CELTIC & ST PAULI

This Here Is Friendship /

Das Hier Ist Freundschaft

It’s a freezing November night in 1998, Celtic have just beaten Rangers 5-1 and Martin has managed to miss his train back to Manchester . . .  He checks into a hotel in Glasgow to start an evening of celebration. While waiting in reception for a taxi to bring him to the Brazen Head, he gets chatting with a German couple. Martin takes up the story: “They told me that they supported a club called St Pauli based in Hamburg. I decided to give the couple a bit of background as to why today’s result was so important.   I said to them “You have to understand, this is the biggest victory over Rangers since – “and the man interrupted me by ending my sentence: “Yes, since the 7-1 League Cup final victory in 1957.”  Stunned, I didn’t want to continue my Celtic education of the couple because I reckoned he could have told me the full ‘57 starting line-up – while I couldn’t!”   

Welcome to the 30-year football and political friendship of Celtic and St Pauli – with the odd beer chucked in along the way!  Though there are hundreds, if not thousands of stories that connect the two supports, we look at how that friendship has developed by focusing on two of those who were involved from the start and asking them to share their memories. 

By 1991 both Celtic and St Pauli football clubs were in the midst of huge changes.  From the mid-1980’s in Hamburg, a new set of fans had started to attend the Milllerntor, St Pauli’s stadium. Some were fed up with the increasing right-wing conduct and violence that seemed to accompany HSV Hamburg games, while other youths including punks and other anarchists, disillusioned by the post-war consensus in Germany, had taken up residence in the squats initially based in the derelict Haffenstrasse flats not far from struggling FC St Pauli. A fondness for football is never far away from many and a day at the football was a welcome distraction from the on-going struggles against police violence or attacks from fascists.  The club, itself, was a fairly non-descript team that had drifted through the various incarnations of German, then West German, regional and national leagues since its inception in 1910.  But that was part of the attraction.  Attendances at the club had dwindled to a couple of thousand and the atmosphere was more welcoming that that vast soulless Volksparkstadion which housed HSV with its constant air of menace.  And while these new fans had no plan to create the St Pauli that we are familiar with today, they did not feel that they should leave their values at the turnstiles.  They felt that the club should give cheaper tickets to people who were unemployed and prevent racist chanting or right-wing banners in the ground. 

A Celtic-St Pauli mural in Hamburg, 2014

At this time Celtic, too, was going through its own, more personal revolution. Bound by its past and the biscuit tin’ mentality at board level, the club had stagnated. The fans, the board thought, would always be there and would follow the team wherever they went, be it the furthest flung corners of Europe or even Cambuslang!  1967 and the Nine In A Row were fading from view.  Even the Centenary double was beginning to seem a distant memory.  But things were changing. The fans, unhappy with the plans of a board increasingly detached from the reality of the situation, began to organise.  ‘Save Our Celts’ had gone to be replaced by the bigger Celts for Change campaign while the Not The View fanzine alongside other groups began to make their voices heard.  Direct action from the fans, aimed at an overhaul of the entire club structure, was used. There were organised protests and even boycotts of games. Chants against the board were regularly heard within Paradise. These fans were branded ‘malcontents’ by the under-fire Celtic board but protest and discontent were in the air of Glasgow’s East End and weren’t going away quietly. 

These changes on both sides of the North Sea were largely being driven by fans who felt that they needed to take a stand regarding the identity or the management of their clubs. Some of these fans found a kinship across the North Sea, between Glasgow and Hamburg with others who shared their outlook on football, politics and so much more. 

Sven Brux started watching St Pauli in 1987 on the Gegengrade terrace, when he moved to Hamburg as part of his civilian alternative to compulsory military service.  From there he became active in the St Pauli support, initially through the Milllerntor Roar fanzine, and then went on to set up the Fanladen (a sort of social club, ticket distribution network and organisation that works with disadvantaged people from the local area all rolled into one.) He now works for FC St Pauli as Head of Stadium Operations and Fans.  Sven’s interest in British football had begun many years earlier in childhood through hearing commentary of English football on British Forces radio in Germany.  

