Urs Fischer has transformed the fortunes of Union Berlin since taking over in the summer of 2018. - © motivio via www.imago-images.de/imago images/motivio
Urs Fischer has transformed the fortunes of Union Berlin since taking over in the summer of 2018. - © motivio via www.imago-images.de/imago images/motivio

5 things on Union Berlin coach Urs Fischer


Union Berlin are fast becoming a permanent fixture in the Bundesliga - and a large part of the credit for that has to go to the man who led them there.

bundesliga.com tells you all you need to know about Union head coach Urs Fischer, who became so popular with fans that a Berlin zoo named one of their animals after him.

1) A two-club man turned caring coach

Fischer played for just two clubs during his career, captaining both FC Zurich and St. Gallen. The combative centre-back, who could also play in midfield, featured in well over 500 league matches as well as earning four caps for Switzerland. He only won one trophy as a player, however, lifting the Swiss Cup with Zurich at the end of the 1999/2000 season. That was a feat, incidentally, that his daughter Riana matched in 2019 with the Zurich women's team.

Now in his mid 50s, Fischer has developed into a hardworking and modest coach. He has previously spoken of the need to adapt to his surroundings in Berlin, becoming used to a more direct approach in dealings with players but also becoming calmer than he was on the field.

Taiwo Awoniyi (l.) hailed Fischer (r.) for being "like a father" when he first arrived at Union Berlin. - imago images

"As a coach I want to give the team a certain calm, even when things are hectic," he told Zurich newspaper the Neue Zürcher Zeitung.

Union captain Christopher Trimmel told local radio station RBB that Fischer is someone who spots things very early on - both on and off the pitch. Despite a big turnaround of players during his time at Union, there has been regular praise for the family atmosphere within the club. Star striker Taiwo Awoniyi even said Fischer was like a father figure to him because of the way he welcomed the Nigerian to Union and helped him improve as a player.

2) Fischer likes fishing - and has a namesake at the zoo

Fischer got into fly fishing - using a rod with an artificial fly as a bait - when he was coaching Basel. One of his players suggested trying it during some downtime, so Fischer tagged along with a beer to watch.

Watch: When Urs met Urs the red panda

"I had resisted," Fischer told Bluewin about what he felt like when he was eventually asked to have a go himself. "Fly fishing is not for me, I thought. Until I had the rod in my hand. One or two throws were enough - from then on I'd discovered a new passion."

While Fischer has to travel a couple of hours outside of Berlin to find suitable conditions for fly fishing, there's a shorter trip required to visit the red panda that was named after him in October 2021. Union's charity foundation sponsored a panda family that came to the Tierpark Berlin zoo as part of a conservation programme, and a public appeal was later launched to find a name for a newborn. Already the "godfather" of the young animal, Fischer himself noted that - given the word ursus means bear in Latin - it was probably a good choice of name.

3) He learned from Lucien Favre

Fischer was in charge of three clubs in Switzerland, starting out with Zurich and also serving time with Thun and Basel. He led Zurich to a runners-up finish in his first season there, and got both them and unfancied Thun to the UEFA Europa League group stage. He then won back-to-back league titles and one Swiss Cup with Basel, where he also gained UEFA Champions League group stage experience.

Fischer (l.) was reunited with fellow Swiss coach Lucien Favre (r.) when they were in charge of Union and Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga. - nordphoto/Mauelshagen via www.imago-images.de/imago images/Nordphoto

One of the coaches he observed closely on his way to Germany was a former Borussia Dortmund, Borussa Mönchengladbach and Hertha Berlin boss.

"When I was coaching Zurich's U21 team, Lucien Favre was head coach," he told the Neue Zürcher Zeitung. "His mentality and the way he coached left an impression on me: an obsession with details, always practicing, being precise."

4) He led Union to the promised land 

Fischer was appointed Union head coach in June 2018, and felt confident he could be a success at the Bundesliga 2 club.

"Swiss coaches have already left their mark on German football, and I'll do everything I can to add to this successful track record," the new man said after landing in the German capital.

Watch: Union's famous first Bundesliga win

Fischer's first year in charge will live long in the memory. He guided the east Berliners to a remarkable first promotion to the German top flight by finishing third in the second tier and then getting the better of VfB Stuttgart over two legs in May 2019. Union drew the first leg of their promotion play-off 2-2 away from home, then played out a 0-0 draw at the Stadion An der Alten Försterei. That meant Fischer's side went up after winning the tie on away goals.

That set the scene for wild celebrations among Union's famously passionate support, but Fischer was keen to show that "Iron Union" belonged at the top level. They did so early on in their first year in the elite, shocking Borussia Dortmund 3-1 at home on Matchday 3 on another unforgettable night in Köpenick. Union would continue to prove an awkward and effective opponent, comfortably securing another season of top-flight football thanks to an 11th-placed finish.

5) He guided Union to European qualification

There was no danger of second-season syndrome for Union in the Bundesliga, since after adding Max Kruse they became even more formidable - and entertaining. Fischer was rewarded in a big way for backing the veteran ex-Germany attacker to once again work his magic in the top division.

Watch: Kruse's dramatic winner against Leipzig

"With the sense of achievement and the points we've collected, we've become more courageous," Fischer told the Neue Zürcher Zeitung in January 2021 when explaining his side's success. "The more self-confidence you have, the braver you'll play. And you'll be more willing to try something."

The Swiss coach was given a new contract in December 2020 as his team continued to upset the odds, and Kruse finished his first season in Berlin with an impressive 11 goals and five assists. His last strike of the 2020/21 campaign came on the final day - an injury-time header that gave Union a 2-1 home win over RB Leipzig. That result meant Fischer's team finished in seventh, with the club qualifying for European football for the first time as a result.

"That it ended like this is a script for Hollywood," an elated Fischer said after the final whistle.