A LATE SUMMER NIGHT AT MILLERNTOR
TEXT & PHOTOS: DANIEL BARTHOLD
Season 2023-2024 is not the first time that Germany’s second tier has been labelled the ‘best 2. Bundesliga’ ever. This year, it might be true with Hertha Berlin and Schalke 04 relegated. A decent number of traditional football clubs are now challenging for promotion to the Bundesliga and one club in the heart of Hamburg might have a say in the race for glory.
Hamburg, the so-called ‘Gateway to the World’, has been both lucky and yet struggling at the same time when it comes to club football. Hamburger SV, 1983 European Cup winners and once a German powerhouse, have been playing in the second tier since 2018 and FC St. Pauli, an ambitious and polarizing club, have not seen Bundesliga football in more than twelve years. The city is still fortunate though, simply because not many cities in Germany have two such different but popular teams, both diverse and unique in their own way. While HSV have no choice but to return to the first league as soon as possible, St. Pauli usually prefer understatement, although the fan base is known all over Europe and die-hard supporters fill the stadium every fortnight on match days at home. Millerntor Stadium is an iconic football ground located near ‘Heiligengeistfeld’ (German for ‘Holy Ghost Field’) in the St. Pauli district of the city centre. Not only is the Reeperbahn not far for pre- and post-match drinks, the famous urban park ‘Planten un Blomen’, and the harbour area around ‘Landungsbrücken’ are also more than inviting locations for both tourists and locals.
But what makes game day at St. Pauli so special? Firstly, it is fair to say that football fans have a variety of great choices to pick from in Bundesliga 2. Hertha Berlin, Kaiserslautern, Nuremberg, FC Schalke 04, Hansa Rostock, Fortuna Düsseldorf, Eintracht Braunschweig, Hannover 96 or 1. FC Magdeburg are only a few big names in this league and all worth a visit. And St. Pauli are certainly a club to add to that list. Secondly, visiting a home match in late summer is something noteworthy because August and September are great months to visit the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg. The summers are mild and when the sun sets behind Millerntor Stadium you can feel that the area around the ground turns into a football madhouse. The stadium has a capacity of just under 30,000 and the floodlights in the evenings make it a remarkable venue.
On September 23rd, St. Pauli will be hosting FC Schalke 04, one of the giants of German football that won the UEFA-Cup in 1997. The sold-out stadium will then create one of the best atmospheres of the season with flares, tifos and loud chants. The ground has been undergoing constant improvements and refurbishments over the last fifteen years and the VIP section – for those who like to spend a bit more for a match ticket – has recently been modified for this exciting 2023-2024 season. Although, it is not easy to purchase tickets for St. Pauli home matches, there are small allocations available for non-members and the locals might have a spare ticket on match day. One golden rule for the supporters of the brown and whites (the colours of FC St. Pauli) is that nobody rips off fellow football fans so you will always pay face value for your match ticket. The club itself is very strict with re-sales and touts do have a hard time selling overpriced tickets online and around the stadium.
When the players enter the ground at Millerntor the sound of Hells Bells by AC/DC surrounds the whole area, and it can be heard even further away from the stadium. If you want to visit Millerntor Stadium, make sure to arrive several hours before kick-off. There are numerous bars and restaurants along the way and public transport will get you to St. Pauli from Hamburg Central within fifteen minutes. The closest stations are ‘Reeperbahn’, ‘St. Pauli’ or ‘Feldstrasse’, although the latter will be used by away fans only occasionally, especially for the city derby versus Hamburger SV and against fierce rival Hansa Rostock.
And even if you did not manage to get a match ticket, a lovely September night in Hamburg and watching a match in one of the beer gardens is incentive enough for a visit to Germany’s second-largest city in late summer. And who knows, maybe this season St. Pauli will return to the Bundesliga for the first time since 2011…
Information on news, tickets, and events around FC St. Pauli can be viewed here: www.fcstpauli.com/en
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