For 25 years, Harald Hauswald has documented the development of the East German football club FC Union Berlin. And that although he had never been that interested in football.
Chance brought Harald to his first Union game. A Western journalist had asked him for pictures of a match against the Dynamo Berlin. He photographed the players, the fans, the flags, but also the uniformed riot police that was lined up along the stands to prevent outrages. These local derbies were prone to escalate, they were about more than just football. The Stasi financed FC Dynamo was the declared enemy of FC Union, whose fanbase was a reservoir for dissenters and dissidents.
Hooliganism did not exist in the GDR. Officially. The filmmaker Ernst Cantzler for whose documentary on Union Harald made stills, introduced him to several hooligan leaders. All that was officially denied but still existed fascinated Harald. He began to be interested in the story, went to away games in Magdeburg or Leipzig or to the traditional steamboat trips where Union players mingled with fans. And he was present at brawls in the third half-time. Thanks to his contacts in the fan scene, he was able to come very close, to photograph from within the crowd. No one bothered when Harald took pictures, while somebody was just jumping over a fence or beating someone up. Without muscling in, Harald was part of the scene. When the police tried to confiscate his films after a game in Karl-Marx-Stadt the hooligans positioned protectively in front of him.
With the reunification began a difficult period for the club. It was relegated and deeply indebted. There were more and more violent excesses after the games. It was a time in which the disorientation of many young men met the confusion of the police in the east, which had to adapt to the FRG legal system. Harald was there when the police pushed Union fans into the tram after a game against the FC Brandenburg. The two FC Brandenburg fans, who stood alone at the last stop, started running when they saw approaching the tram filled with Union fans. One bumped against a car and flew five meters into the air. Harald photographed him as two Union fans administered First Aid. A few hours later he died in the hospital. Newspapers took the picture out of context and used it to illustrate the violence between rival fan groups.
Since several years, the mood at the games has calmed down and become almost family friendly. The latest Union images taken by Harald show the Christmas party at the stadium which the fans recently renovated. A sea of lights, singing fans and children on shoulders. No trace of hooligans.