Along with other St Pauli fans from the Milllerntor Roar he began to attend matches in England during the extended winter break in Germany’s football calendar in the late 1980’s, where they were able to discover first-hand a different football culture to that back home.  

At the time, supporter culture (in the form of songs, noise, colour and humour) in both England and Scotland was still renowned.  Sven remembers that was something that St Pauli fans began to replicate when they went back to the Milllerntor: “They had a different culture of singing songs, with the melody, singing longer songs than in Germany, which also had a great humour.  In Germany at this time often it was usual to abuse the other team with ‘we hate you’, ‘we kill you.’ We saw there was a chance of getting humour and irony into singing.  At the same time we started reading When Saturday Comes fanzine with British humour, very ironic. Stuff that was great for us and we put this in our first fanzine, the Milllerntor Roar.”  

At the time, in spite of its inherent problems, football both in Scotland and England retained a unique and vibrant fan culture and it was an influence that was not lost on those who travelled over from Hamburg: “I think St Pauli were the first supporters in Germany who started singing songs that were self-ironic, starting a big party on the terrace when you are 4-0 down and all the other people saying ‘What’s going wrong with them?’ And that was a good thing. Nowadays it’s very common to do things like that, but at the beginning of the ‘90’s it was not usual.”

In those pre-budget airlines and pre-all-seater stadium days, trips took on a very different complexion to what we have become used to today. Those excursions involved a lengthier commute, but it was all part of the experience: “At this time flight costs were very expensive, but we had a direct ferry from Harwich to London so we often used the ferry to go over and get drunk and have some fun on the ferry overnight.”  

While arranging these trips the St Pauli fans would write to British fanzine editors to try to organise meetings.  Football was at a low ebb at the time in the aftermath of Heysel and Hillsborough and fans, fed up with not being listened to by either clubs or the authorities, had decided that they would talk directly to fellow supporters by releasing fanzines.  DIY activism mixed with humour were the defining traits of fanzine culture and were of great interest to Sven: “I think it (fanzine culture) was very important, because there was no Internet existing at this time, so no blogs. So that was the number one information source for the people; to read fanzines. That was the one and only point if you want to spread the word, you had to write something in a fanzine. Of course the information was three months old when you read them, but that was the situation!”

Sven (right) in the Fanladen 1990 (with Celtic centenary poster in background)

This fanzine link was to prove invaluable to the St Pauli-Celtic connection. As in other years the people involved with the Milllerntor Roar had wrote to various fanzines in Britain, to meet and discuss experiences. For the 1991 trip one of the fanzines that had been contacted was Celtic’s Not the View: “On the last day of the 1991 trip before our return to Germany, there was an answer from the Not the View guys saying ‘Yeah it’s fine you’re invited (to Glasgow.)’ They arranged to meet, at this time there was no internet, we wrote a letter and then the answering letter came and we met the guys on a Friday afternoon in Glasgow and we had a great night out and on Saturday there was a home match against the huns and an evening in Bairds Bar.”  

It was quite the introduction!  Sven admits that, at the time, his knowledge of Celtic was limited to the club’s historic connections with Ireland and the fact that he liked The Pogues! 

One of the people present at that first gathering was ‘Average’ Joe Miller from the Not The View Celtic fanzine.  Joe had grown up in Drumchapel and from a young age had taken an interest in politics.  His upbringing had also brought two other loves: football and music.  Starting off with glam rock and moving on to punk, Joe had been a regular at the Glasgow’s Apollo and other venues across the city.  He was also a regular at Celtic Park and from a young age began to attend away games as well.  As NTV got off the ground, he took an interest in what they were saying. As a result, Joe contacted the fanzine and ended up becoming a regular contributor and key member. 

