Thursday, July 7, 2011

Football in Berlin

There are a multitude of teams in Berlin, so to catalogue them all would be a very time consuming job. Apart from the bigger clubs like Union, Hertha and Tennis Borussia there are many smaller clubs, some of whom show the cosmopolitan feel of the city with their ethnic backgrounds, such as Turkiyemspor and Croatia Berlin. However from the ethnic teams one name stands out: the name of Makkabi Berlin.

TuS Makkabi Berlin were formed in 1970, but can trace their origins back to Bar-Kochba Berlin who were formed in 1898. In the 1920s Bar-Kochba had a moderate level of success and between 1925 and 1927 won 3 consecutive lower league championships. In 1929 they merged with another Jewish soceity, Hakoah. Unfortunately with anti-Semitism on the uprise the club were excluded in 1933 and in 1938 all Jewish soceities were banned in in Germany. Since 1970 the club has operated with a keen group and is now one of the biggest Makkabi soceities in the world. They now play in the regional leagues.

1898 was a long time ago, but the oldest team in Berlin are BFC Alemannia 90 Wacker who were formed 8 years earlier in 1890. When they were first formed they went under the name of the name of Berliner Thor und Fussball Club. Thor being the German word for cricket and unusually for a German team apart from playing cricket they also played rugby. By 1900 they were clearly a football club, as they became founder members of the German Football Association (DFB). Their major success came in 1924 when they won the Oberliga Berlin Brandenburg.

The other part of the present day club is made up of SC Wacker who were formed in 1904 and who had tasted the relative heights of 2 Bundesliga Nord. However by 1994 they were in the lower divisions and facing bankruptcy when they decided on a joint venture. Nowadays the club plays in the 7th tier in the Landesliga Berlin.

Another club who have fallen on hard times are the wonderfully named Tennis Borussia Berlin. Who apart from having a great name wear purple, so they can't be bad in my books. They currently play in the 5th tier in the Oberliga-Nord after getting relegated at the end of 2010 to 2011 season. The club were formed in 1904 and strangely enough were originally a tennis / ping-pong club. By the 1950s they were the biggest club in Berlin and in 1963 they were invited to become founder members of the Bundesliga. It was about this time that their fierce rivalry with Hertha began to take root. Most of the 70s saw them bobbling between the top 2 divisions and from one financial crisis to another and by the 80s they were in the third tier. In 1997-8 a group of rich sponsors brought the club back to the 2 Bundesliga and things looked to be back on the up. In typical Tennis Borussia style though things went wrong and the sponsors left the club in a financial hole in 2000. On day they will be back though and with a wealthy middle clas fan base they may be able to find a backer.

A team that definitely can't be called middle class are 1 FC Union Berlin. Union have always been the working class club of Berlin. They tasted their greatest success in the inter war years and in 1923 reached the Championship Final where they lost 3-0 to Hamburg. Union have always been victims of politics though and the reorganisation of football under the Third Reich in 1933 saw them end up as a middling club. The after the war there were 2 Unions, one in the West and one in the East. Both teams had a decent level of support and both suffered at the hands of politicians. The Western side did well until the erection of the wall in 1961 and the Eastern side, who went under many name changes, were always up against it having to compete against the Stasi sponsored Dynamo. They did manage to win the East German Cup in 1968 and now play in 2 Bundesliga, where they don't have to worry much about Dynamo.

Berliner FC Dynamo currently play in the 5th tier of German football. In the cold war years they didn't enjoy the popularity of nationalist feelings in opressed nations like the Dynamos of Zagreb and Kiev, but felt the unpopularity of being the secret police team like their namesakes in Moscow. The club was really formed in 1954 when some of Dynamo Dresden's players were told to go and form a club in Berlin. They achieved a moderate level of success by winning the East German Cup in 1959, but in 1963 were relegated. However, in 1966 they won the support of the Stasi chief, Erich Miekle and funnily enough things started to get better for them and they were champions for 10 years in a row between 1979 and 1988. When the cold war thawed out they dropped the Dynamo name due to the negative connotations, but in 1999 with a generation who couldn't remember Communism starting to attend matches the Dynamo name was reinstated.

The biggest club in Berlin by far are Hertha. They were promoted back to the Bundesliga at the end of last season after a season away when Berlin was not represented in the top tier of German football. The team that play in the massive Olympic Stadium come from humble begginings though. They get the name from a steamboat and ome of their earliest victories that caused widespread celebration was when they beat Southend in a friendly in 1910. This had more to do with the esteem that English football was held in than anything else though. Like other Berlin clubs their progress was hampered by a reorganisation under the Third Reich in 1933 and then later in 1961 when the Berlin Wall was erected and they were banned from playing in the East, which led to a whole load of travel problems. In 1963 like bitter rivals Tennis they were elected to the Bundesliga. Hertha were the reigning champions so it would have been a traversty if they hadn't. However, their place at the top table was short-lived. In 1965 they were relegated not because they were performing badly, but because they had bribed players to come and live in Berlin, which was a depressing place to be at the time. They got back to the Bundesliga in 1969, but then in 1971 they were embroiled in a match fixing scandal.

The 70s were good to Hertha in general though and they reached the UEFA Cup Semis in 1979 and also did well in the leagues and the cup. They spent most of the 80s in the 2nd division and then started to yo-yo a bit. In the 90s when the wall came down their popularity grew. 11,000 fans from East Germany attended the first game after the wall came down against SG Wattenscheid. It was a bitter sweet moment for many though, as supporting Hertha had been a form of protest for many in the East and at the same game some of the ex-Communist officials were invited.

Most of the 90s and 00s saw the club perform well with regular forays into Europe. They were nearly relegated in 2004 and then spent last season in the 2nd division before gaining instant promotion.

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