2014 wasn’t a year of footballing success for St. Pauli. A year which started with the club in the midst of an unexpected promotion chase ended with the club planning for the realistic possibility of relegation to the third tier. However, it wasn’t all bad. Yorkshire St. Pauli FC started the year with the intention of using football as a means of further strengthening the links we had already formed between Yorkshire St. Pauli and local refugee charity PAFRAS.
Consensus amongst members was that if we turned our irregular football kickabouts into weekly sessions and publicised them at PAFRAS drop-in centres that we’d gain some interest.
In February we hosted our first ANTIRA football tournament, inspired by those we’d attended in previous years.
Having never won a competitive (or otherwise) fixture prior to the tournament, any points picked up were to be considered a success amongst the YSP ranks! It was somewhat of a surprise then when Team 1 won 9-3 in the opening game and followed this up with a 6-2 victory in the second game. Bemused looks were aplenty. However Team 1 struggled against better opposition and got knocked out in the semi finals of the higher trophy. Elsewhere, Team 2 had also picked up a victory in their group, and qualified for the lower trophy where they reached the final before being beaten 8-3 by Nick’s AllStars. The higher trophy was deservedly won by United Glasgow. It was a great weekend amongst teams with similar principles and ethos to ours, and we vowed to do it again later in the year.
Buoyed by some decent results in the tournament, YSP FC got ideas well and truly above their stations and decided to enter a competitive 5-a-side league at Powerleague. Oops…
The end of March saw our first league fixture, a 9-3 defeat against a very kind but ruthless opponent! The results didn’t get any better, however the main result was that the team had featured 8 refugees & asylum seekers from PAFRAS in the 6 games we’d played and we now had enough players to field a full 11-a-side team! Unfortunately the last game of the season ended on a sour note, with the team we were playing seemingly intent on injuring our players rather than scoring goals. The opening moments of the game saw a tackle on one of our players which was not dissimilar to the foul by ‘Wacko’ in Mike Bassett’s opening game as England manager. For those unfamiliar with the film, skip to 21:25 on the clip here.
Entering the league had caused us a problem – not the results or some of the teams thinking they were playing in the Premiership, but an influx of people wanting to play for the team. With a squad of 12, it was no longer feasible to field a 5 a side team. Nor was it much fun losing comprehensively each week.
Another problem we’d encountered was not having enough kit. Inviting service users from PAFRAS meant we had to ensure we could provide for them. FC St. Pauli donated us some kit, and our members and followers on social media donated kit. We also received donations which allowed us to buy other bits of kit we needed, and soon enough we had 3 bags of kit we needed to find space for!
With increased interest, a group discussion decided that we should continue playing every week but we should play amongst ourselves and welcome more people to join us for a friendly kick about in an uncompetitive setting. The idea of our ‘Football For All’ initiative was born. It was a simple idea – book a pitch for 2pm every Sunday, publicise it and ask people to pay a suggested donation of £3 if they could afford to do so. Here’s a photo which summarises the first event…
Attendances each Sunday seemed to double, with new faces being welcomed both from PAFRAS and also from people who had just heard about the initiative on social media and wanted to get involved. The original 6/7 of us who were keen to play football regularly had been joined by another 15-20 people keen on the idea of what we were trying to achieve. Success.
Part 2 later in the week will cover the rest of the year, involving a Football Beyond Borders tournament, the second ever YSP ANTIRA tournament and a friendly with a Celtic Supporters Club.