Berlin (AFP) – Police in Germany are expecting more than a thousand hooligans to clash with trouble already brewing ahead of Sunday’s league match when Hamburg and St Pauli meet in the city’s first derby for seven years.
After 55 years in the Bundesliga, Hamburg’s relegation last May means there will be a league derby in the Hanseatic city for the first time since 2011, when St Pauli last played in Germany’s top flight.
Hamburg’s Volksparkstadion ground, which will host the second-division match with a sellout crowd of 57,000 expected, is just 6.5 kilometres (4 miles) from St Pauli’s more modest Millerntor stadium.
Police are on high alert with the match to kick off at 1330 local time (1130 GMT).
“We anticipate a much higher than average police mobilisation,” said Hamburg police spokesman Timo Zill.
“We will be very present and will monitor the situation.”
Trouble was brewing in the city long before kick-off.
Last week, 20 hardcore St Pauli fans attacked a group of six Hamburg supporters, leaving two in hospital.
In return, life-sized dolls, in the brown and white colours of St Pauli, were hanged from eight bridges across Hamburg on Tuesday.
There is no love lost between the rival fans.
Supporters of Hamburg, back-to-back German champions in the early 1980s and European champions in 1983, regard themselves as the city’s main club.
St Pauli, whose ground is situated near the Reeperbahn, Hamburg’s red-light district, was adopted by local squatters and punks.
The two clubs’ ideological differences came to a head in the 1980s and 1990s, when neo-Nazi hooligans controlled the terraces at Hamburg and opposed the ultra-left St Pauli fans.
“Today, some people stir the political argument to justify clashes, but they are in the minority,” political scientist Jonas Gabler, a specialist in fan culture, told AFP.
“Hamburg, and the majority of its fan clubs, have adopted the values of tolerance, openness and rejection of any discrimination.”
The politics has changed, but hatred still runs deep.
“It’s not politics, it’s a question of supremacy over the city, but there is a rivalry, and even a hatred, between the two groups of Ultras,” said St Pauli board member Michael Pahl.
Three flags fly from Millerntor’s stands, the club emblem, the LGBT rainbow flag and the Jolly Roger – the adopted logo of a white skull-and-crossbones on a black background.
Fittingly for the pirate theme, the club prides itself on taking an ‘anti’ stance – anti-fascist, anti-racist, anti-homophobic and anti-sexist.
“We are the only fans who do not wear the colours of their team,” laughs one fan ‘Jens’, who did not want to give his second name, dressed in a black T-shirt bearing the Jolly Roger emblem.
“The pirate flag symbolizes the struggle of underdogs against the rich, small against big.”
St Pauli’s appeal reaches much further than Germany’s borders with 400 fan groups registered as far away as Canada, Barcelona, New York and even Jakarta.
The return of the derby meant the 15,000 tickets to see the ‘away’ match on giant screens for the public viewing at St Pauli’s ground were snapped up within minutes of going on sale.
The club has long since aligned itself with the values of its supporters.
When violent scenes swept Hamburg in July 2017 during protests against the G20 summit held in the city, the club opened the stadium to allow 200 anti-globalisation activists to camp in the main stand.
“For me, politics plays a very important role in my passion for FC St Pauli, I share 100 percent of all its values,” says Pahl.
“St Pauli’s fans have been the precursors of a new fan culture in Germany.
“Squatters and punks of the local neighborhood gradually took control of the stands.
“The media coverage of this particular culture brought us more and more supporters, in Germany and abroad.
“It all came from the fans, not from the club.
“Even the Jolly Roger was initially an idea of the fans, who have printed t-shirts to collect money.”
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