Football is as much about the 90 minutes on the pitch as spending time with your mates – an away match and one on European soil, heightens this feeling for the average fan. Pre-match drinks, a few songs perhaps and almost certainly exploring the cultural delights of a new country. However, a small minority from both sides used this game as a vehicle for violence. Let’s be clear. These people are criminals and should be dealt with. No true football fan throws flares at other fans, no true football fan throws a flare that narrowly misses their own goalkeeper and no true football fan rampages around Stockholm after a friendly looking for a fight. The behaviour described above, if proven beyond reasonable doubt, should see those people punished in the severest of terms. So far, this has been in the form of stadium bans.
Florian and Niklas – two normal blokes who met by chance at a work conference – ended up going to a friendly match together and fleeing separately due to a fear of violence. The game was of course between Union and DIF. Florian, an Unioner, takes up the story.
‘Between 2010 – 2013 I was working in Sweden for 3-5 months per year. Niklas invited me to join him at the Stockholm derby between DIF and AIK in the Råsunda Fotbollstadion (torn down last year). Because of limited capacities and security reasons, DIF always had to play their home derby in the AIK arena (Råsunda) instead of their home arena (Stockholm’s Olympiastadion). I was really attracted by the atmosphere and started to frequently attend DIF away games in southern Sweden as that was where I was based. During the years I visited two Stockholm derby matches and about 5 DIF aways games.
I explained the story of how Union fans rebuilt the Alte Försterei to Niklas and he visited the Berlin Derby in 2012. He was very impressed by the fact that the stadium had some many people inside with one hour remaining before kick off. Added to his amazement was the constant singing and great support of the Unioners. Whenever we met (Niklas, his DIF friends and I), we started to speculate who would win if both teams would play each other (Allsvenskan vs 2. Bundesliga).
We never thought that would happen in the near future…and then…! Union announced the game just before Christmas, so everybody got excited and we started to make plans for the visit! In the end, I met Niklas in a pub before we headed to his friend’s place close to the Tele2 Arena where we met his brother, uncle and some friends for lunch. After a couple of beers we took the train to the Arena and spent the remaining time in a pub below the ground. There were absolutely no problems; I was wearing my Union colours and a lot of DIF supporters approached me and asked about Union. The atmosphere was very friendly and relaxed. When it was time for the match, I entered the Union section and my friends went towards their DIF section including the promise that we would meet for another beer after the game. As it transpired, I was just very lucky to reach the transfer bus without being attacked and injured.’
Union’s trip to Sweden could have been a perfect piece of advertising with stories like this – until it turned into a PR-disaster a few minutes before kick-off. Swedish hooligans showed a banner of Union’s long forgotten nemesis of old, and a several dozen in the Union block were goaded by it. They ran on the astro turf pitch – exactly what the Swedes had counted on. The trap snapped: when they were almost halfway across, they were greeted by a dozen bottle rockets, and those in the Swedish block that didn’t come to see Mattuschka play attempted to meet them. Stewards and police got both back into their sections before more could happen, but that didn’t solve the problem. Throughout the match, both groups kept trying to get to each other, and when the Swedes equalized in the second half, the pyro from both sides was so strong that it was hard so see as the smoke had nowhere to go with the roof closed. The referee eventually aborted the match in the 73rd minute, and riots were reported from outside of the ground, police and fans got injured.
Both clubs issued a statement right away condemning this behavior, here’s an extract:
Dirk Zingler said: ‘Today, we experienced how stupidity was able to ruin an event that a great many people were looking forward to. A stupid reaction to stupid provocation caused this game to end in disaster – a game that involved a great deal of effort on both sides to organize. Let me be perfectly clear: We condemn this behavior. If we are able to identify these criminals, we will use all the resources at our disposal to hold them accountable.’
Djurgården’s manager was quoted: ‘We plan to continue working together, because we love football.’
A few days down the road, Union president Dirk Zingler talks on AFTV about the consequences and about continuing the Union path. Here’s a summary/translation of the main parts.
Here are a few reactions from Germans across the web:
Die Eisernen were on site and kept people up to speed with what was happening. Reactions were mixed: initially, comments flowed from several die hard casuals and pyro supporters and “Scheiß BFC” shouters who seemed to enjoy what happened:
When the magnitude of what just happened sunk in, the majority of comments condemned the actions in Sweden and the initial pro violence comments. In the end, there were even slightly more pro pyro comments in the first picture, but those comments that expressed shame generally got more likes:
As the situation calmed down, so did the comments:
A few pictures and comments on the actual game followed (yeah, that still did take place for a bit and a certain Christopher Quiring even scored a screamer reminiscent of “that” Paul Scholes goal direct from a corner!). But when things got ugly again in Sweden, comments exploded like a firework. Multiple people chided the use of pyro as damaging to the club’s reputation etc., whereas several very persistent pro-pyro supporters tried to tell them they’re not real fans and should fuck off. Which didn’t stop those with a mind and a voice of reason. In the end, the pic had twice as many comments condemning the actions in Sweden.
