There’s a pub around the corner from St Pauli’s stadium, the Millerntor, called the Jolly Roger. It’s named after the St Pauli logo: a skull and crossbones. Inside the bar there are thousands of stickers papered across every table and wall: hammers and sickles, pro-LGBT slogans and Che Guevara’s face stared out at me from a hundred directions. I arrived at the pub at 1 p.m., in time for kick-off at 3 p.m. It was quiet, but outside the streets were busy. Little kids chased each other while ageing hard lads wearing jackets emblazoned with skulls and crossbones ate pizza on the kerb. There were black St Pauli hoodies, rainbow St Pauli T-shirts, anti-fascist sweaters, pins, badges, socks and caps.
Merchandising is a hot topic at St Pauli. The fans have long protested against money interfering with the club’s spirit. Many of the old guard think that the availability of a St Pauli x Rick and Morty T-shirt is a sign that the club has become too commercialised, a brand rather than a cause. The stadium gift shop supported this complaint. There are tubes of St Pauli sun cream, St Pauli rubber ducks, bibs and dummies, caps retailing at €30, and even a St Pauli toaster.
Outside the stadium there were lots of women. Dads with daughters sat on their shoulders and groups of teenage girls. I asked Antonia and Kim, two eighteen-year-old Hamburgers, why they’d come. ‘We feel safe in the crowds,’ Antonia said, taking a drag on her cigarette. ‘And the community is the right side, politically.’ As we spoke, the team arrived, but the reaction from the fans was surprisingly modest. No clamouring for attention from the players, just a few muted chants of ‘St Pauli, St Pauli’.
I went upstairs to the press centre where I met Sven Brux, the head of security. He was jittery with pre-match nerves, clutching a coffee and currywurst. Brux has had a hand in shaping the last forty years of St Pauli. ‘The politics kicked off with us,’ he told me. ‘We were punk rockers, I had green and grey spiky hair,’ he said, splaying a hand in the shape of a mohawk above his bald head. ‘Nowadays, it’s more organised. We were just a bunch of drunken lads punching Nazis,’ he said, smiling at the memory.
Brux acknowledged that St Pauli has changed since then. ‘Before, it was a tough, working-class area with a lot of harbour workers and the red-light district. But as society around has changed, so have the people in the ground.’