“This is a part of me, this stadium. It’s my living room." Andreas Goslinowksi
"Our fans represent 100.000 years of prison. So many of us have been in prison because of flight attempts.” Andreas Goslinowksi
He leans on a red handrail and proudly looks around the stadium of the Berlin football club FC Union. Together with 2399 other fans they renovated it themselves. Andreas Goslinowski probably is one of the biggest fans of the former East Berliner sports club. “This is a part of me, this stadium. It’s my living room,” he tells in his thick Berlin accent.
Andreas, better known as ‘Gossi’ in the world of Union, grew up on the border of former East Berlin. He lived in times of the Berlin Wall and experienced the restrictions the communist government of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) placed on its citizens. “As a country the GDR was ok, but the system, the politics, the persecutions, the surveillance, the borders, the Berlin Wall… That was all completely shit.”
100.000 years prison
East Berlin had two major football clubs; FC Union and BFC Dynamo. The latter was known as the ‘Stasi-Club’, supported by East German Secret Service ‘Staatssicherheit’ – Stasi in short. Union on the other hand was known to have fans that were against the system. When there was a free kick during a game and the players made a wall in front of the goal, Union fans would scream ‘The Wall has to go!’ Gossi laughs about it now. “Of course, these things were noticed by the Stasi. We always said: Altogether, our fans represent 100.000 years of prison! So many of us had been in prison because of flight attempts.”
Gossi himself indirectly also had trouble with the Stasi. “When I was younger I looked quite different from now,” he grins. “Of course, I was way skinnier, had hair till my ass, I looked like a rock star.” GDR officials didn’t appreciate his looks, they forbid him to travel to other countries – even the Eastern countries. “They always said I didn’t look like I could represent the GDR in other countries.” He shakes his head and adds: “What a bullshit!”
Union, which now plays in the second Bundesliga of Germany, was the place where Gossi met his best friends, where he partied and where he basically grew up. “This club and these people have guided me through life. I always say that things in life come and go, women and children come and go, but Union is always here.” Gossi gets tears in his eyes, sighs and looks around the stadium again.
A few times Gossi helped to save Union. Fans got the club get through financial difficulties in 2004 by setting up the campaign ‘Bleeding for Union’, whereby people could donate blood and give the money to Union. In 2009 Gossi, a forklift driver himself, could be found running around, helping to renovate their stadium. 2500 fans logged 140.000 voluntary hours – an impressive achievement.
Gossi: “I coordinated the work here. Of course I lost my temper sometimes. Especially the last weeks before the grand opening of the stadium were complete chaos. But Union is your family, and this is what you do for family.” He also placed the many red handrails in the stadium. “It’s now the most amazing stadium in the world. Standing places, great atmosphere, what else do you want in life?”
Fans of Union used to have quite a hooligan reputation in East Germany. Record amount of fans joined Union on their away games. Gossi still grins when he thinks back of those years. “Some of us didn’t come home after an away game. They were in jail or in hospital.” But their wild years are behind them now. “We don’t do that anymore, there is too much you put at risk now. And look at all these cameras everywhere now. They can read your lips! They are a 1000 times worse than the Stasi in the past.”
It’s the history that made the Union fans such a close group. “We all lived through the GDR times together, we all found the system shit. It brought us together.” But as Gossi’s generation of fans grows older, they begin missing the GDR of their childhood more and more. “We actually had a great youth. But suddenly, the entire country, everything we were used to, was being torn down or taken away. I was also happy when the Berlin Wall fell, I actually partied five days straight in West Berlin, but this feeling of freedom didn’t last long. We all suddenly had to live in the capitalist system of the West – it’s difficult for all of us.”
So Gossi and his fellow Union fans still get together every weekend, watch football, talk about the good old times and about their love for the club. “I am so proud of what we achieved with the club. It’s not about the achievements of the team, it’s about being together here. And look at this stadium, we made it every football fans’ dream,” he smiles and secretly wipes away a tear.