By Lorna Evio
There is a definite appeal about a football club that has AC / DC’s Hells Bells as a theme song and the skull and crossbones as a symbol, while promoting a strong stance against any form of discrimination.
Take a bow FC St Pauli, an unusual football club located in the notorious red light district of Hamburg.
Currently competing in Germany’s second tier, Bundesliga 2, the club’s popularity boomed during the 1980s when FC St. Pauli transitioned from being merely a traditional club to more of a so called “kult” club. In the early 1980s the average home attendance was 1600, but by the late 1990s St. Pauli were regularly selling out their 20,000 capacity Millerntor-Stadion.
Moderately successful on the field, the club has attracted many of its fans through a strong stand against racism, sexism, fascism and homophobia. Known as the most left wing club in the world, they also have the largest female fan base in German football, which can be partly attributed to their ban on any advertising deemed prejudice against women.
These days, support for FC St Pauli extends all the way to our own East River, specifically at the East River Bar (ERB), located on 97 S6th Street, in Williamsburg, under the bridge.
Through the magic of the message board, David Barkhymer was able to locate and organize a very small group of local St. Pauli fans and suggested forming a supporters club which, for David, “sounded more fun than watching the games on my computer alone”.
The group met with Marek, the owner of the ERB and decided that it would be the ideal location of the FC St Pauli supporters club in New York, thanks to its cozy dockyard feel and outside patio where supporters can barbeque and socialize. These days the group averages over 30 fans per game.
David went to his first FC St Pauli game at the Millerntor over 20 years ago and is now committed to arranging the screening all of their matches for the grateful supporters here at the East River Bar.
Having to show the games on tape delay at ERB does not take anything away from the excitement of the match, especially, when you are drinking shots of Knob Creek, a bourbon whiskey that is something of a signature drink with the FC St Pauli supporters because of its “ugly bottle”. So if you enter the bar thinking you are not a whiskey drinker, you will soon realise you are. Trust me.
Watching a game with the FC St Pauli group on a Sunday afternoon with the sun setting and the grill sizzling gave me a sense of how inclusive the group is. It was refreshing to see a football supporters club that welcomes supporters of other teams with such warmth.
Celtic FC is one team that has a special relationship with FC St. Pauli.
“In the early 90s FC St Pauli was not playing in Europe so they decided to support Celtic because both football clubs stood by the same principles,” explained Kevin, one of a number of Celtic fans who had come down to the bar to cheer on their German friends.
The recorded match comes complete with authentic 15-minute half time break, a chance for the club to collect donations for charity. They have supported various causes such as the floods in Pakistan, the earthquakes in Haiti and Japan, and more recently Oxfam and their humanitarian efforts in Egypt.
The New York soccer community is home to many supporters clubs, all of them doing great work for numerous causes.
What is unique about St. Pauli is how this tiny 2nd division German team can capture the imagination on a global scale through its ideas and what they stand for – that what happens outside the pitch is just as important as what happens on it.
Find the NYC St. Pauli fans at www.fcstpaulinyc.com
Follow Lorna Evio on twitter at twitter.com/herrightboot