A football result isn’t important. In theory it should be, but it’s not. It might be a brief positive or negative factor on your enjoyment, but the result is often forgotten within hours. The lasting factor of any football match is the memories, the laughs shared with friends, the atmosphere that keeps you singing way into the night. That’s what our group trip to St. Pauli was about last weekend.
In September a few of our members had mooted the idea of going over to Hamburg at the end of October, and soon enough we had 13 members signed up for the trip, though it was dependent on the day the fixture landed on. The DFL fixture lottery was (somewhat) kind to us and gave us a Friday evening game, avoiding the dreaded Monday night fixture. The flights and hotel were booked and the tickets were ordered (a huge thanks to the Fanladen as always for accommodating us!), and the countdown to the first relatively organised Yorkshire St. Pauli trip to Hamburg was planned.
The trip had also coincided with an event – the International Refugee Summit, organised by various St. Pauli groups, including the 1910 Museum, the Fanräume and USP Antirazzista. The fundraising event incorporated many groups, coming together to discuss refugee situations in Hamburg and beyond, play some football and to raise money for some excellent refugee projects – including the current ongoing situation with Lampedusa refugees in Hamburg. We were honoured to be invited to take part in the event, and were overwhelmed when we learnt that local Leeds charity PAFRAS (Positive Action For Refugees And Asylum Seekers) who we have been supporting in the past few months would receive a split of the profits raised from the event. As a fanclub from outside Germany, we always look on in envy at the amazing work that is done by the many active fanclubs to support such causes on a regular basis, and for our small fanclub to be involved in such an event was something we truly never believed would happen.
The plans became even more exciting when it was arranged for us to have a special “Yorkshire St. Pauli” night in the St. Pauli’s iconic Jolly Roger pub. As the days ticked away and the last few bits were organised, it was finally time to head to the airport!
After a couple of beers at Manchester Airport it was time to depart for Hamburg, where the plan was to get from our base at the Meininger Hotel in Altona to the Jolly Roger in time for our party starting at 8. Unfortunately as some of you will have experienced at our meetings – things very rarely run on time! After deciding it was probably sensible to eat something before the Jolly, we arrived fashionably late for our own party! Having got set-up for our DJs to play we proceeded to order copious amounts of Astra and partied well into the night. To help raise funds for the refugee projects as part of the International Refugee Summit, the 1910 Museum had kindly donated some special drinks to be served at the event, with the Jolly Roger supporting the event and agreeing that all profits from those special drinks could be donated to the projects. We added to the rum, vodka and gin with a box of Yorkshire Tea bags. We know how to throw a party!
The Jolly was busier than we had expected, despite it being a Thursday night with work in the morning for many! On a personal note, it was great to meet so many people I had met on previous trips, along with a few new faces – including the group from United Glasgow FC who were taking part in the International Refugee Summit, and Buci, the guy who made the “Yorkshire Is Brown White” banner which has proudly sat at the top of our website for several years! Not to mention many faces I had last seen in a rather drunken state on the Sonderzug. It’s great to feel familiar to many people when several hundred miles away from home.
The party went on until the early hours, even continuing after the last of our Yorkshire based members headed to bed around 2am. The walk back to our hotel in Altona was a good way to sober up, at least. It was a great night, and we have to say a huge thank you in particular to those who organised it, to the Jolly Roger for allowing us to host the party, and to everyone who came and showed their support. Hopefully we’ll get an opportunity to do it again in the future!
Despite the late night the night before, we were somehow up bright and early the next morning. We made the 25 minute walk from Altona to St. Pauli and had an excellent breakfast in Cafe Miller (http://www.cafe-miller.de) just round the corner from the Millerntor. The English Breakfast comes with a “Cafe Miller Twist”, which I guess is that it comes with salad – including sliced oranges next to your beans! It was great, but the jury is definitely still out on whether salad and orange slices should be included in a Full English!
