Burger That For a Laugh
HSV 0-1 FC St Pauli (16:02:11)
FC St Pauli won away at their not-so-friendly city rivals Hamburg on Wednesday night, but that doesn't tell half the story writes Teddy Barrett...
The Hamburg Derby was supposed to take place on the 6th February. As a St Pauli fan, I was looking forward to it, not least, because we were in good form and HSV weren't . As it was, such is the necessity in these modern arenas, the grass needed to be replaced mid-season, and HSV chose to do this 3 or 4 days before the match, having not checked the weather reports. Three days of torrential rain followed, the grass didn't grow properly and suddenly the city of Hamburg was faced with the embarrassing situation of having no derby on a weekend which proved to be hosting many derbies across Germany. Grass related jokes amongst St Pauli forumites and the twitterati reigned. In amongst this, the rivalry between the two Hamburg clubs seems to have intensified. Whilst perhaps not so politically fuelled as in previous generations, HSV's current malaise on the pitch, combined with St Pauli's relative success, has created a bitterness and outbreaks of violence that I had never witnessed when I used to live in the city. A very small minority of HSV fans' reaction to the derby cancellation was to attack the St Pauli fan pub "The Jolly Roger".
Eventually the match was however rescheduled. Time enough to sort the television schedules, but not enough for many of my friends to arrange time off work to make a Wednesday night game. I, however, was one of the lucky ones and before long was sat on the train, with a copy of German football magazine "11Freunde" for company. HSV are on the front cover of this months issue as part of the main article - 50 most stupid ideas in football. I assume that the article was referring to the pink shirts they once wore, rather than the club in general, but I took it as a good omen.
A text message arrived from a friend telling me to meet her down by the riverside, as we would then travel in a group to the ground. I assumed she meant a few of our mates, but as I waited on the bridge leading over to the river Elbe, gradually the place filled up. It was rather like that scene with the black crows accumulating on the climbing frame in the Hitchcock film "The Birds", as more and more St Pauli fans dressed in black gathered. By the time my friends arrived, the police had found out about the gathering, had parked up and were shuffling about nearby, perhaps slightly taken aback by this spontaneous event. Suddenly the group was on the move, climbing the steps down into the underground station. "Haende hoch das ist ein Ueberfall, heute kommen wir von ueberall, und wir sind daaaa! Ultra' Antifaaaa!"/"Hands up this is robbery, today we're arriving from everywhere, and we are here! Antifascist ultras!" echoed around the station. The sheer mass of people granted enough anonymity for the place to end up covered in supporters' stickers. A well organised departure, meant despite the crowding and narrow platform, everyone made the train to Othmarschen, another station closer to the edge of town where HSV play. We then piled onto buses and were shipped to the ground. Despite the relatively plentiful buses laid on by the local transport company, there is a lot of queuing in order to get to the Imtech Arena, and even after that you then have to queue to get in. The security checks, plus 3 separate ticket checks, mean getting onto the terrace, is a slow process.
Having survived the checks, our group of friends regrouped and we headed into the lower block together. Katie Perry - Firework was playing at the time, which I happen to like (I know, I know. A guilty pleasure), so I took that as a good omen too. The HSV fans had hung a banner up on their terrace. "Rebellious skull and crossbones - sold out! Self-managed home terrace - sold out! Trendy legend- sold out! The person who has nothing left, must dance on the pole". Its a reference to recent concerns at St Pauli around too much commercialism, and that one VIP lounge at the Millerntor ground featured a pole dancer, all of which has faced huge opposition from St Pauli fans as part of the Jolly Rouge/Sozial Romantiker campaign. The banner was a bit of light, harmless joshing , the HSV fan's anti-commerce critique albeit somewhat lessened by the array of adverts and inflatable lemonade promotions on the pitch in front of it. The St Pauli response came from the upper tier. A banner mocking HSV's claims of tradition. It said something like "a concrete bowl on the edge of town. Protect tradition - AOL Arena forever", a reference to the fact that HSV's ground has gone through a series of corporate name changes and so tradition really only equates to the sponsor from 10 years ago.
