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1.FC Union Berlin: The Rebels in Europe

Built on working-class foundations and once embracing the nickname ‘Schlosserjungs’ (Metalworker boys in English),its that core working class mentality which has guided 1. FC Union Berlin to play in football most privileged European club tournament.

Founded in 1906, then under the name FC Olympia Oberschöneweide, this football club represented a small suburb of Berlin and were one of five teams already in Berlin. During the 1920’s Oberschöneweide  were a local powerhouse often winning local championships these  wins resulted in them making numerous appearances in Germany’s national championship.Their working-class mentality was ever present throughout this period which attracted large crowds.

Despite their success in the 1920’s, the turn of a new decade brought on catastrophic events not just for the football club but for Germany as a whole. Under Third Reich regime German football was split into 16 divisions in 1933. The split burst Oberschöneweide footballing bubble. Berlin were now a team that looked uninterested and uninspired, being relegated just two years later in ‘35 and once more in ‘42.

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Post-war the club went through a lot of rebranding. Going through 5 name changes in the space of 16 years the name 1. FC Union Berlin was decided on in 1966.

The club was rebranded with the ideology of East German Trade unionist and politician Herbert Warnke being at the forefront of the club’s vision. Warnke argued for the creation of a “civilian club” for the working people in East Berlin.

Throughout the late 90s and for most of the  2000s 1. FC Union Berlin played their football out of Germany’s second division having reasonable success despite encountering financial difficulties on numerous occasions.

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In 2019 the club made history! Reaching the top flight of German football for the first time in the club’s modern history. The club also became the first club to reach the Bundesliga from the original East Germany, with only five other teams before them originating out of East Germany alone.

The club finished a respectable 11th in their first season back in the top flight. With their first ever win at this level coming against German powerhouse Borussia Dortmund, which represented Unions spirit and expressed their intent to ensure their survival at the top level.

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With their first season being disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, in their second season Union finished an astonishing 7th qualifying them for the UEFA Europa Conference League. In the following season, Union reached European heights once more going one better than the season prior and qualifying for the UEFA Europa League.

Talks of 1. Union Berlin competing in footballs most privilege tournament began to arise.

On the final match-day of 2022-23 season, Union just needed a win to do the unthinkable and qualify for the UEFA Champions league for the first time in the club’s history. With just nine minutes to go they snatched the all important goal. Rani Khadira’s match winning goal now forever etched into Union Berlin’s history.

But how would the Union fare mixing it with Europe’s elite?

With two game-weeks down Union Berlin haven’t had their fairytale moment just yet. In game week one Berlin traveled to Madrid to face the club who have won this competition a record breaking 14 times. After showing true Union spirit throughout the match keeping the game at 0-0, their hearts were eventually broken. Jude Bellingham’s 94th minute winner crushed Unions hope of a historic night at the Bernabéu.

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Despite the agony just 2 weeks prior, Champions League fever swept Berlin with Union hosting a European side for the first time in the clubs modern history. Due to UEFA’s ban of terracing in stadiums, Union would have to find a new home for their European campaign. Directed just west of the center of Berlin, the Olympiastadion which hosted the 1936 summer olympics was the ideal location.

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With a capacity of 100,000 and record levels of ticket demands for this historic game, the Olmpiastadion was the fitting location for a match of such magnitude. 

It was Portuguese side S.C Braga who travelled to Germany. The game ebbed and flowed, back and forth with the 73,445 fans in attendance wondering how football could be played in such a basketball type manner. 2-2 going into the 90th, it was Déja vu for Union. 94th minute winner by Brage meant that Union had let their 2-0 advantage slip ultimately costing them, losing the game 3-2.

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Was this one step too far for Union?

The two last minute loses have been devastating for Union with maybe people questioning whether this was a step too far for the Germans.However they’re have captivated Europe’s elite. Four years ago, Union were being silenced in Germany’s second division, with the club’s legacy becoming just a faded memory. Now Union are thriving at the top level,  something fans of the club will never take for granted.

With 4 Champions League game days still left , Union still have the chance to write more history. Madrid and Italian giants Napoli are still to experience the Berlin steel.

Union Berlin has become the underdog everyone loves to watch and no matter what happens, they have stolen the hearts of millions of fans across the world.

1. FC Union Berlin the rebels in europe.


  • Sam Brady

    Sam Brady, 21, is a sports editor for the Sports Gazette specialising in all things Football and MMA. Experienced in live commentary and sports writing Sam is also a fanatical Manchester United fan however he'll be quick to remind you he doesn't remember Sir Alex's Reign because that ended when Sam was ..... 11.