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Antira 2016 report #2

2016-08-18 16.57.09

Antira – Giddys (guest commentary from FC United of Manchester)

As FC travelled to Detroit this weekend, so too did some of us to Hamburg. This weekend saw the annual Antira (Anti-Racism) tournament in Hamburg, held at the Millentor, home of F.C. Sankt Pauli.

The tournament is by invite only, and this year we were welcomed as representatives from FC. Seven of us made the trip over, four flying into Hamburg on Thursday and the other three arriving Friday morning. Thursday night saw the “welcoming party” at the Jolly Roger pub, a stone’s throw from the ground.

With reduced prices for people attending the Antira, the drinks were in full flow as the four of us made it to the Jolly on opening night, with people swelling onto the pavement in outside the bar. French, Spanish and Italian accents mixed while we made friends with a group from the German city of Darmstadt, all against a backdrop of gathered Cypriots lighting flares and singing vociferously into the night. The party was still in full flow as we slunk off for an early night at 3am.
With sore heads we met the others from the red-eye flight on Friday morning, completing the group. We headed down to the port for some touristy pictures and sampled the Currywurst and Mackerel rolls before heading up to the Millentor for our first taste of the tournament.

Due to the size of the tournament the club allowed it to be held in the ground, with the pitch being divided into 3 for the games. The Gegengrade, the large stand running along the side of the pitch, was opened up to host the bars, food stalls and the many merchandise kiosks. We were all shocked and impressed with the level of organisation; there was a meaty bar run by Skinheads Sankt Pauli, a Vegetarian Bar, Coffee stand, and a separate alcohol bar. On top of this, there were around 10-15 stalls from groups taking part, selling their own club/group merchandise. As we found a spot for the afternoon on the terrace, we realised the size of the event. With 20+ teams taking part, we estimated there must have been around 500 people in attendance. The sun shone down, we drank a few too many €1 Astras and enjoyed the football. Built into the stand, the “Fanladen”, or fan rooms, which are controlled independently by fan groups, is the perfect location to continue the party into the night. Between the Fanladen party and a few bars in the Sankt Pauli district we found ourselves getting the morning train back to our digs at about 5.30. Again, the party was still going on when we left.

Saturday afternoon was much of the same; cheap beer, sunshine, loud music and football. At the end of the day’s games we took the opportunity to have a kick about on the pitch and explore the empty away end. Standing on the field with the stands – three of them adorned with terraces – towering above us, we all agreed how far behind we are in England. The away end was awash with graffiti & stickers from visiting teams, and scars of where smoke bombs and flares had fizzled on the steps. The abundance of bars and fences, perfect for both flags and climbing, seemed like it had been designed with a boisterous following in mind.

The fences of both end terraces had been covered in plastic sheeting for the base of a graffiti wall. By the end of the Saturday both walls were covered with Tags from the teams represented. Graffiti in Germany, and especially Sankt Pauli, is a huge scene. The bars, walls, and street furniture surrounding the Millentor are covered in a patchwork of tags, art, and stickers. It seems engrained in the football culture, and adds a great sense of pride and territory to the area.

As the evening arrived, it brought with it three of my favourite moments of the weekend. First, the perfectly organised group photo. An hour slot was sensibly given to round everyone up and allow them to take their place on the huge terrace. As we walked out to find a spot, the loudspeaker barked over in English that “We need everyone in this block, everyone move to the right!” This drew chuckles from the English speakers. Over 500 people took their place, solidarity banners were unfurled, and pyro readied. There was an abundance of scarves, smoke masks and balaclavas.
On the signal came a wall of smoke and flashing, the fire-crackers echoed around the other empty stands. “ALERTA, ALERTA, ANTIFASCISTA!” went the chant. It put the one or two smoke bombs you occasionally get in England into perspective.

Then it was time to make our way out of the ground for the march to a squat where a party was being held later in the evening. As the crowd waited outside the stand we were over-looked by the steps entering the ground. After 5 minutes, a lady who was clearly involved with the weekend’s organisation emerged wielding a number of carrier bags and a hold-all. The second of the best moments was watching this lady delving deeply into her bags and throwing out goodies to the crowds below. It was like a kids’ party, though instead of sweets being thrown it was all sizes and types of pyrotechnics! After the bags were emptied we were ready to depart. Photographers at the front, along with a couple of organisers, and we began to walk in formation across the waste land behind a huge Football Fans Against Homophobia banner.

After a few minutes we made it onto the road. Buses stopped, cars turned round and drove back from where they had come and we marched in unison toward to squat. My third favourite moment of the weekend was observing the expressions of the on-looking public (and may I add, the support) while we marched along the centre of the road in a haze of smoke and bangers for 20 minutes. It was truly an amazing feeling. The public in this area are not unaccustomed to sights of the Ultras marching through town, and neither are the police. The Polizei were present but only to block the roads later on; there were no cameras thrust in faces, no riot gear, no heavy handed sergeants throwing their weight about; just a couple of cars to make sure the mob had a clear march on the squat. It was beautifully refreshing.

We arrived at the squat and the crowd hung around, mingling on the street, drinking cheap beer before going inside to listen to the bands (including Cardiff-band The Oppressed, who have played at the 0161 Festival at the Miners in Moston). We slunk off to watch Ronaldo win the Champions League final from a late night Waffle Café… which obviously, like most places in Hamburg, served Alcohol.

Some, nursing a hangover and a come down, left for the last train while the rest headed to a night in a squat. Rote Flora is an old theatre in the area which has been squatted since 1989. In 2013 the district had plans to re-develop the building but, thanks to huge street protests, backed down with their plans in 2014.

After a solid lie-in with one of the few DVDs in our accommodation (Die Hard, German version) we emerged for the final day of our trip. Sankt Pauli’s women’s team were playing their promotion decider behind the Millentor stadium. Around 400 people watched Sankt Pauli draw 1-1 and set up a penalty shoot-out in which they won with the final penalty of the 5. Even with a relatively small crowd the team still did the German tradition of joining hands and acknowledging the support from all sides of the crowd with “Hey! Hey! Hey!” A joy to watch.

We had one final supper at a restaurant where one of Ultrà Sankt Pauli works as a waiter, tipped generously, and said our good-byes. We left feeling wholly disorganised in comparison, but with the feeling that Sankt Pauli is a special club, in a unique area of a great city.

First published here: https://www.facebook.com/fctifo/posts/1731240123827741