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Union Berlin and Hertha Berlin will meet this Saturday in a derby that until now was unprecedented for the Bundesliga, but around which football in the German capital hopes to create a tradition.
The Bundesliga's first ever Berlin Derby between Union and Hertha.— Bundesliga English (@Bundesliga_EN) October 29, 2019
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It will not be the first derby of the capital in the Bundesliga, as although Union plays this year for the first time in the top division, beyond Hertha also Tasmania 1900 Berlin, Blau-Weis Berlin and Tennis Borussia Berlin were already in the Bundesliga, but this one is a clash around which maximum expectation is being generated, since Union and Hertha had never faced each other in the main German competition.
The game will be played a week before the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, event without which the derby would never have happened. The two clubs, whose headquarters were separated by just 30 kilometers away but, also, by the Berlin wall, were seen at that time as friends. There were even common songs and pennants.
On January 27, 1990, already with the wall down but still with Germany divided, the two teams played a friendly match at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin. Fans of the two teams showed a banner that read: "Hertha and Union plays and all Germany celebrates."
However, from that old harmony is little left and has been replaced by the traditional rivalry between neighbors although, according to many sources, that rivalry is something quite artificial. The real enemy of Union was the BFC Dynamo, who was considered in the extinct GDR as the Stasi team (the secret services). Union, on the other hand, was seen as the club of dissidents, and it still gives a certain aura to the Southeast Berlin club.
For Hertha, however, in the years of the division, the local rival par excellence was Tennis Borussia Berlin (TeBe). The clubs were neighbors - both had their headquarters in the Charlottenburg district - which increased the rivalry. The last derby between the two occurred in April 1977. Now the TeBe is in the fifth category of German football, Dynamo in the fourth. Hertha is still there, and Union stands as its new local rival.
The two try to build an image. Hertha, with 36,000 members, has been striving for years to be seen as the quintessential Berlin club, for which it lacks the sporting successes that Berlin teams have had in other sports such as basketball, Handball or ice hockey. Union, with about 30,000 members, cultivates the image of the eastern club on one hand, and is the only club in the former GDR league that is in the first Bundesliga. The RB Leipzig is a recent creation.
In addition, Union is seen as a neighborhood team, from Koppenick, a corner of the city with its own identity. Its stadium, the Alte Försterei, is for many a place of worship with a capacity for about 22,000 fans. For the derby, Hertha, as a visiting team, has a contingent of 2,400 tickets. The match has been declared high risk and will be controlled by 1,500 agents and there will be a ban on alcohol consumption in the stadium. Everything is ready for both teams to write a new football page for Berlin and all of Germany.
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