Shortly before kick -off, various in-stadium speakers and celebrities had their go at whipping up some sort of atmosphere, but what prompted the noise in the end was the appearance of the players. In the HSV end, an admittedly very well accomplished choreo took place. A large flag over the upper tier, two large lines of text over the lip of the tier and then some sort of colour mosaic on the lower tier. I couldn't read it though, as by this time our narrow away block had turned into a sea of brown and white flags, framing a large St Pauli badge hanging off the lip of the upper section.
The match started and from where we were standing, the atmosphere was not quite as loud as Id hoped. The sound escaped due to the high roof. When the HSV end got going, we could hear them. The easier songs from our end also reached somewhat higher volumes, but it was quite hard work. In the first half HSV were by far the stronger team. We barely ventured out of our own half, and when we did it only provoked brutal challenges from the likes of Jarolim. Meanwhile I was worried about Pliquett being in goal for us. He's an actual St Pauli fan, so is instantly likeable and its fair to say he was highly motivated in this match, having been attacked by a group of HSV fans on the way back from a match last year. Nevertheless Kessler, who normally plays in goal for us, has been supreme this season and I would've liked to have seen him between the sticks marshalling the defence. I shouldn't have worried. Pliquett played an excellent first half (and by all accounts a great second half too). Coming under constant pressure from crosses, he saved St Pauli quite a few times. Ruud VanNistelrooy meanwhile was doing that old trick he used to do at Manchester United, of standing offside, only to leap back onside at the last second. It prompted the chant of "Oi, Oi, Oi! Scheiss VanNistelrooy" on numerous occasions from our end. I couldn't sing that. He was my hero for many a year.
Part way through the first half, and flares were let off in the lower section where I was standing. Smoke bombs went off in the upper section. Still under pressure on the pitch and the atmosphere generally struggling in all four corners of the ground, it seemed the wrong time for deployment even for a fan of pyrotechnics like myself. Someone later pointed out, it coincided with the time 19:10hours. 1910 was the year St Pauli formed. Five minutes or so later, we saw the police in full riot gear enter the upper tier. They began to fight with the fans. Pushes, shoves, truncheons wielded. A number of flag poles were jabbed back in their direction from the St Pauli fans who had considerably less padded clothing. We joined arms in our section and began springing up and down and singing. The jumping always gets the atmosphere going, but probably in this case was also somewhat to do with the rumour that the police were trying to get into our section too. Linked arms would of course slow them up. And come they did. 20-30 riot police stormed into the lower section of the away end. This wasn't a good idea. After the attack by some HSV fans on the St Pauli pub mentioned earlier in this article, the police turned up and arrested a women seemingly in the wrong place, at the wrong time. During the arrest, they broke both of her arms. Even the club, St Pauli, were moved to issue a press statement decrying it officially. The police were never popular with St Pauli fans, but that occurrence hasn't helped. Back in the block, they pushed and shoved to begin with, one of them with a joycam on a stick filming for evidence. They were trying to get to the section where the flares were let off. There simply wasn't enough space though, and it started to get tight. A cry of "hey" went up, which whether at a football match or demonstration usually means someone is taking a beating or is being rather roughly arrested. The police were pushing further now but also using their battons and reinforced arm padding to jab and swipe at people. I began to get crushed. 20-30 extras in a fenced in terrace, plus panic, is a recipe for disaster. I couldn't see that well, as people were pushing their arms up to make more space. It gradually became more comfortable as more space appeared, but I could then see people climbing up the fence at the front to get out of the way of something. There was blood on many of their faces. It later became clear, that the police had also used some sort of pepper spray to get people out of the way. Water was then passed by fellow fans, through the fence and down the terrace to the bottom for those either crushed, beaten or peppersprayed. Meanwhile a football match had been going on. The first half had finished, and Id seen little of the closing stages. The singer on the fence, called to the lower block "its up to you", he said, "but after what has happened, we (and here I would assume he meant a number of members of the influential group Ultra' Sankt Pauli) would suggest that we shouldn't be watching the football under these conditions and would suggest leaving the ground in protest". The ultras collected all of the flags together. Another call came "do we want to stay or go out?". There was a significant showing of hands and nods in the lower section. Despite the difficult circumstances, a semi-democratic process had been carried out. 50-60 fans left the most important match of the season, with over 40 minutes remaining. Not an easy decision, which only shows the strength of feeling on the matter. Disgusted by what I had just witnessed, not to mention mildly concerned about further crushing as the police remained where they were, I was one of those who left. We left the ground, shaking our heads in disbelief. A long line of riot police, followed us out too to monitor us. Still seething with anger, I went up to them and, on reflection, somewhat comically (as I probably resembled a white boot wearing striker finger wagging an incorrect offside decision) I shook my head, and wagged my finger as they trooped past me. I no longer cared if I was arrested. "You could've killed someone!" I cried. They continued to file past and I was not arrested. I rejoined the group of ultras, normal fans, old and young, men and women who had decided to boycott the rest of the game.
