Famous German Soccer Clubs – Part 1: FC Bayern München and FC St. Pauli

FC St. Pauli v 1. FC Union Berlin - 2. Bundesliga
St. Pauli is a really popular soccer club in Germany. Stuart Franklin-Bongarts@gettyimages.de

To give you a deeper understanding of the German love of their favorite pastime, soccer, we’d like to tell you a little more about a few important German soccer clubs. We’ll start with two very different clubs:

The FC Bayern München is clearly the most famous and the most successful club in German soccer history. It won 26 national championships and 18 German cups while winning the European Champions League five times.

The FC Bayern was founded in 1900 and looks back on a vivid history. Over the course of time, the club became the richest club in German soccer by a long way. The FC St. Pauli, on the other hand, is pretty much the opposite of the FC Bayern (FCB) and that’s not only due to its specific affiliation with a city district. The club’s home is the St. Pauli district in Hamburg – a liberal and left wing quarter, that is the site of most of the city’s nightlife. The FC St. Pauli (FCSP) has always been a rather poor club and just barely avoided bankruptcy more than once. It never won any title of importance and spent most of its history in Germany’s second division or even in amateur leagues.

 

The biggest Player in the Game

The FC Bayern München was home to many of the greatest German players ever. Soccer heroes such as Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Müller or Lothar Matthäus wore the Bayern jersey. Though the club was not a founding member of the Bundesliga when it was created in 1962, Bayern joined the ranks of Germany’s first division as early as 1965.

Right from the start, the FCB was quite successful and, despite a short depression in the 1970’s, it just kept on rising to the top. When Uli Hoeneß became Bayern’s manager, after he had to end his active career at the age of 27, he made the club what it is today. In the season of 2015/2016, Bayern broke the record of three league titles in a row.

An interesting fact of the Bavarian club’s history is that it had a Jewish president, Kurt Landauer, before the Nazis took over power in Germany. He had to step down during the Third Reich but actually returned to his post after World War II. The FC Bayern Munich and the FC St. Pauli are linked through several events in German soccer history. One of the most notable ones was a charity game, organized to save the nearly bankrupt FC St. Pauli, in which the FCB participated.

 

The left-wing Ticks

Why ticks, you might ask. It’s a name given to the St. Pauli fans by rival club supporters – originally meant as an insult, but eventually owned and used by the Hamburg club’s followers themselves. All in all, the St. Pauli fans stand pretty much alone among the German soccer fans. The reason lies in the pretty left-wing ideology of the supporters. Many German soccer clubs, especially smaller ones and clubs in eastern Germany, are breeding grounds for rather right to far-right fan bases. This brought many conflicts to the FCSP’s games in the past and it even still does today. On the other hand, this made the club quite unique and created an enormous inflow of fans from all over the world. Thus, the FC St.

Pauli became a powerful brand for a club its size – forcing it to fight a constant struggle between the advantages of the capitalist marketing system of modern professional soccer and the anti-capitalist ideologies of its fans, that have a share in the club. It all started when the stands of the Volksparkstadion, home to St. Pauli’s great city rival Hamburger SV, kept filling up with Neo-Nazis in the 1990’s. More and more soccer fans who were fed up with their sport being taken over by far-right hooligans wandered off to the small neighbor and started formulating their ideas of soccer. A soccer club should not only be a sports company but also have an identity and a policy. It should be open to everyone. The FCSP became the first German soccer club to officially ban racism and sexism from its stadium.

The athletic history of St. Pauli is a constant up and down, with a lot more downs, making sure, in a way, that the FCSP always will be more than just a soccer club.