Germany: A tale of West and East this weekend
Two games take place in Germany this weekend with local pride as well as three points at stake. The games in question, however, highlight the differing fortunes between football in the west and east of the country. The 1. Bundesliga on Friday night sees the biggest derby in German football between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04 whilst Saturday afternoon, in contrast, witnesses a very different contest in the country’s second division between capital clubs 1. FC Union and Hertha Berlin.
The Ruhr Valley in western Germany, known to many as the Ruhrpott, is one of German football’s hotbeds with a multitude of teams occupying the area. The two that stand out above all others are the giants of Borussia Dortmund, currently in pole position to claim a seventh German championship title, and Schalke 04 who, having been the powerhouse of the region for many decades in the first half of the 20th century, have had to get used to playing second fiddle to their rivals for most of the last few decades. This Friday night sees the latest meeting between the Ruhrpott’s finest with both teams having won 27 times against their rivals since the inception of the Bundesliga in 1963. Recent history shows that this will be a fiery encounter full of goals (31 in the last ten meetings) and with no love lost (five red cards in the last seven games) in a fixture which is arguably the most competitive and aggressive in the league.
The last meeting saw the Schwarzgelben from Dortmund win 3-1 in enemy territory with Shinji Kagawa scoring twice in Gelsenkirchen in a game which caught many a headline around the world, not for the football but for the hardline stance taken by thousands of Dortmund fans who refused to travel to the game on the back of what they saw as an extraordinary price hike by their neighbours. The price of a ticket? 19 Euro – English fans take note!!
1. BUNDESLIGA: Borussia Dortmund v Schalke 04 (Friday 20:30 CET)
In the east of the country there’s a very different encounter taking place on Saturday between capital clubs Hertha Berlin and 1.FC Union in the former’s Olympiastadion home. Unlike many countries around the world Germany, whether you talk about the situation before or after re-unification, has never had a capital city with a vibrant footballing culture. Having a divided city for four decades certainly didn’t help matters but, even before Berlin became rather more famous for political tensions, the city never had a club of which to be truly proud. Hertha BSC, undoubtedly the biggest club in the capital, have only ever savoured two championships in their history but for those one must go back to the turn of the 1930s. Since then Hertha has had its moments in the spotlight – three DFB Pokal final appearances (all lost) and a 1999-2000 UEFA Champions League campaign – but has failed to give the capital the footballing spotlight that a city of its size and importance truly deserves.
This will be highlighted all the more on Saturday afternoon when they face off against local neighbours Union in the latest tussle for points in the second division. Their meeting earlier in the season was their first ever league derby encounter and, perhaps fittingly, finished in a 1-1 draw between two teams who have never allowed a city rivalry to develop due to constantly playing in different divisions before this season. Hertha BSC currently lie on top of the 2nd division with a five point gap over the next three teams in the race for promotion whilst Union occupy 13th place and could do with a win to aid their fight against relegation. At least the signs are good that the Olympiastadion could enjoy a great crowd for its first capital derby with a sold-out stadium expected.
2. BUNDESLIGA: Hertha BSC v 1. FC Union Berlin (Saturday 13:00 CET)