I have a confession, falling in love with FCSP didn’t happen overnight. My first visit to the Millerntor didn’t change my life. Perhaps it was the image of an chaotic anarchist utopia I’d built up in my head, perhaps it was the raging hangover from a night on the Reeperbahn, perhaps it was the fact that it was the most dour FCSP performance I’ve ever seen, but I didn’t walk out of the 2-0 defeat to Eintracht Braunschweig a changed man. In part I think this was due to the fact that being a Palace fan, my team still hasn’t been fully infected by the parasitic nature of modern football, I didn’t come in completely disillusioned and being stood on the Nord Curve didn’t bring the intense atmosphere I was used to at home (I’ll put that one down to inexperience and not knowing about the fanladen at that point).
That being said I still came back with a new determination to keep up with the games back in the UK as opposed to sporadically checking the scores as I had before. Over the course of last season I was drawn more and more into the FCSP web but it was a trip to Prague in the summer that really changed things for me.
A group of friends and I were after a city break and some football to boot, Prague was our choice. I immediately began my research into Prague’s 8(!) different teams and I quickly remembered the amount of Bohemians Praha stickers I had seen in the Jolly and did some googling. With the amazing help of the Barflies United (big up Rudeboys Bohemians and Skinheads St Pauli!) we had suddenly 4 tickets for the big derby, Bohemians vs Slavia Prague.
We’d arranged to meet on the Friday night, the night before the game, to collect the tickets. Any fears of awkward small talk or language barrier was quickly evaporated by the topic of FCSP, they were absolutely crazy for the boys in the brown! Far from the stag do’s and overpriced irish pubs we drank, listened to ska, oi and punk and sung St Pauli songs long into the night. The next day, through a thumping head and bleary eyes I realised with St Pauli really symbolised, that connection immediately marked both groups as being cut from the same cloth, people with the same values.
I realised that what I really loved was the idea of St Pauli, a club and supporters with a commitment to equality and fairness, to diversity and anti-fascism. I think before then I had seen this as a problem, but I realised it was really an advantage, because it was an ethos and one that could transverse borders and clubs. Hearing about the battle the Barflies have had with fascists on their own tribune, fighting with their own fans, reminded me that loving St Pauli doesn’t mean you can’t fight for the same thing within your “home” club. I had felt that on some level picking St Pauli was too “easy” it seemed ready made. But this trip reminded me that it was a small group of determined people standing on the Gegengerade that made FCSP what it is today and that didn’t happen overnight. It was a reminder that loving FCSP didn’t necessarily mean turning your back on English football, or that it meant that by default you could have the moral high ground over “them lot” who cling on to the racist/sexist/homophobic model of support.
FCSP shouldn’t be an opt-out option for those tired with their own team or league, it’s something to grab onto and bring back with you to your own clubs. I’ve been lucky enough to spend some time with Dulwich Hamlet and Clapton this season whose supporters are doing exactly that, building a football that is open and inclusive (both teams are also in desperate need of solidarity right now: support the Clapton boycott and save Dulwich Hamlet!). Loving St Pauli doesn’t mean loving your “home” team any less and wanting to bring a piece of FCSP back with you doesn’t mean loving the boys in brown any less either. To truly love your “home” team and to truly love St Pauli is to join with friends across the world and to fight for a football free of fascists, sexists and discrimination both at home and abroad.
This article was submitted by Gavin O’Donnell. You can follow Gavin at @gaavvvvv.