Union make Champions League debut at European royalty Real
BERLIN, SEPT 18: Union Berlin make their Champions League debut at European royalty Real Madrid on Tuesday just four years after a first ever promotion to the German Bundesliga.
The date with Real, who own more Champions League trophies (14) than the rest of Spain and Germany combined, is the next stop on a soaring rise as unlikely as it is meteoric.
Union's history has become the stuff of legend; an inspiring tale that anything is still possible in a sport dominated by legacy powerhouses and new money behemoths bankrolled by nation states.
That Union have overcome their hurdles -- they are just the sixth club from the former East Germany to play in the top division since reunification in 1990 -- is a credit to the club's shrewd and ambitious front office, along with one of the loyalest fan bases in the league.
The fans' reward is a Champions League group featuring Italian champions Napoli, Portuguese side Braga and of course Real, who Union will face at the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday.
In the third division as recently as 2009 and having undergone periodic financial crises, Union's passionate fans in the eastern Berlin district of Koepenick have repeatedly revived the club.
In 2004, with the cash-strapped side needing funds for a fourth-division licence, Union fans gave their club a literal transfusion, donating their blood to raise money.
In 2008, with their Stadion An der Alten Foersterei home ground crumbling, the fans of the club again rolled up their sleeves and set about rebuilding it themselves.
After a relatively stable decade in the second division, Union won a two-legged promotion tie against first-division Stuttgart in 2019 under manager Urs Fischer, giving them a first taste of the Bundesliga.
Despite being tipped for immediate relegation, Union finished 11th, and,, with Fischer still at the helm, then seventh, fifth and last season fourth, earning Champions League qualification.
Fischer's defensive, counter-attacking playing style may not be the most eye-pleasing, but it has brought him consistent success.
The coach won two Swiss league titles and the Cup in his native Switzerland in charge of FC Basel. �AFP