By Darren Thomas – FC St. Pauli Toronto Fans
I moved to Toronto last year, and thought it would be difficult to see St Pauli from now on. So when they announced a friendly just down the road (by North American standards) I had to go.
This would be my first trip to the US, and I was a little nervous. So, clutching my newly issued ESTA and my shiny Permanent Resident of Canada card, we set off. Five hours driving and one curious border guard later, we were in the States.
The clubs had a pretty packed schedule for us, and it started on the Friday when we rolled up to Jack White’s record store to be handed a free beer. This was a meet and greet for St .Pauli fans, but also a good chance to meet reps from Detroit City FC.
What I didn’t expect from this part of the trip was to be able to mingle with people like club legend Ewald Lienen and president Oke Göttlich. It was particularly great to chat to Oke for a candid talk about where the team is going, promoting the club while preserving our culture, and his take on things like sponsorship.
That evening, we trawled along to the venue for the Rise Against gig. The queue to get in was interesting in itself, with announcements like “If you have any weapons, such as mace, tasers, knives, please take them back to your car and we will hold your place in line.” Not “please don’t wander around with a bowie knife in your underpants” but “hey, it’s cool, just pop it back in your glovebox, ok?”
When we got in to the gig, it turned out that buying through St. Pauli got us access to the room upstairs, with a nice bar and a bunch of seats. The least punk rock thing I’ve ever seen, but I’m old and my knees hurt, ok? While the three (excellent) bands were on, we hung out with the players and staff from both teams. There aren’t many teams where you can have a few drinks with the players while bouncing around to punk rock, are there?
I have a succession of photos from the Friday. It starts with a pleasant photo of me and Oke, just hanging out, chatting about the team. It ends with me and Heerwagen in a bar at about two in the morning. He looks perfectly composed, while I look like a gurning fool who has been at the beer. It’s a progression. I might submit the whole series for the Turner prize next year.
The next morning was Game Day. The whole day was marked by the hospitality of Detroit City. They were great. We rolled up to a tailgate, where a beer was forced into my hand, and a bunch of their fans came over to greet us. This continued throughout the day. They made sure we were ok, that we knew where everything else was, and that we were fed and watered. At one point, my friend and I were a bit lost. One of the Detroit City fans got us back to where we needed to be via the beer tent, as she was insistent that she be allowed to buy us beer. Who are we to argue?
The game was good fun too. We had fans from all over. Some came up from Guadalajara. We had others from Philly, Calgary, New York, Buffalo, and more. We had smoke, we had flags, we had noise, we had the club president jumping up and down with us. And Detroit City? Their fans brought it too. Oh yes.
The game passed in a wall of noise and smoke. At the end, the players from both sides came over to thank us. Representatives from the US St. Pauli fan clubs went on the pitch to present the man of the match award. We went on to the after party, and what I remember of that was lovely.
I’d like to take a minute to talk about Detroit City. They had drums, tifo, and boundless enthusiasm. Even when they were a few goals down, their energy didn’t drop. They’re a community club with a strong interest in social justice, a good percentage of women in the crowd and a determination to not be swallowed up by the MLS. Sound like a club you know? If you’re a St. Pauli fan looking for a US club, you could do a lot worse than keep an eye out for Detroit City. Some of us from Toronto are thinking about a road trip down there soon, even without St. Pauli involved.
In short, it was a hell of a weekend. We drank with the players, grilled the management about the future, met St. Pauli friends from all over, and made new friends in Detroit. I can’t think of another club that would be like this, and I can’t think of a better US club for it.