While nowadays St Pauli might be a footballing byword for inclusivity and activism, in the early 1990s news of the changing fan culture in Hamburg was not as readily available.  Despite this, Joe had been aware of the developing fan scene at the Millerntor through a network of friendships with German football fans: “A few of us knew about St Pauli as we had friends who are HSV, Bayern, VfB Stuttgart fans, all Celtic supporters.  FC St Pauli fan culture was also starting to be mentioned more from our friends around Germany. We also knew that they flirted with the top league every now and then.”   While Joe was aware of the developing fan scene at the Millerntor he admits that he was taken back by the scale that it had reached:  “There was just this massive culture but we didn’t know how big it was. We knew of it, but didn’t know how big it was, in this club out of Hamburg that was, to be honest, dwarfed by HSV.”  So news of the German visitors to Celtic interested him.  “I was quite intrigued about meeting these guys, I’d already seen the Millerntor Roar fanzine, so I was quite happy to see what the guys were all about.” 

Of course, a bus load of St Pauli fans arriving on a Glasgow derby weekend brought about more practical considerations for the hosts, including match tickets and beds, as Joe well remembers: “We were all flying about everywhere to get them tickets for it but obviously we did. We all put different guys up, I put up about three or four guys myself.  We arranged a cultural night with the Peat Diggers playing the pipes and the bodhrán and we had a great, great night.” 

With tickets for the Glasgow derby secured the St Pauli Bhoys were in for that most uniquely Glasgow experience which Sven recalls in detail:  “What I remember was the absolute 100% electricity in the air because of the match against Rangers, but we, as foreigners felt it, already outside the ground and inside the Jungle, with all the people and yeah, all the hate between both groups of supporters.  That was a classical football derby, with all the emotions and that was top class for us.  And we were absolutely amazed by the number and quality of the songs in the stadium and in the pubs.  At this time in Germany the atmosphere, or the tunes of the songs were boring.  Also we saw that it is possible that a whole stadium sings songs, not only the end behind the goal.”  

Other things were real eye-openers for Sven also: “I never saw a stadium toilet like the ones in the Jungle before!  And there was one other big difference because we saw so many people (and we saw this every time that we went up to Glasgow in the following years) so many supporters walking around in short-sleeved football tops – in winter!  We were freezing like hell and we saw all these guys walking around with just a football top on and we said ‘Ah these crazy guys, what’s going wrong with them?!?’”

The other thing that struck a chord with Sven was the politics of the people whom he met.  Sven had become aware of the perceived political leanings of Celtic fans before he arrived in Glasgow.  He also found that the situation in Glasgow reflected the situation in Hamburg: “At all the different meetings that we had with all the different fanzine editors, including Celtic ones, we also had some political discussions about racism at football and stuff like that and very quickly we saw that what we had read, in an article that someone wrote for us, that there is a political view on the Glasgow. Both clubs’ opinions, with Ireland and with fascists standing outside Ibrox selling the National Front newspaper, and we heard all these stories and we were very happy to see on the Celtic side are the people that we like, in their political views.  Also Rangers had a friendship with HSV at this time at the end of the ‘80s beginning of the ‘90s and it was a bit like a mirror of the situation in Hamburg and in Glasgow because we have both clubs and they hate each other and they are clearly on two political sides.  At this time at HSV there had been a lot of strong Nazi gangs and racist abuse and all these bad things but not at St Pauli and it seemed for us that in Glasgow it was similar. Seeing the situation on the streets and talking to the old heads of the Celtic Soccer Crew and a few more political lads, we saw that they are on the good side. For us it was great to meet them and exchange out experiences.” 

Yet Sven did not treat Celtic fans with rose tinted glasses, especially with the disgraceful scenes of Mark Walters’ first appearance at Celtic Park so fresh in the memory: “I knew that there are also some racists in Celtic following, it’s clear that with such a huge following in numbers that there must be some arseholes inside.” 

