Bayern Munich have won the Bundesliga for the past eight seasons. Borussia Dortmund have been champions of Europe and enjoy producing the champions of tomorrow in front of Die Gelbe Wand. Leipzig are ready to challenge the likes of Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain. These are indeed the teams that continue to help put German football on the map. They are representative global powerhouses of the state, with shirt sales from Deutschland to Djibouti
But none have such a passionate universality outside of their division that is enjoyed by their neighbour FC St. Pauli.
A new book St. Pauli Another Football is Possible by Carles Viñas and Natxo Parra ably uncovers why, and helps illuminate why this Hamburg-based outfit “is a football club unlike any other’’. It is the one that gains results off the pitch, the results aren’t in the literal, physical act of scoring goals, but accomplishing ones away from it, represented by a now iconic Skull & Crossbones emblem. While football can - and has been - tarnished by far right groups grabbing headlines, St Pauli’s fans welcome refugees, fight fascists and take a stand against all forms of discrimination, and it’s gained them considerable support in hipster-dives across the continent. It’s like if Coventry suddenly found themselves having both a moral backbone and a massive Bavarian following.
Social-political issues are as important as signings. The chants, banners and atmosphere of the stadium have been dictated by the politics of the streets. It has been in existence for over a century. In recent years, people have flocked from all over the world to join the Black Bloc in the stands of the Millerntor Stadium and while in the 1980s the club had a small DIY punk following, now there are almost 30,000 in attendance at games with supporters across the world. In a sporting landscape governed by corporate capitalism, driven by revenue and divorced from community, as the title of this brilliant book for every football fans collection goes, FC St. Pauli demonstrates that another football is possible.
It is an excellently compiled chronicle with a very personal tone, from the late nineteenth century when football started to encroach into German days, its early twentieth century flourish, to becoming the behemothic entity it is today, through the formation of the German league, and emerged from being under the Swastika. The book intends to provide a political and social contextualisation for this byword of what a football club can be.
For a considerable amount of time, ‘football’ most recently hasn’t altogether been a predominant discussion of tactics and play: the real intrigue and concern has been its moving steadily away from its fans. This has been through both internal and extenuating circumstances, the distance between club and ‘customer’ being created and forced. Carles Viñas and Natxo Parra’s book is a timely reminder of the power of the football club, as a cultural and societal institution, in many ways more powerful than a religious place of worship or a town hall.
St. Pauli: Another Football is Possible by Carles Viñas, Natxo Parra, is published worldwide on 20th October 2020, RRP: £14.99.