St Pauli 2 Armenia Bielefeld 0: September 2000

November 27, 2007 at 4:06 am | Posted in Games In My Travels, General Football | Leave a comment

Back in 2000, after having visited Italy, I did a day long train trip up North to Germany.  When I woke up in the Morning I was in Florence.  I took the train to Milan, which was late as all trains in Italy are.  I had planned to go to Koln, however the train had gone so I took a train to Stuttgart instead.  It was a fantastic journey through Switzerland but it was rather late when I finally got to Stuttgart.  I worried I would not be able to find a place to sleep.  I had a look at the departures board and noticed there was a night train to Hamburg.  I made a quick decision and off I went on the sleek, clean  and well organized night train to Hamburg.  No offence to Stuttgart, but I am glad  I did.

I arrived in the Hamburg train station at 6:00 AM and walked off the train to the pulse of German Techno music.  It was so early nothing was open so I went walking about Hamburg.  It was striking how neat and clean and new it is, but of course it had to be rebuilt from the ground up after the bombing during the second world war.

I had my Rough Guide to European Football with me and had read about St Pauli football club.  I wanted to see a game.  Luckily they were playing at home.   As things opened up I began looking through the papers to see if St Pauli were playing that weekend.  I started asking people if they spoke English so they might tell me where to get a ticket and just so happened to speak to a fellow whose dad was English and whose mother was German.  His father was born in Manchester, of all places, and had travelled to Germany after the war to rebuild the country.  He was a very friendly fellow and very eager to help me on my way.  It turned out that he was consul to Trinidad and Tobago, of all things… He showed me where to get a ticket and told me to go to the red light district where hiring a prostitute was, as he put it, “like buying a piece of cake”.    Who says Germans are cold and unfriendly…

I went and got a spot at a hostel and  went to Hamburg’s Art gallery which was absolutely top class and a pleasant surprise.

St Pauli’s ground is called the Millerntor and exists close to the Red Light District known as the Reeperbaum.  St Pauli is a kind of loser’s club which plays in the shadows of the giant HSV Hamburg which is perennially in the Bundesliga, Germany’s top flight.  HSV play in a vast modern stadium.   St Pauli play in a rickety old stadium with a pitch that is clearly crooked and uneven. St Pauli plays in the second division if they are lucky, and often bob down into the lower leagues.   Its fans are happy to do so because they despise the Capitalism of the modern game.  It is the team of rebels, anarchists, punk rockers, aging hippies, romantics and leftists who see themselves in the struggles of the underdog St Pauli FC.   Their club and fans aggressively adopted an anti-racist stance and was probably the first to do so.

That year they did what they rarely do, they were promoted to Bundesliga 1, although they quickly got squashed down back where they belong the following year.  I got to see them in their promotion year, when they beat Armenia Bielefeld.

I bought a standing room ticket and got to experience a game terrace style.  I went to the club shop before the game and bought myself a St Pauli FC pin which I promptly lost on the trip and never found again…   I took my place on the terrace behind the goal in amongst some trees at the top of the terraces.  After the other high tech grounds I had been to this was quite hilariously casual and low tech!  Some fans even climbed the trees to get a better view.   The loudspeakers blared out punk anthems.  Things got packed eventually, and I had to admire the skill with which fans would carry 4 large beers in one hand, weaving in and out of the standing room crowd while not spilling a drop.  I guess this is what happens when you love beer as much as the Germans do!

St Pauli beat Armenia 2-0 on the day with some very nice German style football.  The players were all big strapping lads who played tall and with their heads up.   It was not breathtaking football but there was a lot of technique there.

After the match the players had a lap of honour and thanked all of the fans, something I have never seen for a league win.  Each player did a kind of star jump sideways before the fans on each side of the ground while the fans launched confetti in the air.

Taking the metro home I saw a punk st Pauli fan teasing two clean-shaven Armenia fans, and after doing a chant in front of them which, loosely translated went “shit Armenia! Shit Armenia! shit! shit! shit!”.  She then proceeded to try to do a trade for their scarves.

Being at St Pauli was like going into a time warp to what going to a football match must have been like years ago before it was so commercialized as it is now.  It was great fun and I have to say if I lived in Hamburg I would be tempted to support them rather than HSV.   Realistically, being the footy nut I am I would support them both…

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