Liberté, égalité, fraternité - An Interview by Maia Freeman with Glasgow St. Pauli
Liberté, égalité, fraternité
An Interview by Maia Freeman with Glasgow St. Pauli
by Maia Freeman
St. Pauli is a football club that prides itself on the unique connection it enjoys with its supporters, a bond of trust and codependency, wrought through years of honesty, decency and common understanding.
This connection could almost be regarded as a modern-day sporting paragon of how to run a football club in all the right ways - despite the burning need for finances and sponsorships and sustenance in the increasingly corporate landscape of football; a show of how to retain the vital link to the people and the city which raised you without forgetting its fundamental, underlying purpose as a club of professional sports.
Glasgow St. Pauli stay true to the spirit of the club they support. Only yesterday (18 Dec. 2018 at the time of writing) they put on an event to give Christmas dinner to the homeless of Glasgow & destitute asylum seekers.
Charlie (H) of Glasgow St. Pauli Supporters Club spoke to us about his experiences following the club over the years, and what made him fall in love with them in the first place.
FATC: How are you feeling about St Pauli’s season, given their run of form in the league? Do you feel as if promotion would be possible with the current squad, management, and finances available?
CHARLIE: It’s an interesting season for sure and the club have had a few great results and we are not sitting in or near the relegation or play-off places. That can change very quickly so no-one is counting on being at the top of the league at the end of the season. Personally, I have noticed that the defence is much tighter with Knoll and Avevor forming a really good partnership at centre back. However, I do think that we have had a few lucky results (Sandhausen in particular) and we are punching a wee bit above our weight. I wouldn’t be surprised if we finish mid to upper-mid table. I don’t think we will be promoted.
FATC: How was it to play against HSV in the league for the first time since 2011?
CHARLIE: HSV……..it was exciting of course, particularly when it was being hyped in the media in Germany. I think that the HSV fans were more aggressive in their attitude leading up to the match. For instance the tone of their banners was really unacceptable. But that comes from their sense of entitlement and their belief in their exceptionality, when really they are shit and have been shit for many years. The game itself was a bit of a flat affair (apart from nearly scoring right at the end from 50 metres). I was just glad that it all passed off peacefully in the end and a draw was a fair result. I would have loved to have gubbed them again in their own midden though.
FATC: What initially drew you to St Pauli – was it their unique political and ethical identity? Do you have supporters in your family, or was it your local club?
CHARLIE: I originally heard about FCSP from following Celtic. I was attracted to them because of the left wing philosophy running through the club and the total rejection of any form of discrimination and fascism. The more i went the less interested I became in any other team. FCSP offer an alternative to modern football and still treat fans as adults with an invested interest in the club and not as consumers. I don’t follow any other team now and regard myself as a Sankt Pauli fan first and foremost.
FATC: What do you love about St Pauli that you would like to share with the world?
CHARLIE: Inclusion. That’s it. If you have a tolerant attitude to all your fellow human beings, except those who hate and discriminate, you are welcome at St Pauli. If you do hate, discriminate or are intolerant socially or politically then you are not welcome. That ethos is in the DNA of the club and in all the supporters. The whole world could learn a lesson in living by supporting St Pauli.
FATC: How do you view St Pauli’s recent rise in popularity worldwide? Particularly amongst fellow anti-fascist & left-wing supporters’ groups? Is this support from abroad viewed & welcomed positively?
CHARLIE: This is a difficult one. Certain sections of the support are cautious of foreign fans who are perceived as being football tourists or hipsters. Our fan club is respected I think, possibly because we do loads of work with homeless and refugee charities here and in Hamburg. However, there is certainly an issue with tourists, and in particular stag parties going to Hamburg, who just think that they can pitch up and get a ticket, and treat a game as part of their stag weekend experience. It doesn’t help that there is now exposure on UK TV as FCSP games are on BT and more people see the unique atmosphere in the Milerntor. At GSP we get lots of requests for tickets from stag parties and we never reply to them. The whole “Kult Club” moniker rips my knitting to be honest. It’s not cultish to be a tolerant respectful and decent human being, but use of that term attracts people who come to see a spectacle as opposed to people who understand the ethos of the club.
FATC: The club has a very distinct ethos and set of political guidelines. Do you feel that these have been upheld properly in recent years?
CHARLIE: Yes I do, and it is policed by the fans and the members.
FATC: In the current climate of global uncertainty - do you feel that it is more important than ever that St Pauli stays true to its core belief systems & attempts to fight fascism & injustice at every turn?
CHARLIE: Of course. More so now that ever.
FATC: The world over, football fans have borne witness to the unique bond between St. Pauli and its fans. Do you consider the club’s current relationship with the supporters is as strong as ever?
CHARLIE: Yes, the club know that without fans, football is nothing. This has been forgotten in almost all major teams in all other leagues who treat fans as consumers first and foremost.
FATC: And so to the future - what would you consider to be the aims for St Pauli over the next few years? Would you like your football club to improve at all, either on or off the pitch?
CHARLIE: The club is in a good position, but personally, and I know that lots of fans agree and disagree with me here. I don’t want to see them promoted. It’s not all about winning and to gain promotion would perhaps be too much of a financial strain, and the team are not likely to survive in Bundesliga 1. The club is in a healthy financial state and has a big marketing arm which is the third biggest in Germany. I know that this sounds like a contradiction with the social values of the club, but the monies raised allow the club to develop and to support lots of local and international initiatives (Viva con Agua for one). The balance is about right here in my view. There is a very active fan base which takes great interest in all the club does.