Fights: Djurgården IF – 1. FC Union Berlin
Saturday, January 25, 2014, a training match between Djurgården IF, a team from Allsvenskan, the Swedish highest Championship, and 1. FC Union Berlin, a club from 2.Bundesliga, the second tier of German football, was scheduled in Stockholm at Tele2 Arena, a new stadium that has been opened last year and that can hold 30.000 people.
This date could look quite unusual for a friendly match, but you have to consider that Swedish Championship is played from April to November, so the preseason usually starts in January, the Swedish Cup Group Stage is played during March and the Swedish Champioship starts at the beginning of April, while the German one, composed by 34 matchdays, is contested from August to May, but can have a break in January, the coldest month, and maybe this long winter break can explain why Germany is often in a good shape at World Cups and European Championships and often reach at least the Semi-finals, while England, whose Premier League never stops during winter, is often too tired in June and fails the decisive matches of the national team competitions.
Anyway we’ll now briefly introduce you the teams involved in the match.
Djurgården IF (DIF) is one of the big three football clubs based in Stockholm - AIK and Hammarby IF (now playing in Superettan, the second tier in Sweden) being the other ones - has been founded in 1891, in the homonymous island, that is an area where there are no metro stops, quite famous for hosting few of the main local tourist attractions, such as the Skansen, an open-air museum and zoo, the Vasa Museum, where there is the wreck of an important ship that sank few moments after its launchment, the Nordiska Museum and an amusement park (thefootballWElike is a wonderful tourist guide as well).
DIF wears a blue/light blue vertical striped jersey, and since last Summer has played its home matches at Tele2 Arena, a new stadium, shared with Hammarby IF, that can become fully covered and can hold until 30.000 people, albeilt the average attendance is around 10.000. Before moving to this venue, DIF was used to play in the small, but historical, Stockholm Olympic Stadium, which hosted 1912 Summer Olympic Games, where who is writing this post attended the match Djugardens IF – Halmstad BK 2-0 in 2011.
1. FC Union Berlin is a team from the Capital of Germany, whose official colours are red and white. Its origins dates to 1906, but it has had a very complicated history, and, considering the one of its city, that couldn’t have been otherwise. It got its current name in 1966, and played in East German Championship, and, since the fall of the wall, has contested in the third and second tier of unified German football, often facing financial contraints; during 2000/01 Season, despite playing in the thid tier, 1. FC Union Berlin managed to reach the German Cup Final, and, despite being defeated by Schalke 04, qualified for UEFA Cup.
Union supporters are quite loyal and active, and all the Union stickers that you can find almost everywhere walking around Berlin are just a small proof of that. Moreover they are quite famous for several reasons:
- they participated to the renovation of their stadium, the Stadion An der Alten Försterei (it has a capacity of 21.700, with just 3.800 seats) investing 140.000 free working hours, to reduce the costs.
- every December they are used to meet at this ground to sing Christmas carols and stadium chants, waving candles around and lighting flares, during the “Union Weihnachtssingen”.
- in 2004 they launched the ”Bluten für Union” (Bleed for Union) campaign, that included a number of initiatives to raise funds, such as donating blood and giving the Club the money they had received for that, in order to help their team to be admitted to 2004/05 Season.
Now that presentations are over, we can speak about the day of the match: the game started delayed by 40 minutes because several supporters from both clubs invaded the pitch and throwed eachothers pyrotechnic material. We don’t know all the reasons that caused these events, probably the main ones was that Djurgården IF supporters, whose biggest ultras Group is named Järnkaminerna (litterally ”iron stoves”) showed a Dynamo Berlin banner, the Union’s biggest rival (currently playing in the fifth tier) when they played in East German Championship (Dynamo was affiliated with Stasi and probably helped by the Communist regimen, while Union was patronized by Eastern German Trade Union).
Moreover it looks that before the match the German fans had been friendly welcomed by Hammarby IF fans (DIF’S rivals) and they hanged around together.
After 40 minutes, the Police, with footballers’ help, brought the situation back to normality and the match started, but during the 73th minute the game was stopped again, and then definetly interrupted because clashes started again: supporters throwed eachothers flares and phyros, and fighted on the football pitch, trying to reach the opposite stands, while a part of the spectators was leaving the venue. That looked like a World War I scene, where enemy soldiers (fans) throwed bombs (phyros) to eachother from trenchs (stands), in order to prevent the enemies from reaching their side, while few avant-gardes were fighting in the middle ground.
Then clashes continued outside the stadium as well, because hundreds of Djurgårdens fans tried to reach the away sector, but were obviously stopped by Police, and clashes followed between them; anyway 2/300 DIF fans managed to reach a car parking outside the stand that was holding German supporters, and fighted with the one of them that had gone out from the stadium to wait for them.
During the riots twelwe policemen and at least one German supporter were injured.