Thanks to Sönke from the 1910 Museum, a tour of the Millerntor had been organised for us and the United Glasgow FC group. A huge thanks to Sven Brux (again!) for finding time on a match day to accommodate us, and for being an excellent guide round the ground. Here’s a selection of our pictures from inside the ground…
We somehow also invented the Millerntor Jump picture. Take one next time you’re at the ground and send it to us on Facebook or Twitter. How high can you go?
Next up on the guided tour was a trip inside Rota Flora, an occupied social centre in the nearby district of Sternschanze. The Rota Flora is a former theatre, which was occupied in 1989. It still remains occupied today, despite several attempts to evict those inside and knock the building down. The area around Rota Flora is quite frightening, with bars, shops, bars, shops and more bars. The gentrification of this area is quite astonishing, following a 20 year period from the late 1980s of continued redevelopment – bringing in higher rents, commercial properties and the middle classes. We were given a great talk about the Rota Flora, its history and how it is organised and run, as well as shown round some of the varied areas of the building. The Rota Flora stands in the middle of the new glossy buildings, as a big “fuck you” sign to the neighbourhood it overlooks. That’s a symbol we admire. More on the Rota Flora situation can be read here.
After lunch at the Backbord (a must-visit on any St. Pauli trip for the Currywurst and Schnitzel) it was time to head to the ground for the game. As is often the case on St. Pauli trips, the time goes incredibly quick. Soon we stood outside the Fanladen having collected our tickets, and our group kept expanding as more of our members and friends joined us.
This time last year, me and fellow YSP member Luke were in Hamburg for the Dresden game, and amongst others met Nick – a St. Pauli fan based in Buckinghamshire, home of the Queen. Despite his rather posh accent, he was a great guy who had some excellent stories of his trips to St. Pauli and I’ve been on several trips with him and his mate Shaun (more on him later) since. Nick unfortunately doesn’t have the best of luck with transport, and after his disastrous journey to Hamburg last time (see here: http://outside-left.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/2-unlimited.html) he was again running late. Thankfully he managed to arrive an hour before kick off and even had time for a beer to calm his nerves after panicking he might miss the game.
Our members from the UK were soon joined by some of our wonderful German members, and before long our group had more than 20 of us! We’d made the decision to try and get into the ground early and get a good vantage point, with some of us opting to be ‘in amongst it’ right in the middle of the Sudkurve, whilst others had opted for the quieter and less bouncy corner areas of the terrace. One of my favourite parts of watching St. Pauli is watching the ground fill up and the atmosphere build up before the game starts. Unlike the grounds in England where fans get into the ground after kick-off and aren’t really bothered about creating an atmosphere to support their players, the fans get in early and create an atmosphere to inspire the players and get behind them from the start. While Friday evening games generally don’t have the best atmosphere (many have just left work, no time for beer, etc.) the atmosphere in the middle of the Sudkurve was excellent, as always. The Gegengerade was also the loudest I had heard it. The organisation of the ‘support block’ from the various fan clubs situated in the Genengerade has had a really positive effect, and it sounds awesome as the noise echoes across the ground.
The game also coincided with the anniversary of the St. Pauli fan group ‘Aktionsbündnis gegen Homophobie und Sexismus Sankt Pauli’. The group had asked for fans and fanclubs to mark the occasion with flags, banners and plenty of colours! Yorkshire St. Pauli were happy to show our support for such a great group, and spent a couple of weeks making a banner. A particular thanks to our members Nicole and Chris who spent a couple of weeks preparing the banner and turning their kitchen into a makeshift flag-making warehouse! Here’s the end result hanging in the Millerntor…
I can’t tell you much about the game itself, as I didn’t see much of it. The flags in front of us often covered most of the pitch from our viewpoint, but I hadn’t come for the footy anyway, but to soak in the atmosphere, bounce and try to muster some German chants in a Yorkshire Accent. Wa’ Sin ‘Ecken…
After the match an official demonstration had been organised to support the Lampedusa refugees. In recent weeks the situation has escalated, and we’ve watched on from Yorkshire with interest, wishing we could show our solidarity with those affected. No person should be classed as illegal, a person’s place of birth should not decide where that person should be allowed to live and no person should be made to feel like they do not belong – especially when they have had to flee horrendous circumstances and conditions that most of us would struggle to imagine, let alone deal with. Thankfully, not everyone has the same narrow-minded views as the politicians who simply say “it’s not our problem”, and estimates suggest around 8000-10,000 joined in the solidarity demonstration.
