Union Berlin make their Champions League debut at European royalty Real Madrid on Tuesday just four years after a first ever promotion to the German Bundesliga.
The date with Real, who own more Champions League trophies (14) than the rest of Spain and Germany combined, is the next stop on a soaring rise as unlikely as it is meteoric.
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Union’s history has become the stuff of legend; an inspiring tale that anything is still possible in a sport dominated by legacy powerhouses and new money behemoths bankrolled by nation states.
That Union have overcome their hurdles — they are just the sixth club from the former East Germany to play in the top division since reunification in 1990 — is a credit to the club’s shrewd and ambitious front office, along with one of the loyalest fan bases in the league.
The fans’ reward is a Champions League group featuring Italian champions Napoli, Portuguese side Braga and of course Real, who Union will face at the Santiago Bernabeu on Thursday (AEST).
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WHY UNION FAITHFUL LITERALLY BLED TO SAVE CLUB FROM DEATH
In the third division as recently as 2009 and having undergone periodic financial crises, Union’s passionate fans in the eastern Berlin district of Koepenick have repeatedly revived the club.
In 2004, with the cash-strapped side needing funds for a fourth-division licence, Union fans gave their club a literal transfusion,Read on foxsports.com.au