Crystal Palace will take on 1. FC Union Berlin on Saturday 18th July in the German capital, kicking off the pre-season campaign with the clash on the continent.
The 2. Bundesliga outfit have a fascinating history, so we have put together a list of incredible facts you need to know about The Iron Ones:
- Nicknames don't come much cooler than Eiserne (The Iron Ones) or Eisern Union (Iron Union), both of which are used to refer to the club from Berlin. Their nicknames evolved from the earlier sobriquet Schlosserjungs (metalworker boys), which was in reference to the blue kit the Union played in, as it was reminiscent of the overalls worn by local workers in the district of Oberschöneweide. This was back when the club identified, by name, with the area, originally going by FC Olympia 06 Oberschöneweide and then SC Union 06 Oberschöneweide (from 1910 onwards). They emerged in their current form in 1966, after a series name changes and dissolution.
- Their club song, Eisern Union, was composed by German punk singer Nina Hagen and is sung at every game. The club has a cult status, given it's punk ties and working class origins. It was the direct rival of Stasi-backed Dynamo Berlin during the German Democratic Republic years after World War Two and is often styled as being a football club of freedom.
- 1. FC Union Berlin supporters are renowned for their creativity and passion, something Palace fans can relate to! In 2004, with the club in desperate need of funds to avoid bankruptcy, the fans organised a 'Bleed for Union' campaign, in which they donated blood to local Berlin hospitals and then sent their reimbursement fees to the club in order to save it.
- The club decided to modernise their stadium - Stadion An der Alten Försterei (Stadium of the Old Foresters' House) - in 2008, but couldn't afford to redevelop to the standard they wanted. Again, the fans got involved and 2,400 of them committed a total of 140,000 working hours to the project, building the largest single-purpose stadium in the German capital (21,717 capacity).
- Speaking of the stadium: it only has 3,807 seats out of the 21,717 capacity. The rest is terracing.
- They are famous for their Union Weihnachtssingen (Christmas carol service), held every year at the stadium just before Christmas Eve. Originally, it was an underground event started by a relatively small number of fans in 2003. They realised that they would not get a chance to wish each other 'Merry Christmas' near to the 25th December, due to the winter break in German football, so opted to sneak into the stadium for a get together. 89 fans attended that year, with numbers growing over the next two services, before the club made it an official part of their calendar.
In the 2013 break, 27,500 (twenty seven thousand five hundred!) attended the service, including players, staff and even fans of rival clubs, to drink Glühwein (mulled wine), wave candles and sing carols for over 90 minutes.
- Memorably, they allowed fans to watch the 2014 World Cup on the big screen at the stadium - and they could even bring their sofas from home to put on the pitch! 750 sofas were placed on the turf for the WM-Wohnzimmer (World Cup Living Room) event.
For more information about the upcoming friendly with Union Berlin click HERE.