For Joe, to there were striking similarities between his outlook, that of the Not the View team and the St Pauli fans that they met: “I think the Millerntor Roar and the Fanladen, which was very independent from the club at the time, were into Irish politics, you see that through Celtic and then obviously the anti-fascism and anti-racism stances.  And they obviously saw that through our fanzine as well because we put out stuff like that, maybe not as hard hitting as what they did, but they obviously seen something in us. And everything that they were saying and doing equalled to what we thought.”  Indeed Joe’s memory of the political atmosphere around Celtic Park at the time was similar to Sven’s early impressions: “Outside Celtic Park there were magazines like the Troops Out movement, obviously big references to Ireland.  There was always the Socialist Worker being sold, left-leaning stuff was always there, whereas at the height of it there was always National Front, Bulldog on the other side at Rangers, so there’s a massive political statement of what these people think their audience is to be able to go and safely sell stuff and promote stuff at these football games.  And don’t get me wrong, Celtic had got some right-wingers in our club, of course we had.”

With a friendships that endure to this day established, a return visit was organised for the Not the View team in May 1992 to take in St Pauli v Oldenburg at the Millerntor.  The weekend also involved a gig organised by the Fanladen with Dundee folk band The Wally Dugs in attendance.  There was also plenty of schnapps and craic and at the end of each night the Celtic fans were all accommodated by various St Pauli fans.  The NTV boys had the honour of representing the Hoops in a fans game especially organised for the occasion. With the gallant Celts more than holding their own, the home side decided to resort to the one tactic they knew that would change the match in their favour. They put a case of beer in front of the Not the View team, who subsequently fell to a disappointing 2-1 defeat. Plus ca change!   

The Not The View bhoys take on a Fanladen 11 in 1992 with Joe and Sven prominent

The Celts’ first visit to the Millerntor looked like it would end in disappointment as Oldenburg raced into a two goal lead. But St Pauli, inspired by Brazilian Leonardo Manzi, turned matters around, winning the match 3-2.  While there was a great comeback on the pitch it was the atmosphere around the ground that struck Joe most of all: “It was a right old-fashioned stadium, run down but fitted in exactly with the club and area.  It felt something was happening in it.  The old Celtic Park had that feeling of rebellion (fans only, of course!).   Now they are both modern stadiums which may make the older generation harp back to good old days, but it was always going to happen.  As for atmosphere it was more like a Celtic away game where fans tend to back the team and be more vocal, St Pauli had that. The whole stadium seemed united.”

Like a trip to Celtic Park, going to a game at the Millerntor was much more than about the 90 minutes on the pitch.  It was an expression of identity.  Joe felt that too:  “The whole match day experience wasn’t just the game, it was the whole day, the whole area.  Pubs all packed but easy enough to get drink.  Music (punk and ska) blasting out, amazing. There was the skull and cross-bones logo which is instantly recognisable and was used by the 1980s squatters at Hafenstrasse, as well as in the ground during this time.”  Of course, in amongst the sea of brown replica shirts and, the now familiar black skull-and-crossbone hoodies, a group of fans in Celtic colours immediately stood out: “We were very visible in these green and white hoops going into the Millerntor, especially with all the dark colours that they all wear.  We were coming in with the long-sleeved hoops on, just the bright colours.  The amount of people that came over to speak with us it was amazing and they all wanted to speak to you in English, that made it so much easier.  We had a few German speakers and they wanted to speak German to the St Pauli fans but they didn’t want to speak German they wanted to speak to us in English.”

For Joe, the environs around the Millerntor had a personal appeal: “I loved it within minutes of being there. Punk hadn’t died in the UK but it wasn’t as visible.  In Hamburg and especially around the St Pauli district there was still a strong scene with bands like Slime and the Razors (both good friends of mine now.  This went hand-in-hand with the anti-fascist message, the politics of the district and the terracing.” 

The trip wasn’t without incident though.  The squats in the St Pauli district were a regular target for the far-right and while the NTV crew were in Hamburg there were yet more fascist attacks, but with blame for the violence being attributed to a more surprising source: “There were riots later that night in the Hafenstrassee area and it was reported in the newspaper with us ‘Celtic fans’ being mentioned!”  

