Promoted back to the Bundesliga in 2013 with a record points total, Hertha Berlin have since qualified twice for Europe and kept respected Hungarian coach and club legend Pál Dardai in a job since early 2015. Based at the Olympiastadion since 1963, the club has announced its intention to move in 2025 when the lease there runs out. Potential new sites for a self-built, self-owned arena include one within alongside Germany’s national stadium.
Hertha’s spiritual home, though, remains around Gesundbrunnen and Wedding, which saw some of the most dramatic escape attempts when the Berlin Wall cut right through here, and was the location of the first border opening in 1989.
The de facto flagship club for a city as fractured as Berlin, Hertha’s history has taken some strange twists and turns.
In 1892, the brothers Max and Fritz Lindner took the name and colours of their new football club after a local steamship, Hertha, with a blue-and-white funnel. A major player in Berlin’s modest if burgeoning turn-of-the-century football scene, Hertha re-emerged after World War I thanks to a successful merger with the Berliner Sport-Club.
Oberliga Berlin-Brandenburg champions eight times in nine years, Hertha even took two national titles in 1930 and 1931, after four consecutive runners-up spots. The losing final of 1927 took place in front of 50,000 at the Deutsches Stadion – the later Olympiastadion. Only Schalke were more successful in the inter-war years.
At this high point in their history, Hertha remained a solid, working-class club based in Wedding, at the Stadion am Gesundbrunnen, aka ‘die Plumpe’, by the railroad tracks. Star of the side was inside-forward Hanne Sobek, who appeared in six consecutive national finals, culminating in those two wins. He later managed Union, hopping over to the West with them in 1950, and staying there. When Hertha played in the inaugural Bundesliga in 1963, Sobek was coach. The forecourt outside Gesundbrunnen station is now named after him.
The Nazis restructured the league, and soon enough the club. Hertha slowly revived after the war, moving back to die Plumpe, now close to the new border. East Berliners unable to cross would head over on match days just to hear the sound of the crowd.
When the Bundesliga was set up in 1963, Hertha were Berlin’s sole representative but fell from grace two years afterwards when financial irregularities were discovered – the club had been luring players to come to the divided city. Five years after that, they earned further punishment for match-fixing.
Hertha’s first decent post-war side featured internationals Norbert Nigbur in goal and the prolific Erich Beer up front. Gaining top-three finishes in 1975 and 1978, Hertha made the UEFA Cup semi-final in 1979, losing out on away goals to Red Star Belgrade.
After yo-yoing between top and second flights, Hertha’s next revival came in the mid-1990s, when backed by UFA, the audio-visual branch of the Bertelsmann media empire based in Berlin. Looking to repeat what Canal Plus had achieved with Paris Saint-Germain, UFA put Robert Schwan, the brains behind Bayern in the 1960s, in charge of the relaunch.
With striker Michael Preetz, Norwegian midfielder-cum-sweeper Kjetil Rekdal and Hungarian keeper Gábor Király, Hertha became a serious force in the Bundesliga, earning regular top-six finishes. Wins over Chelsea and Milan were the highlights of the 1999-2000 Champions League campaign that made it to March.
Later stars – precocious midfielder Sebastian Deisler, Brazilian international Marcelinho and midfield stalwart Pál Dárdai – helped Hertha make occasional forays in the UEFA Cup.
After a couple of fallow seasons, Hertha bounced back in 2012-13 to storm the Zweite with record points, backed by large crowds and goals from South Americans Ronny and Adrian Ramos.
Hertha’s home of 50 years is the national Olympiastadion, with the faithful gathered in the Ostkurve.
Major Hertha games can sell out, even given the Olympiastadion’s near 75,000 capacity. For advance tickets, try the club office by the Berlin Sport Museum at Hanns-Braun-Straße, a short walk right from the Olympia-Stadion U-Bahn station. Other ticket outlets include one at Berlin Central Station, another Europa-Center on Breitscheidplatz, as well as the Visitors’ Centre by the Osttor in the Olympiastation itself. Eventim Online is another source. On match days, the two main ticket offices are at the Osttor and the Marathon Gate near the S-Bahn station, where there are also dedicated windows for visiting supporters.
Hertha games are divided into three categories, with the priciest seats in sectors C and D of the Haupttribüne. Sectors B, E, M, O in either Tribüne allow for mid-priced comfort, while F, L, P in the Kurve give views over the corner flags. The home Ostkurve (Q-T) will be sold out.
The price range is enormous and confusing – suffice to say that €40 should secure you a decent seat on the sidelines, €15-21 behind the goals.
As well as souvenirs at the club HQ by the Berlin Sport Museum at Hanns-Braun-Straße, a short walk right from the Olympia-Stadion U-Bahn station, there’s a modest selection at the Visitors’ Centre by the Osttor at the Olympiastation. Hertha stalls are also set up on match days just inside the Osttor once you enter the Olympistadion gates.
For the real Hertha experience, head for the Bierbrunnen an der Plumpe, where Behmstraße meets Badstraße, near Gesundbrunnen S-Bahn station and Hertha’s old ground of Die Plumpe. Large pre-war photos of a title-winning Hertha line-up and a packed Die Plumpe in its pomp line the walls above the pool table.
As well as the pre-match haunts by the U-Bahn and S-Bahn stations at the Olympiastadion, once inside the stadium gates, you’ll find Hertha stalls around the Osttor.