In the beginning of the 20th century, when TeBe was formed near Hackscher Markt by twelve sport enthusiasts, the chants were surely quite different. Their emotions and attitudes towards this unique club, however, were not very much different from those of today’s fans, and it was through this enthusiasm that TeBe became one of the big players in Berlin football. Over the following decade, there were numerous legendary matches as TeBe battled it out with Hertha BSC for supremacy in Berlin. Many famous names were part of this era: Hanne Sobeck for Hertha, and Hanne Berndt, Fritz Wilde, Sepp Herberger for the Veilchen, to name but a few. Hertha had their noses in front at certain points, but TeBe certainly gave as good as they got, particularly in the TeBe „Golden Era“, the 1950s. However when the Bundesliga was formed, TeBe had weakened both on and off the pitch, allowing Hertha to be Berlin’s representative in the new league. Since then, TeBe have never managed to break Hertha’s supremacy in Berlin.
And so, TeBe fans from any era have something in common – the fighting spirit, the regrouping after failure. For many years the team was a major player in German football, regularly qualifying for the later stages of competitions, although never usually progressing further than the quarterfinals. There were two promotions to the Bundesliga, unfortunately both were followed by immediate relegations. The promotion playoffs for the second Bundesliga were also regularly a source of misery for Veilchen fans, almost all of whom have shed countless tears from the team as, again and again, their dreams are shattered.
But despite these disappointments there are many who will simply not abandon the team. Even after the disaster in the late 1990s, when the club created negative headlines due to their involvement with a certain investor and subsequently found themselves in the fourth division for the first time in their history, many fans remained faithful to their team. This is very notable in a success-orientated metropolis like Berlin.
So what is it that makes this indefatigable spirit? Why is it still flourishing, even in new converts to the TeBe religion? Why are there always more fans, from Neukölln, Friedrichshain, Marzahn, Schöneberg and Prenzlauer Berg, and even a couple of „nutters“from Bremen or Hamburg, coming to the Mommsenstadion to see fifth league football, especially when there are many other higher level teams to watch? What is so special about Tennis Borussia?
The reasons for this level of loyalty are just as varied and colourful as the TeBe fan scene. One, however, all can agree on: after the bad feeling created in the 1990s, the team is once more united, just like it was in the 1970s when the levels of support for the team amongst Berliners was at its highest and there were idols like Benny Wendt for the fans to idolise. The „Ping-Pong-Veterans“, a TeBe fanclub who were at their largest in the 1970s, have the motto „Seele – Wärme – Inbrunst“ (Soul, Warmth, Fervour). Nothing sums up the TeBe spirit better than that.
After a dry patch in the 1980s, the fan scene began to recover in the 1990s in very difficult circumstances. The fans found themselves in almost constant opposition to the then sponsor, Göttinger, feeling that their interest in the club as a football team was lacking. Nowadays, there is very close contact between the fans and the club administration, and the fans take an active role in the running of the club, for example, through the production of the match day programme. Instead of the bloated and ostentatious match day entertainment of previous years, music chosen by the fans is played, music that is not to be heard at any other stadium. These days, the motto of the Mommsenstadion is „Football, Friends, Rock’n’Roll“.
Also part of the TeBe spirit is the continued appreciation of Jewish traditions and active opposition to anti-Semitism, racism and homophoby, and in this area the fans are fully supported by the club. In 2001, the fans suggested the addition of anti-discrimination paragraph to the club’s Articles of Association, which was subsequently added without a single dissenting voice. Since right-wing radicals are still active in certain areas of Berlin, TeBe fans are proud of their stance in opposition to such groups.TeBe is also very active in youth development (often recognised as one of the best in Berlin), where large emphasis is put on encouraging tolerance and global awareness. Little wonder, then, that youths and children from all nationalities and religions are attracted to TeBe. One day one of them will make it into the first team, and then they will be able to hear the famous „God Save TeBe“ being enthusiastically sung from the terraces.