From these initial contacts personal connections and interest grew.  Despite disappointing domestic performances there was still ample opportunity for St Pauli fans to follow Celtic in Europe (as long as they planned a trip before Christmas!).  These experiences augmented trips to Glasgow which were being made by more St Pauli fans. Sven remembers that “after our first experience with the NTV guys, we wrote an article in the Millerntor Roar about that and so more and more St Pauli fans got interested in this Celtic thing, because it was an interesting story.  Then then there was a Celtic UEFA Cup match in Belgium against Ekeren, near Antwerp (in October 1991) and that was our first European match.  We went with a small mini-bus and we had a great afternoon and evening, before the game.  We wrote another story in our fanzine and so it was growing and growing.”  

A further opportunity for this friendship to develop came when Celtic drew 1.FC Cologne in the UEFA Cup in 1992.  This was the perfect opportunity for the more fans of Celtic and St Pauli to meet, drink and swap stories.  By this stage a St Pauli CSC had been set up in Hamburg and they set to work organising an all-night celebration at the Rhenania bar in Cologne, including live music.  Again, the fanzine movement came into its own with Sven penning an article on behalf of the St Pauli CSC that was printed in NTV.  Travelling Celtic fans were informed that “we can stay and drink all night long (the normal pubs in Cologne shut at 1am).”  Even Celts who were stuck for a bed could be accommodated: “Anybody who wants to stay all night can crash out in the cellar – although it won’t be very comfortable!”

Sven remembers the game well: “In 1992 when Celtic played in Cologne we went down from Hamburg to Cologne, which is 430 kilometres one-way, with 200-300 Saint Pauli fans.  We had contacts in Cologne so we organised the after-match party in a club which had music and drinking and so on.  So many Celtic fans got in contact with St Pauli fans and drunk with them and exchanged addresses and so the whole story was growing.”  

European games were becoming a meeting point for Celtic and St Pauli fans to exchange experiences and to keep up to date with events in Hamburg. Joe watched how the relationships between the fans began to spread: “With the success of the trips for both groups straight away there was individual friendship and more group correspondence.  I think that gradually built up and more and more St Pauli fans were going to see Celtic in Europe.  It was easier for them to get to European games than to come to Glasgow, so there was a visual presence at Celtic games abroad and it was St Pauli.  Other Celtic fans would come up to me and say ‘That’s those St Pauli guys, from Germany.’ There was just more and more and I would meet my mates from Hamburg at the European games, so they were just stepping stones. They were keeping us up to date about what was happening at St Pauli, the political stuff at the time it was the squats down at the harbour, a lot of that was going on, my mates stayed in it. Everything just kept going on building up, building up.” 

Sven also remembers that these early games acted as a catalyst for more fans from Hamburg and Glasgow to watch their new found comrades:  “At the next European matches more and more St Pauli fans started to follow Celtic in Europe and more and more Celtic fans came to visit us in Hamburg (of course not in Europe!) and we had great trips together, Celtic in Stuttgart (2003) for example and the next day we (St Pauli) had an away match in Mainz.   So we all met up in Stuttgart together and then the next day we all went to Mainz.  There were other trips to Munich, Switzerland, Neuchatel, Berne, Paris Saint Germain.”   

Half-and-half scarves: not always socially unacceptable!

As well as European games, the Fanladen were also involved in the organisation of trips from Hamburg to Glasgow. One such trip took place in October 1996, for Celtic’s home game versus Motherwell. In those pre-internet days it wasn’t just the basics of travel arrangements that fans had to worry about but also being aware of what to expect on arrival.  Through the Millerntor Roar, fans were able to communicate to others in advance of making the journey what they could expect.  The trip cost between DM100 and DM230 (£42 to £96).  There would be a stadium tour and fans were invited to eat in the Jock Stein Lounge with accommodation provided by Celtic fans from the Sons of Donegal CSC, the Govan Emerald CSC and other Celtic anti-fascists.  St Pauli fans were advised to bring something for their hosts as experience had told them that they would receive gifts from Celtic fans on arrival.  Most important of all, of course was information on buying a round: the Millerntor Roar advised people that if they weren’t quick enough that they would soon have three or four beers in front of them! (Editor’s note: We have found to our cost that St. Pauli fans are all too familiar with the concept of buying rounds, particularly where schnapps are concerned!) 

