That single German word is how Union Berlin fan Jon Darch describes the past five seasons for his club - and one of the most remarkable rises in European football. Five years ago Union were playing in the second tier of German football. On Wednesday they will make their Champions League debut against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu. In consecutive seasons they have gone from 2 Bundesliga to Bundesliga, then into Europe with the Uefa Europa Conference League, then the Europa League and now the Champions League. They are the first side from Berlin to play in Europe's elite competition since the traditionally larger Hertha did so in 1999-2000. This season Hertha are in the second tier, looking up at their noisy neighbours.
It is a journey made not with state backing, billionaire owners or - for the most part - household names in the playing squad. The club are entirely fan owned, financed by more than 40,000 supporter memberships, with those members making key decisions such as the appointment of the chief executive and board. "Union have shown a third way," says Mark Wilson, who runs Union In Englisch, a blog and podcast for English-speaking fans. "Compared to manufactured clubs like Leipzig and factory teams like Wolfsburg, Union have shown a traditional way to success, which is not just about spending money. We are not a cult club - just a club which has entrenched itself in its community."
A large portion of Union's success is put down to the combination of Swiss manager Urs Fischer and managing director Oliver Ruhnert, both of whom have been in place since 2018 and have overseen the club's rise. Bas Timmers, author of the book 'Abnormally Ordinary - A Dutchman explains Union Berlin', says that, amid the club's reputation for passionate supporters and socialist outlook, their intelligent business is often overlooked. "Appointing Fischer and Ruhnert was a major turnaround," he says. "They have made all the difference. "The squad planning has been meticulous. Ruhnert found a lot of players which Fischer saw the possibility to develop."
Terror football from Kopenick' "Ruhnert goes out every summer, buys seven players we have never heard of, and Fischer forms them into a team," adds Darch, a safe-standing campaigner who has been a fan of Union since moving to Berlin 22 years ago. "Fischer is a miracle worker. And he fits Union so well - he is so down to earth. His native tongue is not high German, but a very Swiss version of German. He has to speak slowly so people can understand him - that helps him come across as very measured." On the pitch Timmers describes Union's counter-attacking style as "terror football from Kopenick", the district of Berlin in which Union is based. "Pragmatic, realistic and well executed," he says. "There are not a lot of clubs in Germany which have been run well in the last 10 years. Bayern and Leipzig maybe, with an attacking playing philosophy to admire. Union has developed their own brand of that - hard to beat football, with maximum effect."