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The world came to a standstill when the Berliner Mauer fell and in Berlin, what followed was a moment to behold.
This is a trip down memory lane. The scene is Berlin and the year is 1961. After the end of the second World War, there was a lot of disarray in Germany especially around Berlin.
Soviet factions in and around Germany were attempting to gain a strong foothold across the country’s length and breadth, but back then, Berlin was the centre of it all, and the city faced the brunt of it all.
Regimes were established, blockades were set up and entire people separated as political ideologies clashed. Admittedly, it wasn’t a good time for one of the most culturally significant cities in the world.
And as if all of that was not enough, in 1961, fearing a complete and total “brain drain” of the region’s populace, a telephone conversation between Walter Ulbricht and Nikita Khrushchev led to the birth of the Berlin wall, or at least, the idea of it.
Thankfully, the wall as we know it today, ceases to exist. The fall of the Die Mauer on the 9th of November in 1989 was a moment of great importance, not just in Germany, but all over the world.
A special reunion in Berlin
On 27 January 1990, fans from East Berlin and West Berlin representing Hertha and Union Berlin came together. It was a time to celebrate, a day to savour.
79 days had passed since the fall of the Berlin wall and while people were still acclimatizing themselves to the restored conditions of their once broken Berlin, football became a source of joy. A source of healing. A source of union.
Pubs in and around the stadium were busy with Berliners singing songs in praise of their reunification. It was as if two long lost brothers had come together once again.
They all walked together, as one, to the stadium for the momentous occasion.
“50,000 fans in the Olympic Stadium celebrated both teams and a memorable game. There was already a lot of media hype beforehand”, recalls Olaf Seier in his interview with 11Freunde.
Matchday scarves were decking the streets leading to the stadium, this was a moment that both sets of fans had never experienced before. So naturally, it was a strange feeling.
It is worth remembering, that both Hertha and Union played their football in separate football divisions in West and East Germany. And although they had played other Berlin teams in the past, this was their first ever meeting. And what a way to do it.
Such was the camaraderie between the fans. The modern day rivalry that exists today wasn’t prevalent back then, it was much later that it actually came about.
Seier was Union captain at the time. “A great honor. We kept up well too. I think Hertha underestimated us a little. At halftime it was 1: 1, in the end Hertha won 2: 1. We got on well with the players, and we went to eat together afterwards.”, said Seier.
Dirk Greiser was the Hertha captain and both players shook hands before the friendly as a strong 50,000 at the Olympiastadion continued to sing and cheer for their teams.
The result was only secondary
Ultimately, the result of the game proved to be secondary. This match-up meant a lot more and had greater significance amongst the people of Berlin.
Tears were shed, hugs shared and songs sung. Fans belonging to that era will only have fond memories of that time in the city’s history.
Greiser himself scored the match-winner for Hertha, a brilliant long-range strike fitting for the occasion.
Since then, the relationship between the two teams has had its fair share of ups and downs. It was only last year when Union’s promotion meant that both teams faced against each other in the German top-flight for the very first time. There is now a strong sense of rivalry.
As Union now aims to establish a foothold in the Bundesliga and Hertha aim to figure a way out from the mess they are in, there is no doubt that the Berlin derby played on that day in 1990, at the Olympiastadion will continue to remain, a treasured memory. A tale of two, becoming one.