The first small hint was on the Uefa homepage. When the European Football Association announced on Wednesday that it would lift the standing room ban in its competitions on a trial basis, it illustrated the article with a photo of 1.FC Union fans.
A few hours later came the confirmation from the club. Unlike last season, when Union had to play its Conference League home games in the Olympic Stadium, next season there could be European Cup evenings in the stadium an der Alten Försterei. “We all dreamed of this and we will do everything to make it possible,” said a visibly exhilarated Dirk Zingler.
This naturally triggered euphoria among the fans. “The fact that Union is playing in the European Cup is unbelievable – and then also in our stadium: Who would have ever thought that was possible?” says season ticket holder Cornelia Wolter.
Because with the exception of the three games in the Intertoto Cup in 1986, it had never happened before. In 2001 Union had to play in the Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahnsportpark, last year in Charlottenburg. Experiencing a real European Cup night in Köpenick seemed impossible.
Implementation will not be easy this time either. Because, as the Union President immediately emphasized, the ban on standing room is not the only hurdle that has to be overcome. There are also “other points of an infrastructural nature” that need to be addressed, said Zingler, but was optimistic that it would work out in the end. “If a club can do it, then we can do it.”
He referred to the legendary stadium construction in 2008/2009 and to the cold February 2001, when the fans shoveled snow from the frozen pitch to save the cup semi-final against Borussia Mönchengladbach from being cancelled. There was always an enormous willingness to fight for this location at this club. When they had to go to the Olympic Stadium last year, the Ultras hung a clear message on the fence: “We need the old forester’s house like we need air.”
And yet it’s a different time than 2008 or 2001. The club’s rapid growth means that the demand for tickets now far outstrips the supply. More than 50 percent of the members would probably not come to the stadium for the Europa League games either. Despite all the euphoria, this is a sobering thought for many Union fans.
“It’s really a shame because we don’t know if we’ll ever play in the European Cup again,” says “Textile Offenses” blogger Sebastian Fiebrig. “Last year it was great to go to the stadium with the whole family and also to take friends and colleagues to European games. Because in the Bundesliga it’s almost impossible.”
It will also be bittersweet for Cornelia Wolter that many Union fans could not be there at the Alte Försterei. But she still thinks it’s right that you play there: “It’s a heart-breaking decision, but it’s the right decision to play in your own stadium. And if I don’t get a ticket, I still know that there are 20,000 Unioners standing in the stadium, overwhelmed, experiencing something historic.”
Because with Uefa’s decision, it is actually conceivable that Manchester United, Arsenal or AS Roma will dance in the “Ballhaus des Ostens”. Whereby Fiebrig ultimately doesn’t care about the opponent, because: “It’s the European Cup in the An der Alten Försterei stadium. It’s just a dream.”