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Berlin buzzing as capital's derby days return with top-flight twist

China Daily | Updated: 2019-08-21 09:48
A fan conducts the masses of visiting Union Berlin supporters during a German Cup first-round clash against Germania Halberstadt at Friedensstadion, Halberstadt on Aug 11. Union's Bundesliga promotion has aroused the passions of both its own fans and those of city rival Hertha. REUTERS

New and old faces

While many Hertha fans might have expected a subsequent assault on the transfer market, the club has been relatively frugal. It paid a club-record $22.2 million to Watford for Belgian forward Dodi Lukebakio, who impressed on loan at Fortuna Dusseldorf last season, while Marko Grujic is back on loan from Liverpool.

Belgian defender Dedryck Boyata arrived on a free transfer from Celtic.

Union has bolstered on the cheap too, luring experienced defenders Neven Subotic, Marvin Friedrich, and Christian Gentner, while midfielder Julius Kade's decision to join on a free transfer from Hertha has further stoked the rivalry.

"I'm very proud to put on the red and white jersey," Kade said.

Union coach Urs Fischer has built his success on a stubborn defense. The team drew 14 times on its way to third place in the second division last season.

Political past

The Bundesliga is a huge step up but Union is more than used to adversity.

The club prided itself on its resistance to the East German regime - in contrast to hated rival Dynamo Berlin, which won 10 straight East German titles from 1979-88 amid allegations of match-fixing and politically influenced favors.

Union weathered financial difficulties and a spell at fourth-tier level to become Berlin's fifth team to play in the Bundesliga after Hertha, Tasmania Berlin, Tennis Borussia Berlin, and Blau-Weiss 90 Berlin - all based in what was West Berlin and so part of the West German league system.

On Sunday, some 450 Union fans held pictures of deceased supporters - friends and relatives - so they can be there too.

"Union is everything," Norbert Schwarz told Der Tagesspiegel.

Associated Press

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