It’s with great sadness that the club has announced what has become increasingly inevitable over recent months – Fabian Boll will retire at the end of the season. A statement on the club’s official site says “we also have a lump in our throat”. It’s the day that we hoped would never come, but in reality we knew it would. It’s not often that a player embodies the spirit and the meaning of a football club, but Fabian Boll has done just that. Boll, who is also a part time police officer, joined in 2002 and was quickly promoted from St. Pauli II into the first team. He was part of the team that won promotion from the dark days in the Regionalliga Nord and subsequently won promotion to the Bundesliga.
Boll has made 290 appearances for the first team, scoring 32 goals from his central midfield role. Unfortunately he has missed much of the last couple of seasons through various injuries, and Boll has decided to hang up his boots at the end of the season. Hopefully ‘Boller’ will grace the Millerntor pitch again before the end of the season. As the announcement by the club said, ‘It is hard to believe what our captain, as a player and a personality, has done for this club.’.
In an interview for our ‘Weisse Rose’ fanzine just over a year ago, Fabian Boll told us about his time at the club. Here’s the interview again below. Thanks for everything Boller, you’ll truly never walk alone.
Fabian Boll encompasses the spirit of St. Pauli both on and off the field. At first he was a fan, then an amateur player, and now he is the captain of St. Pauli. In the past decade he has witnessed many ups and downs at the Millerntor, and he has also combined his combative midfield role with another job—as a police officer in Hamburg.
You have been at St. Pauli for over a decade now, what are you first memories of joining St. Pauli?
My first thoughts about FC St. Pauli were as a fan rather than as a player. In the summer of 2002 I joined the St. Pauli Amateurs and had to wait for my first appearance due to not having official authorisation to play. After my previous club, Eintracht Norderstedt, was wound up, everything went quickly. Hermann Klauck, the manager of FC St. Pauli Amateurs, phoned me and asked whether I wouldn’t mind moving to FC St. Pauli. I didn’t have to consider it for long, as I got the chance to play for my favourite club. My first game was then against Altona 93, which we won 1-0 in front of more than 1,000 spectators. At the end of the season we became champions. We had lots of fun in the squad and were very successful.
What was it like joining the team that you had supported?
After the professional team was relegated there weren’t many players left that I had previously spurred on. It was nevertheless very exciting. But one man stayed, Holger Stanislawski – “The Godfather of St Pauli football”. To meet him in person was pretty strange. He phoned me one time and as his name appeared on my telephone, I was out of my mind with excitement. I was immediately impressed with Stani: he knew straight away the names of all the new juniors who had just been thrust into the team.
You wear the number 17 shirt. Was there any particular reason for wearing the number 17?
After Ivan Klasnic left, Alexander Meier (now at Eintracht Frankfurt) had taken over the number 17. As they both started afresh, I decided on the number 17 prior to the season. I just simply liked the number, also because Ivan and Alex, as juniors, had made the jump into the professional team and it ought to be a good omen for me. The number 17 became a certain component in my life; I also work at the police comissioner’s office number 17.
Over the past 11 years you have seen St. Pauli struggle in the lower divisions, and also earn promotion to the Bundesliga. What are your favourite memories?
There are many many moments. Of course, the absolute highlights remain the most positive in your memory, the two promotions in 2007 and 2010. Also the DFB-Pokal games that we put together remain unforgettable forever. One highlight was followed by the next. Even when we lost in the cup semi final against Bayern Munich (0-3), the memory remains that even during the warm-up at the Millerntor it was loud like rarely before. The season in the Bundesliga (2010/11) with the derby victory also can’t be overlooked, of course.
In recent seasons you have also scored some good goals. Is the goal in the derby against HSV your best goal ever, though?
Absolutely, that’s true. I have scored a few goals though that were also important but more beautiful. But after the goal in the derby there was such a loud atmosphere in the stadium, the likes of which I had not previously experienced. That was a really special experience. A hurricane of joy blew through the entire district.
What was it like to be named captain of St. Pauli?
On the one hand I was pleased with the recognition and honour. When I was 14 or 15 years old, I still stood as a fan in the stadium and then suddenly you are running into the stadium as captain. Being captain hasn’t changed me though. I remain as I was. I’d already had the task over the last few years of steering the ship in the right direction.
Now, we must ask about your police work. We find it incredible (in the context of modern football) that you also work at the police station as well, despite being a footballer for St. Pauli. When did you start working for the police?
In 1999, after I finished my A levels and after I finished school in the May, I began work in the Police by the October. It was clear to me very quickly that I wanted to go into the Police force. After I wasn’t taken on in Schleswig Holstein, fortunately it worked out in Hamburg.
From 1999 until 2002 I completed my training, then my exam at Police College. Whether I remain at the club after my active playing days or just work for the Police….we’ll have to wait and see.
How many hours per week do you work for the police?
Officially I have a 20 hour week. I divide it like this – to work 4 or 5 hours every day. Sometimes I don’t manage the 20 hours, particularly when we are training twice a day. But then I’ll spend free days totally in the office. That’s how it evens itself out.
We also heard that you do work for the ‘Weisse Ring’ association. Can you tell us about Weisse Ring, and the work that you do with them?
The “Weisse Ring” is a victim protection organisation. The basic concept is to help people who have become victims of crime (e.g. violent robbery) and to take them in hand. This includes for one psychological/ emotional support through dialogue, but also financial support. It is also valid to pursue the prevention of violence and this is then more my job. The best victim protection is to become effectively preventative and particularly to not let young people have stupid thoughts. We’ve developed several projects, like street soccer tournaments, training equipment and camps.
Last year, Hermann Schmidt wrote a biography titled “Fabian Boll: Das Herz von St. Pauli” (The Heart of St. Pauli). What was it like to have a book written about your time at the club?
You feel older than you actually are. A book would usually be written about you towards the end of your life. Hermann asked me back then whether he could write a book about me. For me the thought was a bit weird at first, but I had the feeling that I had experienced so many things at FC St Pauli that could be written about. I gave Hermann free rein with the book.
I had very regular conversations with him in order that he could get the required information. It’s a pretty crass feeling to walk past a book shop and see in the window a book with yourself on the cover. It’s a bit odd because I’m actually not the bloke who wants the limelight. But friends say it’s really cool to have a book in your hand with one of your best mates on the cover.
Finally, In your opinion, why is FC St. Pauli so special?
Earlier, when I began at FC St. Pauli, the closeness between the team and the fans was even more real. Because of the infrastructure alone. We always had to pass by many fans on our way through the clubhouse to the meeting room. It wasn’t rare to stay with the fans longer than is usual after the games and you would drink a beer or two with them. The club has a special relationship with the district, especially as our Millerntor Stadion is situated in the middle of the district.
Many of the new stadia are built outside the city centre. With us the stadium is in the heart of the city and this gives it a particular English flair. And to play here at the Millerntor in front of more than 20,000 fans is really something special. Because there’s so little resentment here, even when on occasions we play badly. So we can consider ourselves very lucky. Our fans have always been self- deprecating, creative and non-violent. Compared to lots of German clubs, FC St. Pauli is led in a very informal but also respectable manner. Here you can only feel good about yourself!