Hamburg Trip – October 2014 – German Pokal Round 2
Regular readers of Ont Road will be well aware of my penchant for travel. This trip happened to be my first abroad for 14 months, probably the longest time I’ve spent in the UK since I was born. Becoming a father had put a temporary halt on that. However, with a bit of holiday time, some spare cash, and a supportive partner, I was able to partake in a 48-hour venture to Northern Germany’s premier port town, Hamburg.
At the end of the summer I was sat, as usual, browsing the Internet, when I read a tweet on the Yorkshire St Pauli twitter feed about the draw for the second round of the German Cup. After a quick perusal of the fixtures, I noticed that FC St Pauli and HSV Hamburg had both been drawn at home, against the two modern giants of German football, Borussia Dortmund & Bayern Munich. And although the dates hadn’t been confirmed, I knew that due to policing, there was no way that both matches would be on the same night. Half an hour later, I had flight and train tickets booked for £100 all in.
I was able to secure these widely sought-after tickets through two important supporter groups. For St Pauli, they have the fanladen, which keeps a number of tickets aside for every game, for international fans. As I was a member of the Yorkshire St Pauli fan club, which is one of the largest outside of Germany, I was able to secure a standing ticket for the game (€13). And with HSV, I contacted the English Supporters Club, and I was assisted by a kind soul who ordered me two standing tickets during the members sale on the clubs website (€18). For both matches I had tickets in the stands behind the goal, right were the ultras gather – I was going to get the full on experience.
Flying cheaply to Hamburg meant taking Germanwings, and a ridiculously early flight, which meant I had to get up at 4:30am, and spend nearly two hours on a stopover in Dusseldorf. Thankfully there was a smoking area, and I had a free voucher for the first class lounge where I was able to chill out, stuff my face full of pasties and drink a few coffees. I certainly stood out amongst the suits and designer gear with my tight black jeans, and 15-year-old rugged St Pauli ‘skull and crossbones’ hooded top.
I wasn’t meeting my friends, who had just moved to Hamburg, till later that day, so I did what many wouldn’t when they first get to town, and go on a tour of a Russian U-boat, which as parked up on the harbour by the St Pauli district. I had been to Hamburg many times before and every time it feels magical walking along the harbour, watching the boats sail by to the backdrop of all the cranes.
I went to the Fanladen, which now has a permanent home under the Gegengerade, which in itself is now almost double in capacity, and makes an impressive pitch length all standing terrace. I picked up my ticket, and there was already a buzz about the place. Some Dortmund fans were lingering around, and I overheard tourists being told the reasons why they just couldn’t get a ticket there and then for the game, “It’s not just some normal Bundelsiga 2 game, you know”.
Later on, I took a beer with my friend in the ‘St Pauli Eck’, which is a great fan pub, ran by the landlady who used to run the bar in the old ground. Brown in décor, Dropkick Murphys on the jukebox, and a smoky atmosphere was a perfect backdrop for a warm up to the match. I arrived at the ground over an hour before the game, and there was a real buzz about the place. I drank a beer outside just to soak up the atmosphere, and I felt a little guilty for having a ticket when so many fans were standing around with ‘tickets wanted’ signs.
This was my first competitive St Pauli match where I was standing in the Sudkurve (My other trips can be read in this article: http://ontroadfanzine.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/punk-football-falling-in-love-again.html) Even with 45minutes to go the stand was jam-packed. I didn’t have the confidence or emotional bond with the club to just barge my way into the mix, so I took a modest position in the corner, which gave me a perfect cross-sectional view of the Sudkurve & the Gegengerade. There was a real party atmosphere, and although nobody expected St Pauli to win, it was the fact that they were here that was important – a sell out crowd of 29,000 was full of anticipation.
And the crowd didn’t disappoint, this was the biggest game of the season, and with it being live on TV, the fans made a real effort. With a few minutes to kick off, the Sudkurve had a huge St Pauli banner draped over it, the Gegengerade had hundreds of coloured individual flags alongside two huge skull and crossbones flags, and the Nordkurve had brown and white drapes, a huge nordkurve lettering, and to top it off, a sign across the middle that read something along the lines of ‘this is not just a one off, this is a way of life’.
Choreo video: http://www.kiezkicker.de/kiezkicker/2014/einfach-nur-eine-wunderschoene-pokalchoreo-gegen-dortmund/
At this stage of the season Dortmund had already lost 6 games, and St Pauli hadn’t done much better. And although the formbook suggested there was a potential of an upset on the cards, those that had seen St Pauli this season, were well aware that they didn’t have any strength in depth or any solid tactical experience to overcome the visitors. It was clear from the outset that Dortmund was a different class, and it was no surprise that they ended up winning the game. With these kinds of matches, you just hope that the main team don’t run away with it early on, but when they went 2-0 up just before half time it was all over.
Still, it didn’t stop the party atmosphere, and the Sankt Pauli ultras treated the crowd to a huge pyro display during the half time break. There was some great chanting, and even Dortmund joined in one song, although I couldn’t tell if it was in mutual respect or mocking. German sense of humour remains lost in translation! Dortmund took it to 3-0 late on, and then it was all over. Despite the result, I was fortunate to see and feel the atmosphere of this occasion, and it reaffirmed my support and admiration for the club once again.