Whilst stood waiting for the march to begin, we were having a conversation about previous trips when Nick explained how much his mate Shaun had loved the song Flying Pizza by Swearing At Motorists, the band of our German based member Dave Doughman. As an impromptu show of respect for Shaun who sadly couldn’t join us for the trip, we rang him and Dave proceeded to sing the song down the phone to him. Even when your hundreds of miles away, you can still be part of St. Pauli!
The march got underway, going right from the Millerntor and through the district before heading back up the Reeperbahn where it stopped momentarily infront of the flashing lights. In the dark it was hard to see how far back the demonstration went, but it seemed to carry on forever.
After 2 hours, the demonstration reached the St. Pauli Church, which is providing accommodation for some of the refugees, lead by chants of “Sing it loud, sing it clear, refugees are welcome here”. It was a truly remarkable experience to witness such amazing support for a cause. For me, this is what St. Pauli signifies and why I fell in love with this club. Here’s a quote from Nick’s blog about the trip (here) which sums it up perfectly…
“Sometimes, I struggle to explain to people exactly why I travel over to Germany three or four times a year to watch St. Pauli. This weekend is why. I also sometimes mentally work my way through the list of the 92 League clubs in the UK thinking: is there a club where, after a game, 10,000 fans would join a march in support of a cause that is actually nothing to do with their football team and everything to do with fairness, equality and improving the lives of those less fortunate than them? I simply can’t think of one. That’s why I love St. Pauli. And that’s why, with every visit, I realise that the football is just a fraction of it.”
After saying goodbye to a couple of friends we headed back to the hotel bar, where some of us stayed up longer than others! I was still wide awake, full of positivity from the night’s events and still humming along…refugees are welcome here. Me and Nick made full use of the Table Football on offer in the hotel bar, and having taken an early lead Nick managed to pull it back to 5-4 before telling me the next goal was the decider! He wasn’t joking when he said there was only 10 balls, which meant the possibility of ending in a draw. The inevitable happened, Nick scored an equaliser which was no doubt through a defensive mix-up and the game had ended in the world’s first table football draw.
Me and Luke finally retired to bed at 4am, in a haze of Astra filled happiness. Our hotel room was on the 6th floor, but for some reason the lift in the bar only went up to the 5th floor. When the door opened on the 5th floor we walked down the corridor and remembered that a couple of our members, Ness and Dom, were staying on the 5th floor. Room 513. In the Astra-fuelled state, it seemed hilarious to post a couple of Yorkshire St. Pauli cards and stickers under the door, just to greet them in the morning. This was so funny at the time that I was in tears of laughter. In hindsight it wasn’t that funny! The next morning I was still giggling when I asked Dom whether he’d got our presents. He hadn’t. They were staying in Room 515.
On Saturday morning we had scheduled the first ever international Yorkshire St. Pauli football match. We met up with Dave who knew a ‘gummiplatz’ just off the Reeperbahn and after clearing the leaves and glass off the pitch we were set to go! We made a last minute signing in the form of Ginczek! A youngster wearing his Ginczek trikot that is. Mini-Ginczek was playing in the opposite goal, so we invited him to join in. Our first international signing! As it turned out, he was the best player on the pitch and will definitely go onto bigger and better things – but hopefully he’ll remember his international debut for YSP FC.
