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FC St Pauli - Germany's Kultklub

By Sean Mahon

Posted: 24th March 2014 11:12

Bayern Munich might be the most famous German football team but there is another team in Germany that is proudly spoken of by the football hipsters, one that is alternative and left field in a way that Bayern Munich could never be: FC St Pauli.

Without question the original ‘kultklub’, St Pauli are very much a product of the area they represent.  The Sankt Pauli district in Hamburg - a former docking town that was once inhabited by sailors is today a hedonistic capital to rival Amsterdam. Home of the infamous Reeperbahn and ‘die suendige Meile’ - kilometre of sin, it is awash with bars, clubs, restaurants, sex shops and erotic cinemas.  Famously, John Lennon once said “I may have been born in Liverpool but I grew up in Hamburg”, after The Beatles had played there for two years between 1960-1962.

The 1980s saw this club really come to the fore as an alternative force.  The Sankt Pauli District saw a large number of squatters move into vacant buildings that were left behind by the dockers in the eighties, in particular on the street of Hafenstrasse.  This led to clashes between protestors and squatters against police and at other times against far right groups.

Football itself was also suffering a bit of an identity crisis particularly in the UK and Germany during the decade, where fan violence was much more prominent than it is today.  St Pauli became a refuge for those who wished to escape the violence and racism; a counter-culture flourished which saw the the ‘squat movement’ move down the road from Hafenstrasse to the Millerntor-Stadion, St Pauli’s decrepit stadium.  The squatters who started to go to St Pauli matches were joined by students, punks, artists, musicians and general sympathisers of the movement.  The stadium was filled with leather jackets, dyed hair, ripped jeans and the pirate flag.  Legend has it that a punk singer who went by the name of Doctor Mabuse once took a pirate flag from the local funfair and carried it to the stadium, and thus became the symbol of the club.

St Pauli eventually became the very first club to officially ban far right groups from its stands and embraced its image as a purveyor of what is morally right, something which no clubs did 30 years ago.  Even as recently as 2002, ads for men’s magazine Maxim were withdrawn from the stadium after protests from fans, who considered them to be sexist.  The club also has a constitution which as one of its key points, is to never sell the name of the stadium - something cash needy clubs today find hard to resist.

Even though they are not as well known as Bayern Munich, they are still a club that deserves a lot of admiration.  St Pauli have never won a thing and play in the Bundesliga 2 yet have managed to get over 11 million registered fans around the world with over 300 official fan clubs.  Although the crazy days of the eighties are long in the past, they still are a special and unique club who are still a lot of people’s favourite underdog.

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