After the game, I met up with my friend to take a tour of some of the more quirky drinking establishments that frequent the surrounding areas of the Reeperbahn in the St Pauli district. We started off at the ‘Tippell II’, a laid back affair, where we were able to comfortably watch the extra time parts of the other cup games going on that night – Duisburg vs. Koln certainly seemed like a great one for the neutrals. It’d take you a whole night to read all the graffiti on the walls.
Then I insisted that we went to some of the crazy bars situated on Hamburger Weg. We started at the ‘Goldene Handschuh’, which had recently turned 50 years old! I remember reading a review of this place on a travel website and the top review talked about seeing an old man being whipped by a midget – it seemed the perfect place to hang out and witness the crazies in action. The entrance is even named after a famous serial killer, Fritz Honka, who killed many prostitutes in Hamburg during the 1970s. Imagine going into a ‘Yorkshire Ripper’ bar in Bradford? Bonkers!
Not only was there the madness usually associated with Red Light Districts, but also the port town mentality of being by the sea. It’s a small brown bar, yet on two of the main tables there are stripper poles in the middle of them. I was assured by my friend that it was quite tame in comparison to his visits; yet I was just happy to take it all in, and enjoy a cold beer whilst simultaneously being warmed up by the iron radiator situated right underneath our wooden bench. The toilets also were a sight, literally a tiled wall that fit in with the rest of the room, and a small drain at the bottom that was hardly noticeable.
We then visited another famous Reeperbahn institution, the ‘Elbschloss Keller’. Another classic, brown wooden interior bar that is open 24 hours, has loud music playing at all times, and is full of Hamburg’s finest discerning drinkers. It didn’t disappoint! There were immigrants chatting up old grannies, wild youths singing along to the jukebox, alcoholics crowded into a dark corner, Dortmund fans propping up the bar, and us by the gambling machine, taking it all in. Totally recommended!
We ended the night at the ‘Hong Kong’ Hotel bar, a small place run by an older couple, which were St Pauli fans. It was a nice relaxed atmosphere to take in another Astra, a few Mexicaner (Bloody Mary) shots, in the company of some friendly young Dortmund fans and a jukebox of mid-90s Britpop. Our bodies, and drinking tolerance aren’t how they used to be: years of graft, and sleep-deprived parenthood ensured that it was time to hit the sack. It was a great night, to witness the St Pauli FC magic again, and the craziness of the Reeperbahn drinking scene.
The next day’s hangover set the scene, a long morning/afternoon of lying on the couch listening to music, mooching around the streets, and some half drunk purchases from charity shops in Altona: a Beastie Boys t-shirt and a Seattle Sounders football scarf were the best finds. I also stocked up on several pouches of cheap tobacco and visited a great ‘all-you-an-eat’ African buffet.
Then it was time for match number two, a tram ride, and a long walk through the woods to the Imtech Arena, home of HSV Hamburg. It is a huge and wonderful stadium, a testament to efficient German design. The beer was even cheaper that it was at St Pauli, and without the hassle of the Pfand. Prior to the game there was a famous musician on top of a crane, parked right in front of the Nordtribune, stirring the crowd with a rendition of a classic song. And then there was the banner drop, which is something I have always wanted to have witnessed from underneath, as it covered the whole of the middle area where we were standing.
By the time it was removed, the game was underway, and unsurprisingly Bayern Munich took an early lead through Lewandowski. There were plenty of Bayern fans dotted around in the stadium, and nobody seemed bothered – you wouldn’t get that in the top flight of English football, let alone being able to drink beer whilst watching the game. Even though they had been held 0-0 earlier in the season, the poor form of Hamburg over the past year, combined with Bayern’s recent 6-0 win in the league, was a sure fire recipe for a dominating affair. And just as in the previous night, it was 2-0 right before half time; thanks to a wonder 30-yard strike from Alaba. The crowd we were stood with were all friendly, and in good spirits, and without being directly involved in the politics of Hamburg football, it’s easy to avoid the default St Pauli position of hating HSV. However, I do have a lot of respect for a large group of HSV fans, who are taking a lead from FCUM, and in protest at the club moving the dominant ownership of the club from the fans to the shareholders, are boycotting the club, and next season will start up their own team ‘HFC Falke’ – the fan ownership revolution is going global!
Overall, it was cheap to watch, the atmosphere just as good, and the football better (albeit marginally from the home side). Bayern ran out 3-1 winners, and their fans got the party going with lots of jumping and smoke bombs. Unsurprisingly, Frank Ribbery was booed extensively by the crowd for dirty play, and in the dying a seconds a HSV fan ran onto the pitch and whipped him in the face with his scarf, classy! All in all it was great to tick off another German stadium visited, and to watch some teams that I had never seen play before.
We rounded off the night by taking in a final beer at the ‘Tankstelle’, a dodgy HSV supporter’s bar in the Reeperbahn, just for fun. Thankfully the ‘top boys’ were elsewhere, and we were able to sup a peaceful beer and watch the highlights of the other cup games that took place that night.
Once again, Hamburg never failed to impress, and it has certainly continued to set a high benchmark for future trips to watch German football.