While Bayern Munich remain the Bundesliga’s top dogs, there are plenty of sides in the chasing pack who are looking to become their closest challengers.
Although lacking the finances of Germany’s top clubs, Union Berlin are thriving towards the summit of the top flight and – whisper it quietly – are on track to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in their history.
Their following has earned them a positive reputation around Europe and, based in one of the most vibrant cities across the continent, they are brilliant to visit for any groundhopping supporters – if you can get a ticket, that is.
Here is everything you need to know about Union Berlin!
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Union Berlin’s history
Union are a relatively new club, having officially been founded on January 20th 1966. However, their origins can be traced back to 1906.
Up until 1990, they played in East Germany, and enjoyed little success in the former GDR, yo-yo-ing between the top two divisions and winning just one trophy, the East German Cup, in 1968.
Initially, after Germany’s reunification, Union floundered in the lower leagues, although they did reach the 2001 DFB-Pokal final, which they lost to Schalke 04 2-0. They finally stabilised in the 2. Bundesliga at the start of 2010s before becoming the outfit we know today.
What league do Union Berlin play in?
Since the 2019/20 season, Union have been playing in the Bundesliga. They earned promotion to the top tier thanks to a relegation play-off away-goals victory over VfB Stuttgart in 2019.
They have improved their league position every season, first finishing 11th before following that up with seventh and fifth-place finishes. Those latter two results have led to qualification for European competition, too.
What stadium do Union Berlin play at?
Union Berlin play at the Stadion An der Alten Forsterei, which translates to “Stadium at the old forester’s house”. It is located in the Berlin district of Kopenick, and is in the middle of a forest.
At the end of the 2007/08 season, the ground was heavily redeveloped, with the majority of the work carried out by 2,300 volunteer supporters. Most of the stadium’s 22,012 capacity is standing, with only just over 3,000 seats.
What is Union Berlin’s nickname?
Union are known as the “Eisernen”, which means “Iron Ones”. The name comes from the club’s roots, as they were previously based in an area known for its metal workers.
Who are Union Berlin’s best players?
Karim Benyamina is the club’s all-time record goalscorer, with 87 goals in 213 appearances, which led Union to retire his number 22 shirt until someone surpasses his tally. Lutz Hendel, meanwhile, has made the most appearances in Union’s history, with over 400 outings.
The Union faithful are also very fond of Torsten Mattuschka, who was a key player between 2005 and 2014.
Nowadays, Sheraldo Becker, Diogo Leite and Jannik Haberer are amongst the side’s best performers, while Taiwo Awoniyi, Max Kruse, Christopher Trimmel and Grischa Promel all earned big moves away thanks to their displays in Berlin.
Who is Union Berlin’s most expensive signing?
Josip Juranovic and Awoniyi are Union Berlin’s most expensive signings, costing the club €8.55m each (as per Transfermarkt).
The former joined from Celtic during the 2023 January transfer window, having impressed for Croatia at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar as the Balkan nation finished third.
Awoniyi, meanwhile, was bought from Liverpool after a spell on loan in the Bundesliga at Mainz 05. He joined Nottingham Forest in the summer of 2022 for €20.5m.
Union Berlin vs Hertha Berlin – the big rivalry
For many years, Union’s biggest rivals were Berliner FC Dynamo, while Hertha were seen as the friends from the West. However, since Union’s promotion to the Bundesliga, matches with Hertha have been eagerly anticipated, and there is now an undoubted rivalry between the two.
They are seen as representing each German side of the Iron Curtain divide – Union are from the former East, while Hertha are from the posher, more upmarket West.
Union have had the upper hand in matches between the two in recent years, winning the last five Berlin derbies. Hertha’s previous triumph came in 2020.
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