Derby Days Berlin (2019) will make you a fan

Copa90 Stories logo

You might expect that as a reviewer of soccer movies, I would be well aware of COPA90, a company that claims to be “The world’s largest independent football media business”, delivering stories on “football like you’ve never seen it before”. I knew the name, but I hadn’t looked at their content until I watched Derby Days Berlin, an episode of their Copa90 Stories youtube channel. 

Copa90’s Derby Days covers football derbies around the world in a way that stands out from other shows such as Eric Cantona’s Looking For series. Produced and directed by Eli Mengem, himself a former Ultra, Derby Days is fast-paced and vibrant. Mengem works hard to quickly explain the local culture, its football history, and the organic sources of the supporters’ passion for their team. 

In this episode, Mengem attends the first Bundesliga game between the venerable Hertha Berlin and the newly promoted Union Berlin. Hertha represents the privileged West Berlin while Union represents the working class East Berlin. Their relationship is almost like what would happen if Manchester United met FC United of Manchester in the FA Cup. While Hertha plays in Germany’s Olympic stadium (Olympiastadion), Union Berlin’s stadium is home grown: its dedicated fans volunteered 140,000 hours to help remodel it. In true proletariat style, the stadium has 3 sides of standing terraces and only one side with seats. 

MLS fans in San Jose can’t compare to German fans

The best part of this episode is the TIFOs and coordinated fan displays; I assume only Germans can produce such awesome precision. We often forget it is the fans that make a game spectacular. If Messi scores a fantastic goal but only 100 people are watching, does it really matter? It is like Brecklin Meyer’s line in Kate & Leopold: “If a man washes a dish and no one sees it”, did it really happen? When these 2 clubs compete, it really happens.

San Jose Ultras 2019
San Jose Ultras 2019

I envy that Union Berlin fans have so much joy and passion. In contrast, American big events are manufactured by billionaires who milk the common fan for revenue and only value the game score and attendance as business metrics. MLS is particularly guilty of this, where in 2019, less than a third of 24 teams had visibly large passionate fan bases. I’m a fan of the San Jose Earthquakes, and the above photo shows the Ultras at a game in 2019 where Chris Wondolowski scored 4 goals to break the MLS record. At this game, the Ultras showed better turnout than their average match.

One more Bundelisga German fan

A new fan of 1. FC Union Berlin
A new fan of 1. FC Union Berlin

So I applaud German fans and their soccer. And I applaud Eli Mengem for a gem of a series on football derbies. Even though I rarely watch football series, I may try to binge all of his Derby Days episodes for the culture lessons. Since my daughter lives in Berlin, she was kind enough to bring me an FC Union shirt for Christmas; I guess that makes me a fan!

In English and German with English and German subtitles

8 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 8