The 2015 UEFA Champions League Final will be held at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin on June 6. It is a place full of history and is also the only football stadium with a blue track course. Some say it is the most beautiful stadium in the world, and I totally agree with them. But then agai,n I might be biased because it is the home court of my favorite team, Hertha BSC Berlin—my blue-white bloodline.
With great architecture lies great responsibility, which is not always met, at least for certain periods of time. As its name says, this majestic concrete monster was built for the 1936 Olympic Games to serve Hitler’s delight in eternal propaganda for the German Reich. The architect Werner March created a worshiping ground which didn’t lose its modern appeal in almost over 80 years. And because the Nazis really thought that they would last over a thousand years, they built infrastructure that was made to last. Thank god the architecture have outlasted them.
There have not been many renovations made over the last century, but the stadium was restored when Germany hosted the 2006 World Cup finals in Berlin. The home team Hertha cleverly matched the color of the track course to their shirts as it has become a standalone symbol for this stadium. There are 78,000 seats but an extra stand can be built during in-demand matches.
Germany is football-crazy. It’s by far the number one sport here. But Germany has unusual standings when it comes to football. Bavaria and the West of Germany have a multitude of teams from the first to third divisions, while the East and Berlin are struggling. So compared to other countries, it’s pretty peculiar that the capital is not the dominating city in the national league.
I remember watching my first match in the late ’90s. Hertha played second division in front of just 8,000 fans. I basically had one block for myself and my friends. But I never forgot how I entered the stadium. It was a Friday night match and the lights were illuminating the turf. Climbing the the stairs to the second level was like entering a spaceship: so big, so fantastically mind-blowing. I will never forget that.
Maybe I have fallen for the club because the whole thing was so weird and far from mainstream. There is something that I have learned with time: a football club is like a hometown. You just belong to it, whatever you do in the future. Even if you leave it for some time, it will feel like you have never left once you return. Sure, it’s about the community of fans. More than celebrating victories, it is going through the pain that defines your being as a fan. And it becomes stronger every year: players go, managers are fired, but you stay and come back. Even if I live in Hamburg now I try to fix assignments around matches in Berlin so I can get a ticket. And I always sneak in a new camera.
Hertha won its last national championship in 1931. That is a mighty long time ago and for now the fans are happy if they can manage to play a good role in the Bundesliga. But there is one huge dream. Since 1984, the national cup final is always played at the Olympiastadion. It would be a great thing if Hertha would win the cup at their home court. Despite the lack of major success, Berlin holds the record of most match attendees. In 1969, during the Hertha vs. Cologne match, the official count of spectators was at 88,075. But it had been said that there were over 100,000 people. The players stated after the match that they only saw black when they looked at the stands.
I was very happy when I was assigned to make a piece on football as religion for a TV news show. I knew that there was a chapel built in the Olympiastadion when it was redone for the 2006 World Cup. Weddings and baptisms are held there, and the squadra azura with Pirlo and Del Piero knelt down to pray there with the ball in their hands, just before they went into the field for the 2006 World Cup final.
So two things are stated here: Football is larger than life and praying helps, it seems. I called up the priest of the stadium, we met at the golden chapel, and I was even allowed to walk on the holy lawn and gather my thoughts at the kick-off-point.
I have told you that I am biased, but what the heck. The architecture of the Olympiastadion is mind-blowing. More and more fans come to see the games, no matter if they are just hipster tourists. The competing teams of the 2015 UEFA Champions League Final couldn’t be in a finer place than Berlin. And the fans will be even happier because after the victory, they can celebrate in one of the hottest party scenes in the world. Good luck, and don’t forget: “Ha Ho He – Hertha BSC!”