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Hooligans or Cheerleaders? My First Football Match in Germany.

Hooligans or Cheerleaders?

My First Football Match in Germany.

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As an American there are a few delicate subjects I have to navigate when I travel. The obvious of course is politics but I am not here to discuss that. Instead, lets talk about another divider of countries and continents. FOOTBALL.

Yes, it is true Americans do not call the game which the rest of the world is fanatical about football. We instead call it by the silly name soccer. This does not mean that we are ignorant to the rules of the game or even that we are unable to enjoy watching a match. It is just that our collective culture has yet for some reason embraced the love of this game.

I must admit that I am not a sports fan in general. I watch the Super Bowl only for the parties and the commercials. I did enjoy going to day games when the weather was nice in San Francisco to watch the Giants but that was again more for the scenery and the beer drinking.

There is one thing that has intrigued me about football in Europe for years. It was the thing that I was most excited but scared of coming face to face with. Simply, HOOLIGANS. Once again as a silly American I base all my knowledge on hooligans from the film ‘Green Street Hooligans.’ This is one of my favorite films and it in no way has to do with Charlie Hunnam.

So when I moved to Germany one of the things on the top of my to-do list was going to a real football match and find me some hooligans! I was in luck because my boyfriend happens to be a major football fan. Surprise, Surprise he is European after all. The local team from Hamburg is St. Pauli and has been playing since 1910. I will admit that I know nothing about the team other than they have a skull and crossbones logo similar to a pirate flag. Oh and I know one of their songs.

A few of the stereotypes I had held true. First, there was a lot of beer drinking. By a lot a mean more than at your average baseball game at home. There was the pregame visit to the meeting spot. Which was an open counter bar on the sidewalk. The street corner was filled to the brim with fans lubricating themselves or in my case hoping a nice buzz would help ward off the brisk breeze. Then there was the actually beer drinking at the game and the post game drinking. The second, was that football fans really do sing songs and chant through the whole game. This is where the third stereo type falters and it has to do with the hooligans.

The hooligans were to my surprise sitting on the fence in front of the crowd and leading the songs and chants. The man directly in front of us was in his upper twenties and had a bullhorn in his hands. He orchestrated the chants and choreographed them with his fellow hooligans around the stadium. I was told that you are not allowed to photograph them because they don’t want to be documented in this act of hooliganism.

I saw no fighting. No acts of violence. Other than the two sides of the stadium being separated and impassable for the opposing fans the environment felt safe. I can not assume to know what happened after the game in the streets but as I left the stadium it seemed everyone was in great spirits due to St. Pauli’s win in overtime.

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So my question to you is do real hooligans exists or are they really just glorified cheerleaders?

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