Photo by Paul Joseph (sashafatcat; Flickr CC)
Welcome to the EXBERLINER football page, a simple way to enjoy what should be a relatively simple game in this fair city of ours, in which we will endeavour to cover as much of the beautiful game as possible.
Often derided as not being a football city – which in some ways is true: Berlin's basketball, ice hockey and handball teams attract 6000 fans week in, week out, that's more than all but the two biggest football teams here – there are still hundreds of Vereins, embedded into a pyramid that stretches from games at Germany's second largest stadium to ones in parks with the ubiquitous old man and his dog watching.
It is all documented in magazines like 11 Freunde and various websites, from the huge (Transfermarkt) to the small (Textilvergehen). The death in the UK of the regional Saturday sports pages such as the Green and Pink 'Un is not reflected here in Berlin, a city that has had Fußball Woche published every Monday for nearly a hundred years.
The linguistics of Football here stretch back to the Sepp Herberger-isms – one of the most famous being: "the ball is round" – that mix the poetry of the game with a philosophical outlook that has left most English commentators in the shade. Indeed it is symptomatic of the English game that a huge magazine like FourFourTwo comes across as a glossy celebrity driven, tits-centric, Heat magazine for football. The German equivalent, the peerless 11 Freunde (whose name itself comes from a Herberger-ism) manages to combine the aesthetics and language of high art, whilst still being devoted to 22 blokes kicking a ball around.
The cultural aspect – like seemingly most things around German football- is also on the rise, but terraces, beer and sausages remain the touchstones for matchday. However, stereotypes don't normally come out of nowhere. It is a fact that more and more English fans are coming to Germany to watch football, and with good reason: it is affordable and reassuringly old fashioned. It is a simple game, but that doesn't mean that those who pay for it should be treated like idiots themselves.
Although it seems like utopia compared to the bloated English Premier League, German football has it's problems too, from overpricing to police (and fan) brutality to kick off times being decided on a whim by SKY TV. German football remains a fertile football culture which fascinates. In Berlin we are in the middle of an outer arm of it, and with the cities' unique mix of languages and cultures are perfectly placed to watch it develop.
We hope you enjoy our coverage and join in the discussions on our comments pages. We're starting out a bit slim, but fear not, the floodgates are open and reporting and stories are now pouring into part of EXBERLINER.com. So let us know what you think.
We hope you get as much out of the cities' football as we do.
There are stories within stories, teams of Turks, Croats and Italians in the pyramid. There's the fairytale stadium rebuilding at Union or the rise and fall of their arch rivals, the GDR's most successful team, Dynamo. The giant Hertha, who attracted more fans on their first day in the 2nd division than the previous year in the Bundesliga, or the former monster TeBe who, in the absense of a sponsor, adorned themselves with the name of a local squat/arthouse.
And as Seppi said time and again: "The ball is round". Football is simple. To quote Lukas Podolski, it's "like chess but without the dice". This stuff should be easy. Enjoy.