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I’ve been listening to the Shirelles’ “Will you still love me tomorrow” a lot recently. It had come back to me out of the blue, the way that certain songs, laying dormant, sometimes do. Its driving, almost mockingly martial, marching snare fits perfectly to a rolling walking pace. That’s when it comes back, mostly. When I’m walking.

It is driven by a languid urgency. Strings sit plumply on top of that rhythm.

“Will you still love me…” is possibly Carole King’s most famous song, it was released in 1960. Eight years before 1.FC Union’s most unexpected victory.

Until Saturday.

It really is a breathtakingly, heart-achingly sad sort of a song.

The plaintive question at its heart, “Can I believe the magic in your sighs,” is one beset with tragedy. It is the sound of a young woman’s self-delusion becoming an essential form of self-defense. Because sometimes it’s better not to know the truth. In the morning things will be back to shit.

And she’ll be alone again.

It gets me every time. It was wasted on the baby boomers.

It was there, for some reason, too as I took leave of my friends on Saturday. Going into the stadium by a different entrance always leaves me alone for a few moments before the match. Songs often pop up just there in the flush of a couple of beers, the taste of a joint on my lips. Excitement for the game building. Walking.

Mario was waiting in his usual spot by the disabled entrance to the Alte Försterei. There to help. To make sure that anyone who needed him would look across and see him. A smiling face, a scruffy greying beard, a thinning rock and roll haircut, and a set of cloudy blue eyes that have seen the absolute fucking worst that life can throw at him, yet that will twinkle defiantly, radiating warmth and love.

Everybody knows him. And they know how much he needs to be here; as much as a shark needs to keep swimming.

He asked me what I thought would happen? If Union had a chance against Dortmund?

“Of course,” I said. “We’ll win, easy,” I said.

Though I always say this.

He agreed and we hugged as we said our goodbyes. He had more important things to do. Then he gave me a kiss on the cheek. A kiss on the cheek from Mario is worth ten from any other.

What neither of us knew was that Marius Bülter would score two goals to take the lead twice against a side that most gave Union no chance against. He would arrive late enough to be unmarked, yet punctual enough to get the ball without breaking stride. He’d suddenly be at the edge of the box with the innate timing of the greatest midfielders in history. He was there like Gianni Rivera, like Gerson, for that’s what it felt like. To lash home, coolly, easily.

As if he was just sauntering, walking, across the pitch, when he just had to put his laces through the ball, and away into a now empty part of the net like this was a schoolboy game.

I didn’t see Mario on the way out. He would have had other things to do, of course. People to look after, following the torchlights in the whites of his smiling eyes, but I know how happy he was.

He is a hopeless romantic and this was inconceivable somehow. Yet Union really won, and the outpouring afterwards was one of unbounded appreciation and love. There was no artifice here. The magic in every sigh created was as real and heartfelt as ever any sigh ever was.

Image used with great thanks to Felix Ney

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