anarchy in the soccer stadium: fc st. pauli is back in germany’s bundesliga

Here’s my piece on the anti-capitalist, anarchy-embracing soccer club FC St. Pauli, which was featured in Counterpunch this past Friday.

ANARCHY IN THE SOCCER STADIUM:

FC ST. PAULI IS BACK IN GERMANY’S BUNDESLIGA

Professional sports are big business. Top-flight players receive more money in one season than most dream of seeing in their lifetime. Billionaire owners seem more intent on the bottom line than on their team’s place in the league standings. Ticket prices continue to rise, squeezing the wallets of more and more fans. In this era of free agency and million-dollar transfer-fees, it is easy to be cynical, to think that the soul of sport, the integrity of competition, has been lost to the values of big business forever. Just don’t tell that to the rabid soccer fans of the German Bundesliga’s FC St. Pauli.

Simply put, FC St. Pauli is a little different than your average sports team.

A perennial second division (aka minor leagues) club, FC St. Pauli nevertheless regularly sells out their 20,000-seat Millerntor stadium. The team enters onto the field while the speakers blare AC/DC’s “Hells Bells,” and players are greeted by fans waving pirate flags and other signs of anarchic rebellion. A scent of marijuana hanging over the crowd, and their fans pulsate in unison, as if attending an all-night rave. All of which makes perfect sense for a team who plays its home games in the red-light district of Hamburg.

But what may at first appear to be a sociological study in the art of controlled chaos is really nothing of the kind. The St. Pauli experience is heavily influenced by their artist, punk and left-wing intellectual followers, which makes the Millerntor stadium one of the most tolerant sporting venues in all of Europe, if not the world.

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