The fact that fanzines were a vehicle to communicate directly with fans was of paramount importance.  It was a way that supporters could organise themselves, express their views and discuss issues that were affecting them. Joe, as a regular contributor to NTV, was fully aware of the importance of this: “The fanzines were the ‘talk’ of the terracing and the street, they were miles away from the official publications.  This was normal fans voicing views and also letting others have a vehicle to get letters and articles published.  Just like music fanzines, it brought a lot of people together.  Without the fanzines at the time the message regarding fascism/racism, the board, police and all other issues wouldn’t have been confronted in a collective way. This was all before the internet and mobile phones.” 

A slightly different opportunity for St Pauli to watch the Hoops came in 1995, when Celtic organised a small pre-season tour of Germany which included a visit to the Milllerntor. This trip has since been immortalised in ‘The Celtic and St Pauli Song’ by Eire Og. Sven, along with a number of St Pauli fans, joined the tour starting with a game in Lubeck: “I think there was about 200 Celtic fans, it was a pre-season tour against smaller clubs.  We had a party (after the Lubeck game) and then the next day (Saturday) we had Celtic playing at the Millerntor and the Irish Brigade played front of the stadium on a stage.  We had a big party. The next day, Sunday, we went altogether by train to the next match which was against Kickers Emden, a very small club near the Dutch border.  It was crazy to go there with public transport, it was a countryside club, but we had great craic going there and back and we had another big concert with the Irish Brigade on the Sunday evening. That was very hard four days with all the Celtic fans – three nights drunk and the craic!” 

The modern Millerntor

However, while making new friends and enjoying a drink or a few along the way helped to cement the bonds between the two supports, one of the main foundations of the freundschaft (friendship) was politics.  Those were the politics of the left, solidarity against fascism and attempting to promote the ideas of inclusivity.  While the two sets of fans had formed opinions of their own environments, built on lived experience, the new-found kinship allowed them to develop that. 

For many St Pauli fans, meeting Celtic fans – particularly those from the north of Ireland – meant that they were able to broaden their political experience. Sven Brux: “We have been involved in political struggles at home, on the streets and around football, before and for us football was never just football so we were happy to meet same-minded people around Celtic.  We learned so much about the political background of Celtic and its fans and spread this into the St. Pauli-scene.” For people like Sven, having personal contact with some of the experiences of their new-found friends resonated: “I remember very clearly that German TV programmes were telling us about the conflict in Ireland, then we met some people from Belfast at European away games with Celtic and we had a lot of fun with them and they invited us across: ‘If you are over come to visit us.’  But it was before the ceasefire, it was at the beginning of the ‘90s so it was a dangerous situation, in our view.”  

Green Brigade banner v HSV at Celtic Park, 2009

Sven felt that in order to have an informed political insight that it was important to visit the Six Counties in order to see what those who lived there faced on a daily basis:  “These people who invited us, they lived there every single day and we wanted to go just for a long weekend, so if we want to see the real situation, wherever in the world you have to go there to see with your own eyes.  And that was exactly the right decision, because our experience there showed us another picture of the situation apart from what the German media showed us.  And that was great for us.” 

Joe, too, found that visiting St Pauli helped inform his political outlook and that personal contacts were key to this: “My mate stayed in the squats and it was a respected area with people from around St Pauli.  There was always something going on and that anarchic feeling was taken onto the terracing.  The politics were from the street: against fascism, corporations and big businesses. It was fresh and exciting and nothing like back home.” 

