In a time where fans are becoming more and more like customers, whose loyalty can be bought with fluffy seats and prawn sandwiches, it’s becoming quite a rare sight to see fans who actually care about their clubs history and traditions.
I know I’m stereotyping the modern fan here, but due to the world becoming more and more of a global village, the increase in glory hunters over the past few years has been alarming. Well, in my eyes anyway.
I can’t stand people who start supporting a club simply because they’re successful. These same people will not stand by this club in its time of need.
As I said, I can’t stand glory hunters, so whenever I hear about fans who are willing to go the extra mile for their club, it’s like a breath of fresh air to me. My heart jumps with joy, so to speak.
In recent times, I’ve heard several of these touching tales of club loyalty. There’s the tale of a group of Russian fans who travelled all the way across the country (quite a journey) to see their team lose an away match.
There’s an action of Dutch fans (in which I participated) to buy lottery tickets for their financially troubled club and donating the profits to the club. I even feel FC United of Manchester and Wimbledon AFC deserve a mention.
One case of fan loyalty tops all others though. It’s a classic tale of how a united front of fans can overcome and even conquer the difficulties their club is facing.
Ironically enough, the aforementioned club is called Union Berlin. Active in the German Third Bundesliga, they are the most popular club in the city of Berlin, ahead of Bundesliga-based giants Hertha, which draws it’s fans from the suburbs and neighbouring communities.
The Union-fans have a long tradition of forming one united front to overcome all difficulties. During the Cold War, the club was based in the DDR (or GDR) part of Berlin. Union was the club of the people and therefore hated by the government and league officials, who favoured Dynamo Berlin, the club of the DDR secret police or Stasi.
During matches, the Union-team was victimised by referees and the fans were brutalised by the police, in an effort to break Union’s popularity with the common Berlin citizen. In what has become a typical fashion for these fans, they united themselves and warded off any outside threat to come out on top.
When the Wall came down, things improved for Union but whenever the team is in trouble, the fans once again form a united front. In more recent times, the fans have once again united themselves to help out their beloved Union.
A few years ago, the DFB (Deutsche Fußbal Bund or German Football Union) announced that the Union stadium, Alte Försterei, was no longer suitable for professional football. The team threatened to fade into oblivion, as there was no money for stadium renovations.
As so many times before, the fans flocked together to help the club. Not just financially, but with real manpower as well. Union have started modernising its stadium, literally with the help of their fans. The club could only hire two or three professional construction-workers, so the rest of the construction-work is actually done by the fans.
These two or three professionals were hired to oversee the work, the rest of the work was being done by the fans. Some fans quit their jobs, others took time of leave to help work on the construction site. The fans even paid for some of the materials used in the construction process.
Now how is that for loyalty? How is that for devotion? Instead of idly standing by or simply protesting, these fans are actually making a difference by simply doing what needs to be done. I for one admire these fans their devotion to a common cause.
In Holland we have an adage which says “Geen woorden maar daden,” “Actions speak louder than words.” I think the fans from Union Berlin adhere to this adage rather well.
They have realised what many supporters from minnow football clubs should realise. United we stand, but divided we fall. Stand by your club, even during its darkest hours, and there is no obstacle you cannot overcome.