After that it was onto the International Refugee Summit held at the Fanräume. The Fanladen had also opened, and the sofas provided a great way to ease the pain of playing 90 minutes of football for the first time in years! The Gezi Park Fiction St. Pauli Catering Team had provided an excellent brunch, and drinks were available for a donation. We had speakers from some excellent projects, including USP Antirazzista on their work with various refugee groups and the support they provide. The USP Antirazzista were a major inspiration for us when we were establishing our links with PAFRAS earlier this year, and it was great to hear more about their work – including bringing people to games from refugee camps, including Horst – some 50km away from St. Pauli.
We also had a presentation from a representative of Lampedusa Hamburg, with a background on the events and also the uncertain future that the refugees face, which really put into context the demonstration from the night before. United Glasgow FC also gave an excellent insight into their amazing work in their community, using football as a positive tool to bring people from all backgrounds together. It showed how powerful football can be as a social event, and also showed what can be achieved thanks to the hard work put in my an excellent group of people.
Myself and Nicole also gave a presentation on the background of Yorkshire St. Pauli and our link with PAFRAS, something we hope to build on following a positive couple of months. The information given and stuff we learnt from the other groups about how they provide support and assistance was certainly food-for-thought and will hopefully help us develop our links further. As a group who are relatively new, it was a privilege to be amongst such company and learn from those with first hand experience.
After the speeches there was a football match between Lampedusa Hamburg and United Glasgow FC. Only Nick and Dave had the strength of play any sort of football after our morning kick-about, while the rest of us were struggling to stay awake after two late nights in a row. We made the decision to eat, shower and for some even get a nap before heading out into St. Pauli for our last night! Unfortunately we’d heard that police were everywhere in the district and had gathered outside of the Jolly Roger, so we decided to avoid the area. Instead we ventured to our favourite place – The Meininger bar! After meeting Nick and another of our German members Christian at Altona station and several drinks in the hotel bar we proceeded to look for somewhere else to drink.
Unfortunately, despite the help of our phones we seemed to walk completely in a circle without finding anywhere that looked suitable to drink – until we ended up in a small pub just round the corner from Altona Station! Whilst me and Christian sang the entire back catalogue of 90s football chants, Dom and Nick had somehow started their own fanclub – Buckinghamshire St. Pauli. The idea of Buckinghamshire St. Pauli was to take fanclubs back to the 90s, where no internet existed and everything was done by paper. They promised to write to members by hand, and membership included a Parker pen. Essentially they were the fanclub for the Over 50s. They will soon have their own TV commercial starring Michael Parkinson.
As the rest headed for bed, I escorted Christian to the station to ensure he got his train home safely. What we didn’t account for was the sign on the platform “Betriebsruhe” – or “Shutdown period” in English. Christian was confused, probably more through Astra than the sign, but so were the rest of the platform. A rail worker soon found himself surrounded by people wanting to know what was going on. What no-one had seemingly remembered was that the clocks had gone back, and German efficiency meant that the trains had to pause to allow the timetables to be correct! However he informed us that a train would be there in 6 minutes. In Christian’s drunken wisdom, he decided this was definitely enough time to grab a burger! In a scene befitting of Yorkshire’s own Chuckle Brothers, me and Christian ran across the station discussing whether it was possible to get served and get back to the platform in time for the train. Thankfully we made it just down the steps of the platform in time for the train approaching.
On Sunday we wanted to actually see some of St. Pauli and Hamburg – as we had seen nothing but the Jolly, Millerntor and bottles of Astra since we had arrived, as is usual practise. After a visit to the Elbtunnel and the Hafenstrasse and one last meal in the Backbord it was time to head back to Manchester.
Another trip was over, and yet again it was the friends who made it, not the result. Not just those friends who I’ve known for years through watching games in Yorkshire – hundreds of miles away from the Millerntor, but those friends who marched in solidarity, with a common cause and belief. It’s strange to feel at home amongst strangers, but St. Pauli brings everyone together – likeminded people who not only share the same values, but who stand together and fight for those values. Whether you’ve grown up in the neighbourhood, you’re a fan from another country or you’re a refugee who is considered ‘illegal’ by the government.
Everyone is welcome in St. Pauli. Kein mensch ist illegal.