Part way through the second half, Asamoah put St Pauli a goal up. We didn't know who had scored, but we knew which team had put the ball in the net from the roar of the crowd inside. There then followed the bizarre scene of 60 fans jumping around and hugging each other outside the ground. The rest of the match was tense. No one wanted to go back in, but we were relying on the rest of the crowd to indicate what was going on, through their oohs and ahhs. Outside in the woods, we could see masses of blue flashing lights and three water cannons, as preparations began for the exit at fulltime. St Pauli hung on and then there was a huge roar. St Pauli had won it!
After a great deal of celebrating we were reunited with the rest of the away crowd and headed for the buses back into town. Despite it being a relatively new ground, transport links aren't the Imtech Arena's strong point and we queued for a good while before we made it on to a bus. After heading to the Jolly Roger, where two further water cannons were parked up in the street outside, the out of towners in our group decided it was time to head home. My friends fears of retribution from HSV fans, were ignored by me. I lived here without much trouble I thought to myself, it'll be fine. We jumped in the car and I was busy staring at twitter, reading the reaction to the match and the small matter of my own English team, somehow beating Chasetown 4-2 with only ten men. I looked up as we came to a crossroads, only to see a group of 15-20 hooligans, some in balaclavas, some with baseball bats and sticks coming down the middle of the road. They were heading seemingly for the Jolly Roger, but we were in the way! Ok my friends were right, lets get out of here! We headed rapidly down what may have been the wrong way on a narrow one way street. I by now was tweeting and texting anyone I could think of who was still in the Jolly Roger to warn them. Give me a nice, low key match anyday!
This was the first win against HSV since 1977. A historic moment. Travelling home, we savoured it. One of our group had stayed inside the ground and could even describe the goal to us! However, what happened in the away block for me left a slightly bitter taste. In order to remain as neutral as possible, it must of course be accepted that the use of the flares is currently illegal, and that some sort of a reaction from the police should therefore be expected. Whilst it is true that there is a contradiction in the appreciation in the media of "vibrant", "colourful" flare filled grounds in foreign countries, and their own criticism of the same behaviour in German grounds, that doesn't negate the issue that uncontrolled use of pyrotechnics can be dangerous. That said, the flares deployed at the derby were perhaps down to around 20 fans. To that sum you could then add fans who may accept or tolerate the usage of flares, but whether you agree with their view or not, it does not make those sympathisers guilty of any crime. In this light, the violent storming of the lower away block by the police to apprehend this minority, complete with liberal use of pepperspray, was incredibly unfair on those fans who just happened to wish to stand in that section but had done absolutely nothing wrong. That it created so many, fortunately only minor, injuries, as well as crushing and that this at least on early evidence, has not been reported by the media, only increases the risk of such a wreckless tactic gaining acceptance and being carried out again. The next time the dimensions of the terrace may not be so favourable, and someone could be seriously injured or worse. Then it wont matter who the "Nummer eins" in Hamburg is, because by then it will be too late.
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