St. Pauli are the football equivalent of your goth brother who you love but insists on wearing black even in this heat. They’ve historically brought left-wing politics into the mainstream football conversation, and they’ve got a skull and cross-bone badge and bullets on their kit. Even better, they used to have a little train that would deliver sausages to fans in their stadium. That’s a nice touch, isn’t it? But they also made headlines this summer, as the first ever 2. Bundesliga team to tour the USA.
Not content with simply using an overseas trip as a PR exercise, they saw the tour with Under Armour as a way to try and bring their brand of inclusivity and passion for football to the places they were visiting.
Over two weeks, cameras followed the St. Pauli squad as they landed in the U.S. to visit Under Armour, see the team’s newest kits, participate in community events, and play exhibitions across the country. But for a club rooted in inclusivity, in welcoming those that otherwise might be shunned, this tour was so much more. It was an opportunity to connect with communities and host dialogues about real-life issues, with sport as a frame of reference instead of the focus. It was an opportunity to give back, to meet and inspire youth. And it was an opportunity to show that football is still a sport grounded in community and bringing people together, instead of driving them apart.
It is genuinely great to see that St. Pauli continue to go against the grain when it comes to inclusivity. So often you assume that footballers operate on a different plane to the rest of us, however, the German club have always put politics at the forefront of their club ethos, and it’s to be applauded.
During their two exhibition matches, against Detroit FC in Detroit, and the Timbers 2 of the USL, St. Pauli didn’t just show up to jump on the field, wave to new fans and depart just as quickly in a window tinted luxury bus. Instead, in Detroit they hosted a community meet up, inviting local club supporters and fans of their opponents to spend a night together at a local distillery, sharing drinks and conversations about Hamburg, Detroit, the world at large, and the roles they play in it as professional athletes. In communicating with fans as people, as equal parts of a community, the ethos of the club’s commitment to inclusivity comes to life.
Football really can be great, can’t it?