The last live picture came with more shocking news: “escalation outside – police, flares and a lot of blood…” Most comments were along the lines of: “get home safely” but a bit of “ACAB” was hard to miss.
Die Eisernen had a rough day, their camera got smashed and they had to flee a shower of bottles and bottle rockets in the end. Counting every person commenting only once, the battle at the keyboard ends 180:74 for those who condemned violence, the biggest push coming with the last picture that mentioned “blood”.
The “Testspiel in Stockholm” thread in the Union forum got about 50 new pages since events started to unfold. Several of those were just bits and pieces of information on what was actually happening, so links and text copied from the Union liveticker or facebook. While there was still some confusion and angry talk about Hohenschönhausen, there was none of the pro-pyro trolling that surfaced on Facebook. Users were aghast and very sad at what happened and how it would damage Union’s reputation. Some of them are completely done with pyro and think there need to be punishments and a cleansing among the Ultras – some saw it coming and are surprised something like that didn’t happen earlier.
As time passed on, and eyewitnesses returned home to tell their tale, they mentioned that you shouldn’t generalize or condemn the Ultras: they saw how the Capos repeatedly tried to calm down people, that they decided not to add pyro to their pre-match choreo as originally planned, and that they removed burning flares from the pitch in the second half.
The difference to Facebook can probably explained a little bit with a slight difference in age structure, the Union forum members being a bit older. This one mentions how time and again “‘Unioner’ walk into that Dynamo trap like Lemmings”:
A DIF supporter also registered, expressed his regrets and gave a bit more background from his perspective:
However, looking at pages close to ultra and casual culture, several people mention that there is in fact a very lively hooligan scene in Sweden, particularly in Stockholm. Did Union underestimate that (just like when they invited Polish side Pogon Szczecin to the Alte Försterei a few years ago)?
Union’s fan relations manager Sven Schlensorg made a long post condemning the utter lack of security at this “modern” arena and the pure hate and aggression from the Swedish fans during and after the match, while still chiding the Union fans running on the pitch. However, several users thought this to be a cheap excuse, and didn’t we protest against more police at grounds in the past?
We were unable to get any official statements at the time of press conceding who actually unfurled the banner. However, according to multiple reliable sources, “the banner was not raised by Dynamo supporters and there were not any Dynamo fans present. They were a small group of Swedes trying to provoke”. This is not the first time that this former Berlin Stasi club spurred such a reaction and Union fans need to stop being so gullible and losing their mind every time someone provokes them with it.
Also, this was not just a banner written on a bed sheet either. This was a banner that had been prepared professionally. Weeks of planning went into this fixture by good men at both clubs. Sadly, weeks of planning by criminals was happening concurrently. It also seemed that not only Berlin-based Germans took the trip north, and many indicators point to the fact that the stage Union intended to set up for themselves was hijacked and used for an international Hooligan get-together.
Union has a strong Scandinavian fan base. Whilst there were a small group of Swedes intent on criminal activity, we’ll let Erik Jullander and his small group of Swedes close this tale:
‘My club in my country! When I first heard the news that Union planned a friendly in Sweden it was a happy day. Finally I could return some of the Gastfreundschaft I’ve always felt in Köpenick through all years as a foreign Union fan.
The day started out in the best possible way. We from the Schweden-Unioner had organized a bar which was crowded with Unioner. Even our club president Dirk Zingler stopped by. We walked the couple of kilometres our way to Tele 2 Arena. The street was covered with curious and friendly Swedes. “Red and white? What is that?” “Union Berlin from Germany.” “Aha, cool. Have fun.”
What happened in the stadium is enough analysed from other. I can only say: This wasn’t the picture of Sweden that I wanted to show my German friends. This wasn’t the picture of Union that I wanted my home country to have.
On the Sunday I travelled the 400 kilometres back with eight fellow Schweden-Unioner from my hometown. It was a sad trip from our first and probably last home game ever.’
Erik and his Swedish friends are pictured below with Torsten Mattuschka at the Alte Försterei. They are Union, the criminals are not.
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