The first book about FC St. Pauli in English language has arrived! Before the German premier of Pirates, Punks and Politics after the home game against Ingolstadt, official match programme VIVA ST. PAULI spoke to its author, Nick Davidson and published translated versions in the VIVA and on fcstpauli.com. This is the original English version.
Hello Nick, to many German football fans, the Premier League has an almost legendary status, but you prefer watching FC St. Pauli matches in Germany’s Second Bundesliga. How come?
Watford FC, the club I grew up supporting, have had spells in the Premier League and it was those seasons that really brought it home to me how unfair the Premier League has become. Watford were relegated after one season when they were promoted to the Premier League (a bit like FCSP in the Bundesliga 2010/11!) but since the introduction of the Premier League in 1993 (Year Zero for many in the media, disregarding over 100 years of Football League history) English football has been dominated by money. Unless your club is backed by a multi-millionaire owner, you have very little chance of surviving in the top division. As a result of increased ticket prices, the loss of terraces and the gentrification of football most Premier League grounds are devoid of atmosphere. Due to constant TV coverage and some of the best players in the world joining English clubs, it is believed by many that the Premier League is ‘the best league in the world’ – this is simply not true. Especially if you consider it from a supporters’ perspective.
Why FC St. Pauli and not another German club?
Back in 2006, I read an article in FourFourTwo magazine about the club. It seemed that the political leanings of the fans and their stance against fascism, racism, sexism and homophobia mirrored my ideals. I wanted to find out more and experience for myself the unique atmosphere of the Millerntor. Everything I have experienced since, has confirmed my initial thoughts. I come for the atmosphere in the stadium, the solidarity with the fans and the sense of community and togetherness the club inspires.
Have you ever regretted a trip to the Millerntor?
No, never. When I decided to make regular trips over to Germany I promised myself I wouldn’t get upset about results. You can’t travel 800 miles and be upset if they lose. I love the fact that at FC St. Pauli, ideals are often just as important as results. I was over for the Sandhausen game in October. The game was dreadful, but taking part in the march in support of the Lampedusa refugees was an incredible experience.
When did you decide to turn your new-found love for FC St. Pauli into a book?
Back in about 2010, I started writing accounts of my trips watching FCSP for a website called European Football Weekends. They got a good reaction and I thought I should try and write more about FCSP. So I began thinking about the book in 2010 and due to the demands of work and family life it took about four years to write!
Your book presents a mix of „match report“-style chapters on your personal experience at Millerntor and also history and background chapters about the St. Pauli district, Hamburg and FC St. Pauli’s fan culture. What made you choose this unusual structure?
Recording my experiences watching FCSP was one thing, but the other thing driving me to write the book was the lack of English language material about the club. There are lots of great books about FCSP written in German, but nothing in English. However, FCSP gets lots of mentions in the British media but most of the articles just deal in the usual clichés about the club: The skull and crossbones, the Reeperbahn and the red-light district, the punks on the terraces. After a while, these clichés started to frustrate me (and other UK fans) so I thought I’d try and write a more detailed account of the club’s history. So it ended up being a mix of history and ‘reports’ – not really match reports as those chapters are more about the experience of watching FCSP. In a way it has made it appeal to more people, as some are interested in the experience of watching games and others keen to find out more about the club’s history.
What are the reactions to your book?
The reaction has amazed me. We’ve had people inquiring about availability from the US to Australia and people from all over the world have signed up to the Facebook page. The book has even cropped up in Brazil via the St. Pauli fan club over there. I have had a lot of help and support via social media like Facebook and twitter. Lots of groups like Yorkshire St Pauli and St Pauli London have massively helped get the word out there. We’ve had launch events in Leeds and London that were really well attended. The Yorkshire event was timed to coincide with YSP’s first ever ANTIRA football tournament which included teams from all over the UK.
The press reaction has been good so far too, it was ‘Book of the week’ in The Independent newspaper the other week, which was quite a surprise and quite a big deal over here! I think it is popular partly because of many fans continued disillusionment with British football.
Do you know of other publications like yours written by English supporters about German clubs?
Not many about German clubs. There is a book called ‘For Better or for Wurst’ written by an English fan called Jon Goulding about FC Nürnberg, but I don’t know of any others.
What did your publisher say when he first learnt about your plan?
He was quite positive. I actually presented him with an almost complete draft. I’ve written a couple of other books with him before, so we know each other well. Initially, it was going to be an eBook only, but after lots of enquiries the publisher decided to run with a printed version too. He’s glad he did now!
After only one month since its publication, the first edition of your book has almost sold out and a reprint is already under way. Any regrets that you chose to donate all your author’s proceeds to 1910 – Museum for FC St. Pauli e.V.?
Yes, we are already onto the 2nd edition which is incredible (plus it allows us to correct a couple of mistakes that slipped through – massive apologies here to Dave Doughman and his band Swearing At Motorists. I didn’t put a capital ‘A’ in the original version and didn’t spot it in time to change it, which was a real shame as his song St. Pauli ’Til I Die sums up in under three minutes what my book takes 100,000 words to do!).
But absolutely no regrets about donating my process to 1910 e.V. I decided very early on that if I was to write about FCSP I didn’t want to make any personal financial gain from it. Making money personally seemed to go against the collective spirit of the fans and the spirit of the club. I am glad that I can give something back. It sounds dramatic but if I hadn’t have found FCSP I might have given up on football altogether. I owe a massive debt of gratitude to the Fanalden, especially Stefan and Justus, they make it possible for us international fans to attend games. I wanted to be able to do something, however small, to give back to the fan community.
In addition, the support I have received from Christoph Nagel and Sönke Goldbeck from the Museum project has been fantastic, they have helped with the proofing and editing process and have given loads of support and advice in promoting the book in Germany.
Why did you choose 1910 e.V. as the beneficiary of your proceeds?
Because I think the project is unique and vital. I like the idea that the museum will catalogue and document the past as well as inform people about the future. The club has such a unique (recent) history I think that remembering and celebrating the past will help protect the future. I also think a Museum in the Gegengerade will further extend the community space and work well with the Fanladen, AFM and Fanräume.
Besides the 1910eV logo, your book also sports a foreword by Ex St. Pauli defender Ian Joy. How did that come about?
Twitter. I sent Ian a tweet on the off chance. I particularly wanted Ian to write the foreword as he too came from the UK and made the Millerntor his spiritual home. I spoke to him at length over Skype and it is clear that the club holds a very special place close to his heart.
After the home game against Ingolstadt, your book will celebrate its German Premiere in the Fanladen St. Pauli. What can visitors expect?
I will talk for a bit about how the book came about, but at the UK launches the best bits have been the Q&A sessions that follow. We’ve had some really interesting discussions about supporting FCSP, our concerns for the club in the future and the wider issues of modern football. It will also be a great chance to meet some more fans. One of my favourite things about visiting the Millerntor over the years are the people we’ve met and the friends we’ve made.
Sorry if that’s too much of a cliché, but the English are quite well known for their passion for sports betting. What would your bet be for the match against Ingolstadt?
It’s a home game, so probably a 0-1 defeat (smiles). That said, a win would be great!
Thanks very much for the interview, Nick!
Interview: Jörn Kreuzer
Pirates, Punks and Politics is available online at Sports Books and also at many book stores, FC St. Pauli fanladen and the 1910 e.V. stall at the Gegengerade before home games.