a real bargain. Kreilach has scored four goals this season and has contributed with two assists.
Union's stadium is a real footballing icon in Berlin. Stadion an der alten Försterei has a cult status in Berlin, albeit in Germany, and without such a classic, but terrifying home ground, Union wouldn't be near where they are right now. With this stadium, their patience and belief and their actual quality in all parts of the team, rest assured you'll see much more of Union Berlin and we might possibly even see them in Bundesliga next season.
Why Hipster's Choice:
Union is a club fro Eastern Berlin who've been overshadow by Hertha since Berlin became one city again. It's a cool club with great fans and a very nice stadium. It's also a real working class club that attracts the lower classes of Berlin inhabitants and gives them something to cheer for, which is what makes football so very fantastic.
As mentioned above, Damir Kreilach is the key player. His workrate and ability to drift inside the area makes him both veery good defensively and in attack. He has developed throughout the last few seasons and he's now grown into the talisman the Union fans have been looking for. Toni Leistner is probably, together with Saulo Decarli at Braunschweig, the best centre back in 2. Liga and with him in defence, goals conceded have been minimized. Steven Skrzybski is, through his workraten passion and luck, one of their most dangerous players in attack and should be counted as one of the better strikers in 2. Liga.
editor and sadly not an owner of a restaurant in the Guide Michelin.