I first ventured to St. Pauli in 2008 with a Celtic Supporters Club based in Derry. We all know the links with Celtic and St. Pauli (If not check out www.thecelticwiki.com) and I wanted to experience the atmosphere first hand, and what an atmosphere that was. Unforgettable, Unstoppable and Untameable.
We dropped our luggage off at the hotel and went for a few beers then onto see the sights. And sights they where! “Disney World for men” one of our tour guides said to us, and if you ever go there you’ll see what he means!
We went to watch St. Pauli v SpVgg Greuther Fürth. We where hurried along, what seemed to be narrow corridors with thousands of fans onto the terraces where we were treated to choruses of ‘Antifa Hooligan’ and other songs that made the place come alive!
The stadium was mesmerising with ticker-tape displays, hundreds of flags and thousands of fans singing along to every hymn that was pumped out by the hardcore fans in the terrace opposite; and remember, this was a normal league game. I was hooked.
So who are St. Pauli?
Well, the fans would say an anti establishment family whose values are based on social inclusion and the collective thinking of many a fine mind, who stand under the motto ‘Non established since 1910’. I would have to agree in all honestly.
In 1899 the club began as an informal group of football enthusiasts within the . The group didn’t play its first game until 1907 and that game was against a local swimming club. It was not until on 15 May 1910 the club was officially established and they played as St. Pauli TV. The club played under the reorganised leagues of the Third Reich with little success and dropped down the leagues until 1940 until they made their way to the Gauliga (highest level of play in German football from 1934-45) where they played until the end of World War Two.
After World War Two St. Pauli didn’t have much success and were taken over by their rivals of Hamburg, Werder Bremen and VfL Osnabrück in the leagues that followed and St. Pauli only survived one season at the highest level in the Bundesliga.
It wasn’t until the late 1980s that St Pauli, after near bankruptcy, began to become a successful football side. This is also went hand-in-hand with their new found status as a ‘Cult Club’.
St. Pauli realised that they could use the party atmosphere of the Reeperbhan (Google it! Over 18’s only!) to their advantage. Fans harnessed the party atmosphere and this along with leftist political ideas (Once entered a World Club competition as the “Republic of St. Pauli”!) opened new doors and a new image for the club. They had emerged as a German club that had shuffled off their country’s history in the World Wars and became an entity onto themselves. This is when they adopted the world famous Skull and crossbones – The Jolly Rodger! It is believed that the Jolly Roger was adopted because a lot of squatters from the well known squats down at the docks in the 1980s brought a skull and crossbones flag to the club, as a joke, but it spread, and became the clubs mascot!
St. Pauli’s fortunes were mixed in the 1980’s but the club marched on with an ever increasing fan base; local squatters, anarchists, prostitutes, students and punks started filling the creaking terraces of the Millerntor Stadium, giving it a very different character, a uniqueness that lasts to this very day.
The St. Pauli fans regard themselves as anti-racist, anti-fascist and anti-sexist; a trait that they hold dear to their core. This has occasionally brought them into conflict with neo-nazis who oppose their very existence.
St. Pauli is known as a worldwide symbol for punk and related subcultures. The club opens its home matches with “Hells Bells” by AC/DC, and after every home goal “Song 2” by Blur is played. This adds to the electrifying atmosphere in the ground.
Then there’s the Hamburg SV rivalry. The two clubs share the one city, can you imagine the tension? I’m sure you can.
As the club’s arch-enemy are Hamburger SV, the city of Hamburg’s largest and most successful football club. Past derby matches have taken place under close police watch to keep the supporters of the two sides separated, as HSV has a small, but visible group of neo-fascist fans. During derbies, HSV supporters have held up banners reading “HASS” (hate), or chanted “Zecke verrecke!” (“Ticks, croak it!”), while St. Pauli fans often answer, in allusion to the Italian leftist Ultra scene, “Amburgo, Amburgo: Vaffanculo!” (Hamburg, Hamburg: go f**k off!). Another chant of some HSV supporters is “Eine U-Bahn bauen wir – von St. Pauli bis nach Auschwitz” (“We’ll build a subway – from St. Pauli up to Auschwitz”).
As HSV’s stadium lies on the outskirts of Hamburg, many St. Pauli fans see their club as the only “true” football club in the city.
During my visits to St. Pauli I was treated like gold! The St. Pauli fans have all the time in the world for football fans and are one of the most welcoming clubs that I have had the pleasure of visiting.
The new Millerntor stadium encompasses the past and sets out a very clear plan in what the owners of St. Pauli want the modern team to do; remember your roots, but branch out into the modern football world.
So, in conclusion, I see St. Pauli FC as a club that is steeped in history and the only way to experience this is to visit, no matter what club you support. You’ll never forget it.
Viel Glück St Pauli!
Written by Chris Derry