Teamwork makes the dream work

Why Bundesliga must revive epic St. Pauli-Hamburg rivalry

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HAMBURG, Germany — This Friday night, FC St. Pauli may seal their return to the Bundesliga after a 13-year absence from Germany’s high flight. Nonetheless, regardless of such a tantalizing prospect, one fan described a doable win because the “worst case for St. Pauli,” as a result of the sport is in opposition to native rivals Hamburg SV on “enemy territory” (stream LIVE at 12:30 p.m. on ESPN+).

Friday marks the 51st recorded derby between St. Pauli and Hamburg SV (or HSV) in all competitions courting again to 1947. Whereas HSV have been the juggernaut of northern Germany for many years, thereby claiming their place as kings of Hamburg, the stability of energy has shifted in recent times, with the smaller FC St. Pauli slowly overtaking their extra illustrious rivals.

Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, extra (U.S.)

HSV, winners of the European Cup in 1983, have been often known as the “Dinosaur of the Bundesliga” attributable to the truth that they’d persistently performed first-division soccer from the membership’s basis in 1919 proper as much as 2018, the yr when HSV have been relegated to the two.Bundesliga for the primary time ever. They’ve not managed to return to the Bundesliga since. In the meantime, St. Pauli are main the two. Bundesliga standings, seven factors forward of third-place Fortuna Düsseldorf with three video games remaining. In the event that they beat HSV, St. Pauli will certainly be again within the Bundesliga, which might mark the membership’s sixth stint within the high tier. It could additionally finish a six-year spell of standard derbies in Hamburg.

“Now we have gotten extra used to [the rivalry] to an extent, and I consider the tremendous radical factor, together with the violence, is gone,” Maik Nöcker advised ESPN. The completed journalist has been a St. Pauli supporter for what seems like eternally. For some time, he even labored as a number/presenter on the membership’s personal on-line channel. “The rivalry is quite right down to some teasing between the followers, which will be considerably humorous, when HSV followers paint a St. Pauli pub in black, white and blue or overpaint steps in St. Pauli from brown, white and pink into black, white and blue and vice versa.”

No matter how intense the rivalry between the golf equipment seems on the pitch today, it additionally represents the general cultural variations one can discover inside the metropolis.

Hamburg is dwelling to 1.9 million individuals excessive up within the north of Germany. Similar to another metropolis, the town is something however homogenous, thanks largely to the huge port that welcomes cargo ships from all around the world on daily basis. The bustling commerce is a significant component in how Hamburg has flourished economically within the post-war period as much as the current day. It is why guests driving into the town from the south will discover themselves amongst neatly organized residential areas, traversed by tiny streets, as soon as they’ve handed hundreds of containers and heavy equipment stationed within the port. Wealth shouldn’t be flaunted, however modest.

There’s additionally one other facet of Hamburg — particularly St. Pauli, the place as soon as upon a time colourful characters roamed the streets and musicians performed at full of life bars late into the night time. Some streets in St. Pauli have been pure punk rock — gritty, loud and drug-fueled. Those that managed to outlive the Seventies and ’80s normally nonetheless embrace the punk way of life even when the sheen of their leather-based jackets has misplaced a few of its lustre. FC St. Pauli embody the weather upon which the district was as soon as constructed and earned its popularity.

That is why the rivalry between the 2 Hamburg golf equipment is so fascinating — it is excess of simply two golf equipment battling out for supremacy in a big city space. “FC St. Pauli absolutely represents clearly outlined values and expresses them loudly as a part of the membership’s identification. It’s a part of St. Pauli’s identification to be socially lively and rebellious, to make statements, to stay up for minorities and such. That is why you get the sensation as a St. Pauli supporter that you’re extra political than others,” Nöcker mentioned.

Being political has at instances been much more necessary to St. Pauli followers than success on the soccer pitch. Micha Fritz from Viva con Agua, a non-governmental group, is conversant in political activism. His group fights totally free entry to wash ingesting water and fundamental sanitation across the globe. Its roots, although, are intertwined with the historical past of FC St. Pauli. In 2005, the crew travelled for a coaching camp to Cuba, which left such an impression on Benjamin Adrion that the participant deliberate to do one thing concerning the horrible circumstances underneath which many Cubans have been residing on the time.

“This partnership has been occurring for 18 years now,” mentioned Fritz. “When Benjamin developed the concept for Viva con Agua, he was nonetheless taking part in on the left wing for the crew. So, he was a participant. Oke Göttlich coated that essential coaching camp as a newspaper reporter the place the concept for Viva con Agua was born. He’s now the FC St. Pauli chairman.”

Viva con Agua is just a one a part of the political sphere that has been constructed inside St. Pauli’s rapid environment. Followers attending video games are usually approached by activists gathering signatures for petitions or advocating for rights and legal guidelines that empower marginalized teams in society. “In my thoughts, it’s the most fascinating soccer membership on the market, as a result of it’s not only a soccer membership,” mentioned Fritz. “As a substitute, regardless of having loved not a lot success at instances, St. Pauli has at all times been shaping tradition and discussions in Germany — or in my social bubble not less than.”

Unsurprisingly, HSV supporters may view issues barely otherwise. The six-time German champions can depend on a a lot bigger fan base and enchantment to a wider viewers. “Hamburg have roughly 1,130 fan golf equipment, St. Pauli have made it to 400. They higher set their sights low,” Dirk, a HSV fan and member of the fan membership “OFC Schwarzenbek” mentioned, including: “And political issues do not belong in soccer.”

