Why the Yorkshire St. Pauli link with Postive Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers (PAFRAS) is more than ‘Charity’. – By Chris Webster
For the last year or so Yorkshire St. Pauli (YSP) have worked closely with PAFRAS, a Leeds based charity for refugees and asylum seekers. Through providing clothes and monetary donations YSP have actively sought to practice the ethos of the team we love so much and promote this philosophy in our community. The politics connected to St. Pauli is why so many of our members fell in love with the club. An active stance against all forms of discrimination; sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia etc led us to believe that there was more than a glimmer of hope left in an otherwise deeply prejudice culture. FC St. Pauli and it’s affiliated fan groups like ourselves offers and creates a space away from the dogmatic nature of mainstream football, where the result is ultimately the last thing that matters. What does matter is ensuring we create and provide a community where anti-fascist principles are adopted, practised and promoted.
Over the last few months YSP have done this through leaving the pub and attempting to play football with our refugee friends from PAFRAS. Applying the principles that are entrenched in FC St. Pauli’s fanbase we have welcomed the local refugees into our community to play football with us on a weekly basis. In order for this to happen, we provide football kit (also provided by FC St. Pauli) and split the cost of pitch hire between the non-PAFRAS YSP members. However, this is not an act of ‘charity’ in a classic sense. To an extent the term ‘charity’ implies a lack of human interaction, or at least a definitive ‘giver’ and ‘receiver’ of charity. In some cases, this is perfectly acceptable and we, as a fan club, practice this through our donations (raised through membership fees) to PAFRAS. However, what we are trying to do through playing football is blur this distinction between the charity giver and charity receiver. To steal a slogan from the ‘Food Not Bombs’ movement this is an act of solidarity not charity. Yes, we are providing PAFRAS service users with kit, transport and a 5-a-side pitch to play football on but more than anything we are providing a community that welcomes refugees and asylum seekers and views ‘them’ as equals. In the current political climate where UKIP are dominating political debate with disgusting anti-immigration rhetoric, our work in welcoming the very people that society discriminates against is becoming more and more vital. Realistically, a small group of football fans are not going to change the racist views that are so deeply rooted within our society but we have attempted to stop the rot in our community and provide a space where our friends feel welcome, safe and respected.
No Borders, No Nations.