Punk Football: Falling in love (again) with FC St. Pauli. A self-reflection and review of Pirates, Punks, & Politics by Nick Davidson.
Reading Nick Davidson’s ‘Pirates, Punks, & Politics’ has reminded me why I fell in love with FC St. Pauli. It was when I first read about them during my ‘Football & Society’ module taught by Adam Brown, in the second year of a Sociology degree at Manchester Metropolitan University. Funnily enough, I now stand sided by side on the terraces with Adam, as a co-owner of the Punk Football team, ‘FC United of Manchester’. FC St Pauli are probably the most famous ‘Punk Football’ team throughout the world, and there is no surprise of the effect that Nick Davidson’s book has had when it contains the by-line ‘Falling in love with a radical football club’.
I was so enamoured by what I had read during the course that I chose the club as a focus for my 3000-word essay questioning whether regional identities in football had been eroded by the globalisation of the game. Of course, St. Pauli were a perfect choice to argue against the claim, and it was during this time I started to research more about the club through it’s fanzines, and liaising with supporters through online message boards. Following the course, FC St Pauli fell off the radar somewhat, eclipsed by my hometown clubs venture in the Champions League and upper echelons of the English Premier League.
The fire was rekindled during the World Cup of 2006 in Germany. I was on a train from Copenhagen to Koln, and I decided to break the journey up with a few hours stop off in Hamburg. Even though there was a game on, the only thing I had on my mind was going to visit the Millerntor Stadium, the home of FC St. Pauli. It was great to have a look at the concrete logo outside the ground, visit the Club Shop, and circumvent the stadium trying to peer in as much as possible. It just so happened that the World Cup ‘Fanladen’ was situated net door, yet after a brief investigation it was too crowded and the beer too expensive. Instead I opted to watch the game inside a FC St Pauli clubhouse, amongst like-minded people, drinking beer half the price, and supporting the clubs coffers rather than the World Cups sponsors.
My first visit to a match took place in the summer of 2007, and it was documented in the first issue of my fanzine ‘Ont Road’. Here is a selection from that article:
“Thankfully I got to the ground in plenty of time, despite the late train from Dresden. I picked up my ticket from Heikko, who runs the St. Pauli fan laden, which basically keeps tickets aside for foreign fans. I had emailed him a fortnight before and he kept one aside for me. It cost only 15 euros and it was for the home stand. Unfortunately there were no tickets for the anarchist stand, so I had to settle for second best.
The ground was busy, and I treated myself to a couple of fish butties, as all I had eaten all day was a couple of croissants. Inside the ground, they were only selling local beer, named ‘Astra’ and the food outlets were all run by local businesses. I liked this. Although I wasn’t feeling 100% (due to illness), the fact that it is still legal to drink football in the stands at German football games was enough to persuade me to get a pint and watch the game. It was a blazing hot day, and here I was in the middle of the stand (yes, you could actually stand up and watch a football game!) supping a pint of beer whilst watching the teams enter the pitch.
With the amount of black clothes, leather, patches and skulls on display, it actually seemed that I was at a heavy metal concert for a moment. Songs such as ‘Come on you boys in Brown’ and ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ were regularly sung throughout the game. St. Pauli took the lead in the first half, scoring a near post header into the goal at our side of the pitch. They held their nerve, and despite a few close moments at the end, managed to finish up victorious over FC Koblenz. It was a great feeling to sing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ during the closing minutes of the game. I certainly hope to be going to watch St. Pauli again in the future.”
Thankfully I held true to my word and in 2009 I was over in Hamburg to watch neo-crust punk band Tragedy, playing on the Onkel Otto’s stage, located on the punk street behind the Reeperbahn, as part of the unofficial ‘Hafengeburstag’ celebrations. This particular part of the district is synonymous with the birth of the FC St Pauli ‘mythos’ that started back in the 1980s when the local punks from the area started to go to the matches. And that is one of the fundamental things about FC St Pauli, it’s encompasses the whole district and community – it is an extension of the local identity in the immediate area around the stadium. It’s a state of mind.
A friend of mine who is a Bohemians FC supporter was over at the same time, and he had arranged to get us some tickets for the game the following day. A 2pm kick off is way to early, especially when you have been up late drinking Astra in Onkel Ottos, only to be kicked out at 6am, and to carry on the drinking with some punks on the street you have only just met. I was a complete wreck, but in good spirits and well behaved. The festival vibes of the ‘Harbour Birthday’, and the alternative punk streets events, had permeated me. After careful investigation on the Internet it turns out the match I went to was against Mainz, and ended with a 2:0 victory to St Pauli. The atmosphere was cracking again, and I even managed to see someone score with a lob from 40 yards out, before passing out on the Gegengerade for the whole of the second half. That was just a small part of one of the craziest few days in my life, and another reason what makes St Pauli so special.
The last time I visited the stadium was during the post-season of that same year. I was in town anyway, and it perfectly so happened that they were playing a friendly against Hearts of Midlothian. This was well documented in my ‘top 10 games of all time column’ in issue 3 of Ont Road Fanzine. Here is a copy of the text:
The week before the game, there was the annual ‘Schanzefestival’ in the St Pauli district of Hamburg. It is a generic street festival, which is traditionally followed by a night of rioting from the extreme left and bored youth. During the night, the police raided the St Pauli fans bar, The Jolly Roger. They proceeded to beat up a few people and they ended up knocking one of the fans teeth out. The stadium was littered with an array of anti-police banners, and the 8000 strong crowd all gathered in the clubs car park after the game. They then proceeded to go on an ‘anti-police brutality ‘ march around the streets of Hamburg.
* This was also the first time I got to stand in the ‘Sudkurve’ section with all the Ultras. We were drinking pints in the stands, and socialising with the other fans. The match was nothing more than a backdrop. One of the bizarre rituals of the ultras was during a St Pauli corner, the fans got out their keys and started to shake them up until the ball was kicked. There was also a gadgie in a Celtic shirt singing Henrik Larrson songs throughout the game. St Pauli went on to comfortably win the game, yet on this occasion there was more at stake than the result on the field. “No justice, no peace, fuck the police”.
After reading Nick Davidson’s book, I will make another written vow to go and see St Pauli again. Next time in Germany it will have to be an away game, and in the UK when they come for a return friendly match with FC United of Manchester, when they have moved to their new stadium in Moston.
The book itself is the most comprehensive English language book about the club, which is testament to the time and research put in by the author. It documents the history of the club, it’s relationship with the local community, the fan scene, the politics, how it came to be in its current guise, everything that makes the club unique, and it is peppered with refreshing short trip reports that the author has made to watch them.
It’s a comprehensive guide, and an essential piece of reading for anyone interested in the club, or Punk Football. I just hope that Nick and people in his position don’t give up on English football completely, substituting their youthful experiences with the modern German game. There is a new football revolution taking place in the lower echelons of the league structure with the birth of fan-owned teams, putting the power back into the fans, who are taking a post-modern approach by trying to make friends not enemies, and bringing the soul and atmosphere back into the stadiums. Perhaps the ethos and ideals that the fans at St Pauli first pioneered will eventually permeate into the structure of other clubs worldwide and lead to an increasing inter-connected community of Punk Football Clubs.
Punk Football Nomads
International Co-ordinator, Eccles & District Branch, FC United of Manchester
Member of Yorkshire St. Pauli (http://yorkshirestpauli.com)
* Massive respect to Nick Davidson for holding true to his clubs fans beliefs and donating all the profits from his book to the 1910 FC St. Pauli Museum Fan Project. Punk Football through and through.
|Buy the book here|