Certainly, HSV boast over 110,000 membership members in comparison with St. Pauli’s roughly 40,000. When followers discuss HSV, they usually merely say “Hamburg” out of behavior, indicating that Hamburg SV represents the complete metropolis and never only one well-known district. Even Nöcker, who doesn’t dwell within the rapid proximity of St. Pauli’s Millerntor-Stadion, admits that HSV get pleasure from a distinct enchantment. “St. Pauli are anchored within the metropolis heart and likewise within the district itself. The membership signify the Schanze and such, whereas HSV are quite a membership for the lots even past the borders of Hamburg.” A proportion of spectators attending HSV video games journey from neighboring states into the town to flock to the Volksparkstadion.

Fascinatingly, HSV have loved a rise in dwelling attendances in recent times, regardless of failing to attain promotion to the Bundesliga in 5 straight seasons. This yr will probably mark the sixth consecutive yr by which they got here tantalizingly near a doable return to Germany’s high flight, with out really getting over the hump. HSV have missed out in dramatic style at instances, dropping video games on the ultimate matchday or simply falling brief within the playoffs. And but, the followers are there: it is nonetheless fairly laborious to search out tickets for dwelling video games, as Kerstin and Cathy, two bartenders from “Unabsteigbar,” probably the most well-known HSV pub on the town, advised ESPN.

They’ve each witnessed first-hand how followers who don’t attend dwelling video games, as a result of they won’t have the cash to purchase tickets, watch their beloved crew on the TV inside their pub. “The followers stick with HSV it doesn’t matter what,” Kerstin mentioned. “The fan base has really grown not too long ago, due to the sensation of group and friendship. Folks inform their associates and produce them to video games.”

Or they’re going to go to Unabsteigbar and down a number of beers following the crew’s fortunes as they desperately attempt to keep away from one more yr in 2. Bundesliga. The identify of the pub interprets into “inconceivable to get relegated,” a reputation that stems from a time when HSV did handle to keep away from the drop yr after yr.

Seven years in the past, Cathy grew to become a bartender in Unabsteigbar as a result of she wanted the revenue and since then, she’s seen the institution develop into the place-to-be for HSV supporters on the town. Simply do not ask her to inform you the way it transpired. “It has simply one way or the other occurred over time,” she mentioned. “However it’s one massive household I can inform you.” The pub has grow to be a second dwelling for a lot of real characters, colourful personalities and soccer followers who basically say “you should get pleasure from ache” as a HSV supporter.

What’s additionally in style are denim vests with quite a few patches referred to as “Kutte” in German. These are worn as a quasi-uniform for followers who’re normally members of particular fan teams, to not be confused with the membership’s precise Ultras.

“I’ve anti-St. Pauli patches on my Kutte, which is 30 years outdated and has by no means been washed,” Dirk advised ESPN, displaying a sure diploma of satisfaction. “The factor is roofed in ketchup, mayonnaise — every little thing sticks to it. We are saying when it rains on matchday, it is wash day. Folks from each continent have photos taken with me and my Kutte.” His fan membership exists in order that their 40 members can have enjoyable collectively, however there are not any duties or a sure world view hooked up to it. It’s all about having fun with soccer and supporting HSV.

Just a few miles southeast from Volksparkstadion, in St. Pauli’s Millerntor, it’s a lot tougher to merely be a soccer fan.

“One thing that may very well be challenged is what makes efficiency and defines success,” mentioned Micha Fritz. “Is it successful to win one thing in a extremely capitalistic-toxic atmosphere like Qatar which doesn’t care about human rights and is extremely corrupt? Effectively, I consider most individuals at St. Pauli would not outline that as successful.”

Some St. Pauli followers admit that the political part hooked up to their fandom can grow to be virtually overbearing at instances. That being mentioned, attributable to this season’s success and the earlier yr underneath head coach Fabian Hürzeler, a 31-year-old proponent of the possession soccer laid out by Brighton’s Roberto De Zerbi, a big proportion of followers inside Millerntor have grow to be more and more invested within the mouthwatering prospect of a return to the Bundesliga.

“Now we have a terrific stadium, play unbelievable soccer, will probably be promoted to the Bundesliga and, on high of that, are economically wholesome. That is a place that requires a long-time St. Pauli supporter a while to get used to,” Nöcker mentioned.

Up to now, St. Pauli sides that made it to the Bundesliga primarily performed scrappy, counter-attacking “underdog soccer,” a defensive model that was something however pleasing on the attention. Hürzeler’s group of gamers appears to be like way more like a self-confident crew that would compete with the likes of Eintracht Frankfurt and Borussia Mönchengladbach.

In the meantime, HSV may really witness their native rivals celebrating the ultimate steps in direction of a return to the Bundesliga in their very own yard. HSV want virtually a miracle to succeed in third place and the promotion playoffs, 4 factors behind Düsseldorf with three video games to be performed. The query whether or not the rivalry inside Hamburg is necessary additionally divides each fan bases.

“Effectively, Hamburg is Hamburg and St. Pauli is an city district, however the rivalry is essential,” Kerstin admitted.

Nöcker, nonetheless, like different St. Pauli followers, disagrees with the notion that the native derby has such an significance, notably after a six-year stretch with common conferences between the 2 groups, saying, “FC St. Pauli do not essentially want that rivalry to search out which means. So, it is like this: the membership can dwell very properly by itself, and us followers we will be alone for ourselves.”

In fact, such a press release will be mentioned in a way more relaxed method when your membership are on the verge of promotion and the a lot bigger native rivals will proceed to languish in 2. Bundesliga. The stability of energy in Hamburg, the northern Germany metropolis has certainly modified.