sport news Berlin neighbours Union and Hertha preparing to meet for the first time in the ...

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For a city of 3.75 million people and such enormous political and historical importance, Berlin has consistently punched well below its weight when it comes to football.

Its Olympiastadion has hosted a World Cup final, an Olympic Games and the Champions League final, while the nation's capital has produced more top-flight clubs than any other German city.

Success, however, has been surprisingly thin on the ground. For example, the last time the city's most prominent club, Hertha Berlin, were crowned domestic champions was way back in 1931.

Union Berlin and Hertha Berlin are preparing to meet for the first time ever in the Bundesliga

Union Berlin and Hertha Berlin are preparing to meet for the first time ever in the Bundesliga

There's bound to be a hot atmosphere at Union's Stadion An der Alten Forsterei on Saturday night - but the relationship between them and Hertha isn't as hostile as other cross-city games

There's bound to be a hot atmosphere at Union's Stadion An der Alten Forsterei on Saturday night - but the relationship between them and Hertha isn't as hostile as other cross-city games

Hertha Berlin fans will cross the city to face Union for the first time since the 2012-13 season

Hertha Berlin fans will cross the city to face Union for the first time since the 2012-13 season

Other clubs, such as BFC Dynamo, Tennis Borussia and Viktoria 1889, all enjoyed their moments in the top-flight limelight before fading into lower league obscurity.

But the club with perhaps the most complicated lineage and most intimately associated with the reunification of this once divided city, FC Union, are the ones currently ascending.

Their unexpected promotion into the Bundesliga at the end of last season means this Saturday we have that rarest of events - a Berlin derby in Germany's top division.

But unlike most cross-city rivalries, Hertha vs Union isn't one charged with animosity and spite. There's a fraternal bond between the two clubs, with Saturday's game described by some as a 'city championship' rather than a 'derby'.

A distance of 26km separates Hertha's 74,649-capacity Olympiastadion in the Charlottenburg district in the west of the city and Union's much more down-at-heel Stadion An der Alten Forsterei, where 22,000 will be crammed on Saturday.

Union fans put on a display ahead of the meeting of the two teams back in September 2010

Union fans put on a display ahead of the meeting of the two teams back in September 2010

These two clubs came together in solidarity following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989

These two clubs came together in solidarity following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989

Watching brief 

UNION BERLIN vs HERTHA BERLIN

Bundesliga; Alte Forsterei 

Saturday 5.30pm UK time

Live on BT Sport 2 

But during the Cold War, when the communist East Germany was separated from capitalist West Germany, the two clubs existed at a significantly bigger distance.

The metaphorical Iron Curtain took a physical manifestation in Berlin, a city divided by a 12ft-high concrete wall between 1961 and 1989.

While Westerners were allowed to pass into East German territory through strictly controlled checkpoints, Easterners were banned from entering the West without prior consent.

What started as a political division quickly became a social and economic one as well but, as is so often the case, football served as a unifying force.

The citizens of West Berlin would pass through the checkpoints to attend Union matches, with the Alte Forsterei crowd a focal point of dissent against the Stasi, the state security service of the GDR.

And whenever Hertha played European fixtures in Eastern Europe, the travelling fanbase would consist of many Union supporters as well.

East Berliners are helped over the Wall to the West during the protests of November 1989

East Berliners are helped over the Wall to the West during the protests of November 1989

Football became a unifying force during the tumult of 1989 as the Berlin Wall came down

Football became a unifying force during the tumult of 1989 as the Berlin Wall came down

When they played a UEFA Cup quarter-final against Dukla Prague in 1979, it was recorded that 15,000 had travelled from Berlin with Union supporters mingling with the Hertha masses.

When the Wall finally came down in those tumultuous days of November 1989 and movement restrictions were eased, Union fans crossed into the West to watch Hertha matches.

One match in the second division between Hertha and

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