St Pauli fans became renowned in Germany and beyond for their anti-fascist stance with tens of thousands of anti-Nazi stickers being distributed throughout the 1990s

By the late 1990’s word of the friendship between the two sets of fans were being noted and wasn’t always being met with positive reactions.  Joe had brought back a St Pauli totenkopf (‘deadhead’ or skull-and-crossbones) hoody from one of his many trips to watch St Pauli and was wearing it in Glasgow one day:  “I was just walking back to the flat and a car went by and I heard a shout of ‘Fenian bastard’ (and I went) into the house and I phoned my mate Dirk in Germany and told him: “I think we’re getting recognition now cause I’ve just been called a ‘Fenian bastard’ because of my black St Pauli top!”  I felt it was dead funny because they actually knew St Pauli now and they think calling me a ‘Fenian bastard’ is their way of getting at me.”   

Celtic and St Pauli – anti-facist alliance

Of course, as well as politics and comradeship, the other obvious element of that connected these groups was football.  What had started as a meeting between two like-minded sets of people, back in 1992, would result in days that they would remember for a long time.  In 2006 St Pauli, languishing in the third tier of German football, made it all the way to the semi-finals of the German Cup. Joe remembers that run well: “We started out winning 3-2 in extra time versus Wacker Burghausen. Then a comfortable 4-0 victory over VfL Bochum. Next up was another extra time win, 4-3 this time against Hertha BSC.  The quarter final beckoned against Werder Bremen midweek under the floodlights. The game really shouldn’t have went ahead due to heavy snow and it was freezing.  I’m sure it was live on tv and that’s why it was played.  With the surface really bad, the Boys in Brown won 3-1 – what a result!  We partied into the small hours celebrating a great result, also wondering who we would we face in the semi final.  It turned out it was Bayern Munich.  We lost 0-3 which was disappointing but it was a great cup run and something I wish we’d have again as it was a great buzz for us fans and for me travelling to these amazing cup games.”  The historic cup run also provided FC St Pauli with some much-needed income to help keep the club afloat at a critical time in their history.

St Pauli’s famous Gegengerade terracing celebrate’s Celtic’s league title in 2006

   

The Baltic temperatures of St Pauli’s cup victory over Bremen contrast with Sven’s memory of a certain game in Seville that he still treasures: “In Seville, I was inside the ground.   I got a ticket but not in an official way.  A couple of months before the final I was invited to a UEFA conference in London in Chelsea’s stadium and I had to talk about the fight against racism and stuff like that, so I had a contact at UEFA.  So when Celtic went to Seville I wrote an email to that guy and said “Look, can you do me a favour – can you let me buy a ticket?  And so I got 2 tickets for free.  I was a happy man!  But the trip itself was something else.  The closer you came to Seville, the more Celtic flags you seen out of hotels.  And you know all the stories of what happened in Seville, it was so crazy.  It was so great to see so, so many from all over the world and we talked to so many Celtic fans from all over the world, from Australia, America, wherever.  I would ask “Why did you come here, do you have a ticket?” and they would reply “No, no chance but my Grandfather was a Celtic fan and I have to be here for this big moment in the club’s history.”  That was so heart-warming to speak with all these people and the solidarity and the craic and everything.” 

Thirty years on from that fateful first meeting in Glasgow, fans of both clubs still regularly make that journey across the North Sea to experience the different fan culture, to meet new people (and some old faces!) and to make friends. In a world with easily accessible information about the culture of other football clubs and supports and with cheaper and easier travel to hand to facilitate new connections and relationships, the friendship between Celtic and St Pauli fans remains remarkably enduring.

The idea that football can be a positive force for social change still persists as does the belief in political solidarity across national borders – with a sprinkling of beer, schnapps and good craic along the way.    

Shebeen – one of the bars popular with Celtic fans in the St Pauli district of Hamburg

PATRICK RODGERS

Twitter: @lisbon250567

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A special thanks to Sven and Joe for their time and help in putting this article together.

——


Read more articles about Celtic fan culture and the club’s history here: https://the-shamrock.net/the-shamrock-online/

We also publish books! See details of our books to date here: https://the-shamrock.net/books/

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