Early morning flights. They seem such a good idea at the time, don’t they? A flight time of 06:40 doesn’t seem too unreasonable, and the price of £9.99 makes it even more reasonable. But then you don’t factor in the 3am wake-up, the sleepy journey to the airport and the full day ahead of you on little to no sleep. The early flight had taken our first casualty. A forgotten passport left back in Leeds meant one of our party had to miss the flight. Early morning flights do that to you.
A quick nap on the flight and before long we’re in Hamburg, a perfectly reasonable place to be on a Tuesday morning. Honest. After a few trips to St. Pauli the giddy routine of a morning beer with your currywurst on the Reeperbahn is replaced with a much more sensible coffee whilst taking in the sights of Hamburg. Either that or it’s my age catching up with me. I’ve long since stopped counting my trips over to Hamburg, but I’ve yet to see any of the city centre, except for the Rathaus (town hall) when I had a minor hungover breakdown trying to find my way to the airport on a very early return flight some years ago. See previous article on incident here.
There’s only so much to do Hamburg, and less so in St. Pauli. Apologies, Hamburg tourist board. And if your plans don’t involve eating or drinking then your choices are even further limited. There’s a hilarious waxwork museum on the Reeperbahn, that’s well worth the entry fee so we’re told.
Anyway, back to the trip. Apologies for the unorganised ramblings contained within. There’s only so much you can write about St. Pauli – both the club and the district, but it’s my third trip in as many months and I’ve struggled to write anything about the previous two so I decided I must finish something resembling a report for this one.
After a quick peek in the Rathaus we took the walk to St. Pauli. It’s well worth doing, particularly if you take in Park Fiction and Landusbrucken too. It’s only 12pm and we’ve already been travelling for 8 hours. Thankfully the excitement of being back in the district outweighs the feeling of tiredness, and a couple of beers refreshes the spirit. At this point, comes the first and perhaps only serious point of blog, and a disclaimer that this is a personal view and not necessarily those of the group etc.
At the bar is a group of English guys, so one of our guys make an effort to talk. Perhaps they may be interested to know about a fanclub close to home, who meet up and watch games etc. Unfortunately, their interest was more focussed on the Reeperbahn and the red light district than the ethos of St. Pauli. It brings me nicely to the following paragraph I wrote two months ago on my way back from Hamburg, before I got writer’s block (can you get this when you are not a writer?) and didn’t know what else I wanted to say. So here goes..
People find Sankt Pauli for different reasons. Whether it’s the left-wing politics that is intrinsically linked with the club, the rock and roll music that provides the background to the club, or the rumours they hear on the internet of a club a stone’s throw away from the red light district, roared on by its fans. We all have our own tales, our own reasons for being drawn to the club and the district that it lies within. The beauty of those stories is that they focus on what is important about the football club, and none of them mention success, league titles or multi-millionaire footballers. That’s why St. Pauli is so special, because it brings people together under the umbrella of a football club, when the football club is a passionate excuse, and not the fundamental cause.
Sankt Pauli found me. I didn’t have a major interest in politics or punk rock music before St. Pauli, St. Pauli taught me. Not the club, but the district and the people. I’m always optimistic that those people who go to St. Pauli for the first time come away from it with the same thoughts. Yes it’s a great atmosphere and it’s novel to drink beer on the terraces, but it’s also a club and more importantly a district that proudly stands up against discrimination, racism, sexism, and hopefully those values resonate with those flying home.
There’s a reason to protect St. Pauli. To keep those with no interest in the ethos of the club on the other side of the Reeperbahn. Partly selfishly, to ensure that reputations of English fans of St. Pauli isn’t tarnished by the behaviours of those on stag do’s or banter lads holidays. (disclaimer – not all of these are the same). If your first interest is the Reeperbahn and it’s sex district, then perhaps your interest conflicts with those of St. Pauli.
I did warn you this was going to consist of several ramblings. Back to the light-hearted stuff. After a couple of Jevers in Millers and then a trip to the Eck for an Astra (taste difference noted) we headed to collect our tickets.
At this stage, a mammoth thank you to the fan organisation whom shall remain unnamed for their incredible patience, support and help as always this season. An email into their inbox from Yorkshire must always fill them with panic, another endless lists of requests or questions that always cause trouble. Their tireless work and incredible organisation is recognised and hugely appreciated.
Tickets sorted along with future trips organised, we made our way to our hotel. Which will remain unnamed also. But Fawlty Towers probably does it justice. Whilst the flight prices had been super cheap for this trip, every single hotel in Hamburg had been sold out or priced ridiculously. Very bizarre. We were told it may be something to do with an airplane exhibition or something happening in the city, which asks as many questions as it does answers. If you know why Hamburg hotels were all fully booked this week, answers on a postcard! (or via Twitter).
Ok, answer from Christoph – National Maritime Conference. Including Angela Merkel in attendance.
The walk to the hotel meant a some sobering fresh air and a realisation that we’d now been up 12 hours, and still had several hours left before the match and any reasonable bedtime. Suddenly those cheap flights were starting to backfire.
Speaking of backfiring, Chris YSP attempted to have a shower to freshen himself up before the game. Unfortunately the shower had holes in the back of the shower head which squirted water everywhere. Shower problems forgotten about, we headed back to the ground for the game. It was great to meet up with our friends from FC Lampedusa St. Pauli at their stall outside the stadium and talk about future plans between FCLSP and YSP FC, and before long it was time to head into the ground.
The game itself was poor. Really poor. Sandhausen were down to 10 men relatively early in the game, and seemed happy to just see the game out in the hope that St. Pauli wouldn’t score. A combination of a lack of ideas from St. Pauli and a resolute Sandhausen defence meant the goal never really looked like coming. Mats Moller Daehli missed the game through illness, and his creativity was sorely missed. Sahin looked like the only player who could make the difference but it wasn’t to be. I also have to say that the atmosphere was strangely quiet, perhaps because of the early kick-off and where we were stood on the corner of the terrace. I’d written last week about the run-in of those in the relegation battle, and how St. Pauli should be confident of surviving the drop. But if performances over the last two games continue then we’ll struggle, because those teams around us are getting better each week.
After the game the early flight had well and truly caught up with us, and after a quick meal (Maharaja – well recommended) we walked back to the hotel in the completely wrong direction due to my poor navigating skills. Just what you need when you’ve been up since 3am.
The return Ryanair flight is like a breathe of fresh air, with a nice relaxed 09:40am departure. But then you realise that you still need to be up for 7am, which really is 6am GMT, and all of a sudden your body and brain aren’t in working order anymore. What was heartwarming was the amount of St. Pauli fans on the flight back talking about what is important – the atmosphere, the culture and the ethos of the club. It’s a long way to go for a 0-0, and even longer when you’re on the cheap Ryanair flights, but thankfully it’s not about the football.