A lot of reasons contribute to why Berlin hasn’t been successful in football. It’s history, economic condition and cultural diversification are some of the key factors.
A quick look around European football will show that each country's capital city has a team that regularly challenges for the domestic title. Spain has Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, England has Arsenal and Chelsea, Italy has Lazio and Roma, Portugal has Benfica and Sporting CP, France has PSG and Russia has CSKA Moscow.
Germany, on the other hand, is an exception to this. It's capital, Berlin hasn't been past the semi-finals stage of any European competition and hasn't won the domestic league since 1931.
A lot of reasons contribute to why Berlin hasn't been successful in football. It's history, economic condition and cultural diversification are some of the key factors.
Die Berliner Mauer
Germany along with its capital was divided by the Allies after the end of World War II. Berlin was divided into two parts by a huge wall. The Westside was the socialist side, controlled by the US, UK and France. This side had a richer economy and its inhabitants had better lifestyles.
The Eastern side was controlled by the USSR. It had a different ideology and its condition was different as well. The communist side of Berlin had a poorer economy and the East Berliners lived harsh lives.
This divide hindered Berlin's chances of becoming a footballing powerhouse. Cities around them had already established good footballing bases by the time Berlin had reunited and the clubs in the city were forced to play catch up.
Berlin's biggest clubs were forced to play in the lower divisions after the formation of the Bundesliga and clubs like Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Borussia Mönchengladbach had enough time to assert their dominance over the domestic scene.
After the fall of the wall in November 1991, Berlin reunited. Due to this reunification, the economic condition of Berlin crashed. The poorer economy of East Berlin impacted the overall economy of the city. Even to this day, Berlin has a poorer economy than Munich, Frankfurt, Hamburg and the Ruhr port cities.
Due to this poor economy, clubs in Berlin haven't had the chance to properly compete with the big boys. The allure of playing for Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund has proven too much and Berlin hasn't been able to hold onto its talents. Berlin also failed to nurture the talents that they had in their academies due to the lack of better infrastructure.
Lack of money means lack of quality and Berlin's clubs have suffered due to this. Other clubs around them have repeatedly poached their better players and Berlin haven't been allowed to become a powerhouse.
The football scene in Berlin
Another main factor behind Berlin not having a major club is it's culture and diversity. Berlin is one of the most culturally diverse cities in Europe and this has had a grave negative impact in their football.
Though Hertha Berlin and 1.FC Union Berlin may be the biggest clubs in the city right now, they are not the only ones.
Ben Ferry of Bloody Hell Magazine said to Copa90, "There are so many football clubs in Berlin. In most cities, you have one or two main football clubs. But in Berlin, you have football clubs everywhere."
Max Dinkelaker of 11 Freunde said to Copa90, "In Berlin, each community, each ethnicity, has their own football club. You have the Turkish club, the Greek clubs."
The absurd amount of clubs have meant that no club in Berlin has a massive fanbase. The fanbase of Berlin's most successful club Hertha Berlin doesn't hold a candle to the following that Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund have in Germany.
In Germany, if a club is to be successful it needs a massive and traditional fanbase. The 50+1 rule has ensured that no club will be able to buy their success and due to the lack of a major fanbase in Berlin's big clubs, they haven't been able to get much success.
In recent years, fans in Berlin have had compelling reasons to believe that success is not far away.
An American firm has recently invested in Hertha Berlin and bought 10% of its stakes. This newly acquired money has allowed "Die Alte Dame" to compete with other big clubs in Germany. The club has already made a statement of intent with the recent acquisitions of talented players like Krystof Piatek, Lucas Tousart, Matheus Cunha.
The Eastside of Berlin has had plenty to cheer for as well. 1. FC Union Berlin is playing their first-ever Bundesliga season this year and they've managed to hold their own.
The future looks bright for football in Berlin.