Stories and pictures of the beautiful game.
1. FC Union Berlin vs. FC St. Pauli 4:2 (2:1)
March 15, 2013 | attendance 21,410 | pictures
Matches between Union Berlin and FC St. Pauli are always somewhat special. While the “cult” term is clearly overstressed, it is undeniable that both clubs stick out from the pack and try to be different, but each in their very own way: Union and its fans are a closely knit family. They united against the unfair political system of the GDR in the past, and today, they stand as a bulwark against the event culture of “modern” football. In that sense, they are, and always have been, non-conformists. The club tries to apply its values and its culture of solidarity to all of its major decisions. St. Pauli, with their pirate flag and rebel image, were once the league’s buccaneers, a colorful alternative to the status quo. And despite the fact that the skull and crossbones is an important part of their brand and has become a successful selling point, its fans still take a strong stand for tolerance and left-wing political ideals.
Fans of both teams are united in spirit and friendship. When St. Pauli was on the brink of financial collapse, their fans saved them by donating money and coming up with creative ways to generate revenue (like special t-shirts). In a show of solidarity, fans of 1. FC Union Berlin also contributed. When a few years later, Union was in dire need, St. Pauli’s methods inspired the Berlin fans to save their club: one of their major efforts involved getting people to donate blood and pass the compensation on to Union. St. Pauli fans returned the favor, donating their blood to the cause. This mutual show of support brought the two fan groups together – from then on, they were “Blutsbrüder” (blood brothers).
A bit of history
Digging back in my files, I see that last night’s match was the eight time I saw both of those teams clash, my first time dating back to 2002 in second league at an un-roofed Alte Försterei in front of 15,011. In the end, the scrawny little scoreboard-house that still stands today showed the same numbers as last night: Union won 4:2, Steffen Baumgart and Kostatin Vidolov – the Simon Teroddes and Torsten Mattuschkas of the time – being among the Union scorers. I also went to Hamburg for the return match in 2003: more than 4,000 Union fans were among the 20,629 present in an equally crumbling Millerntor-Stadion back when the away fans were put where St. Pauli’s Ultras stand today. St. Pauli even played Union’s club anthem before kickoff. Union were down by two but leveled the match with two late goals, former Hertha player Sixten Veit scoring the equalizer in minute 90.
Both teams eventually were relegated to Regionalliga (third league at the time), and met there in the 2006/07 season. I only managed to get tickets for the main stand (wooden benches!) to watch a scoreless draw in Hamburg. I didn’t dare to show my colors but shouldn’t have worried as I ended up having friendly chats with leather-vested die-hard St. Pauli fans. There were two goals in the return match in a sold out but still un-renovated Alte Försterei (attendance: 16,415), ironically both scored by former St. Pauli striker Nico Patschinski, again both in the last ten minutes of the match. St. Pauli went up to second league that year and fans had to wait until 2010 for the next round. The match has been played regularly in Bundesliga 2 since then, and in the meantime, both grounds had a bit of a modernization makeover (and are both still in the process of finishing it).
Here’s some of my footage of those Regionalliga matches:
And back to last night
Last night was special because it was the first time that the Alte Försterei was sold out since Union opened up the new main stand for fans. 21,410 fans mark a new Bundesliga 2 home record for Union and you have to go back far in the history books to find a similar figure. You could see a large number of St.Pauli fans scattered throughout the stadium wearing their colors in the open. Many of them were at the main stand and even had a few call and response chants with the away end. They were obviously louder when their team scored twice, but their spirits were also not dampened by the fact that Union scored twice as many goals overall. So just like the first time I saw them play, the final score was 4:2, and just like many times before, two Union goals decided the match in the last 10 minutes.
The atmosphere was intense, but never aggressive. What I said earlier about both groups being united in spirit and friendship I got to witness on the way back: my train carriage was filled to the brim, half and half. Each fan group chanted their songs loudly and vividly. When one group was done, the other one would start, and they even both sang together along to the same tune, just with their own lyrics (“Torsten Mattuschka, du bist der beste Mann…” / “FC St.Pauli….”). When we got out of the train at its final destination, some fans thought that “this was even better than at the stadium”. Can’t say much more to that, except that this is how it should be when fans of two different teams get together.
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