Last Friday night’s match between St. Pauli and Schalke is only the 7th in Bundesliga history to be abandoned. One individual’s action has given an entire group of fans a bad wrap. Now the FC St. Pauli have to play their next home match against Werder in front of empty terraces.
88 minutes are gone, St. Pauli are down to 9 players after referee Deniz Atykin has sent of two of the players. About 27 minutes earlier the St. Pauli had a goal blown off for offside, a split second decision that was difficult to make, but right as the TV pictures later confirm. The linesman who made the decision is later hit by a pint of beer, thrown by an outraged spectator, and the referee abandoned the match.
Suddenly, it seems, fingers are pointed towards the St. Pauli and their fans. Bild reports about “unruly fans”, that do not hesitate to toss objects on the pitch. What seems to get lost in that discussion that now has been going on in the tabloids, fan forums, on Twitter and elsewhere is that there are clear distinctions to be made here.
First of all, there are no good and bad football fans. Yes, St. Pauli have fantastic fans, but are their fans better then the fans of Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund or Werder Bremen? But, a football fan is a football fan, nothing more, nothing less.
We can measure the commitment of the fans by the level of noise they produce, how they help their football club in finical difficult times etc. And on that count we can maybe create a distinction between, let’s say football fans in Norway that almost never make any noise, and football fans in Germany that do tend to make themselves heard.
Furthermore, some fan-bases seem more appealing then others, considering their political stances or their social commitment to their community. But, identifying oneself, or feeling closer to, one group of fans then other groups doesn’t make one of them better then the other. It simply means that different people have different values.(Well, I would of course take out fans on the extreme right out of that equation, for hopefully obvious reasons)
However, there are certain things that one has to accept as a football fan. You don’t get to make the decisions! It is the club that decides if they want to keep the coach that you loath, help the club that you loath, and it is the referee that gets to make the calls on the pitch. Those are the rules you have to play by if you are a football fan, and even though this sport has driven me mad at times, it has been an easy bargain to make for me.
Having said that, there stands nothing in your way to make your feelings heard. Bayern Munich’s fans can protest Uli Hoeness, and fans can boo the referee, and you can start a petition to get the coach removed… I could go on for hours.
The amount of things that you cannot do is a rather limited:
As a fan you do know that throwing objects on the pitch is forbidden.
As a fan you do know that racial and homophobic slurs have nothing to do with the beautiful game, and that these things do not belong there, or in fact anywhere else in society.
As a fan you restrain from violence, and if you should run into a fan of the opposite camp you should conduct yourself like a normal human being. Ideally you should go for a beer, and talk about the match. No beer should be thrown for the entire time, mind you.
Holger Stanislawski said himself that the guy who threw the glass wasn’t a fan. He is right, and the one guy, who isn’t a fan, has ruined a match of football for over 25.000 fans who wanted to see the match between St. Pauli and Werder at the Millerntor.
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