“Never again fascism! Never again war! Never again the Third Division!” is not a chant you are likely to hear at any League ground in Britain, but its pawky humour encapsulates the unique atmosphere of the Millerntor Stadion in Hamburg, home to FC St Pauli, a club who triumphantly give the lie to every tired cliché about Germans, and German football.
Nick Davidson had been a lifelong Watford supporter, but became disillusioned with the commercialisation and hype of the Premier League/Sky era. He initially turned to non-League football, joining the committee of a local club, but soon tired of the petty politicking and minuscule crowds. Having read an article about St Pauli, he travelled to a home game and was instantly smitten.
What is it that makes St Pauli so different? The fans. An eclectic mix of anarchists, left-wingers, punks and people who just like to party, they welcome outsiders and, however serious their political views, they know how to have fun; win or lose, they’re on the booze, with an occasional toke thrown in.
Davidson describes his happy bemusement at that first game back in 2007, as the beer flowed on the terraces and complete strangers, many wearing the club’s trademark skull-and-crossbones insignia, made a point of befriending him. Since then he has frequently made the 800-mile round trip from England. While he is not totally misty-eyed, acknowledging that the club, currently in the second division of the Bundesliga, have had their share of hooligan incidents, he revels in their unique culture.
You don’t have to share Davidson’s politics to enjoy this passionate, partisan account of how he fell back in love with football, and it’s hard to disagree with his view that, in an era when the top-flight game is perceived to be selling its soul, we need clubs like St Pauli.
Published in paperback by SportsBooks, £8.99