Il racconto del Detroit City FC dell'incontro dentro e fuori
da campo, con il match amichevole internazionale che si è tenuto al Keyworth
Stadium il 19 maggio, tra la realtà calcistica statunitense e il FC St. Pauli(qui
dettagli e Video).
Ciphers to Comrades: One Watershed Weekend with FC St. Pauli
natural to be nervous when hosting anyone at all, but when your very coolest,
very distant relative suddenly hits you up for a weekend on the town? At your
real-life blue check mark, a Guy Who People Will Be Talking About when he hits
the club, which he’s been known to do with some vigor. He’s part of the reason
you’re doing what you’re doing - he is a leader in your field. And he’s
just amazingly cool, warm and funny and angry about all the right things. “Show
me the sights, take me out to some spots, and we’ll do a little business … “
the video message says (in this imagined, metaphorical reality, in which he is
Fussball Club St. Pauli, and you are Detroit City FC), his barely-inflected
English going on to suggest a schedule.
It’s hard not
to focus on the details in the corner of the screen. He looks to be calling
from a dimly-lit bar; in the background, an outward-facing ‘Sankt Pauli’
skull-and-crossbones neon is occluded by backing framework. You’re smiling and
wondering how your smile looks; you’re pretty sure it’s oscillating between
‘maniac’ and ‘imbecile,’ but you can’t tell which is which, or stop the
oscillation. Fortunately, he’s showing no sign of noticing. Or is he just that
polite, that next-level, that he’s just taking the maniacal imbecility of your
expression in stride? The call’s over before you can process any of it.
This is an
honor. This is a privilege. This is a low-flying panic attack. There is a very
modern terror in these lopsided relationships in the era of social media - the
terror of being a cipher, of knowing so many little things about someone who is
just meeting you. They’re in 3D; you’re not - not yet, at least. It will happen
quickly when it happens, and there’s no unbiting that apple, is there? He’s
coming. You’re gonna show him around. It’s either gonna go well, or it’s not.
can be your emotional enemy; it is so incredibly simple to conjure nightmare
scenarios, and so easy to believe them in this darkened time, when many of our
worst fears are rampant upon the earth, and many more worse than we imagined
besides. It could be something commonplace, like ‘what if he hates the hotel,’
or something more complex, like ‘what if he clearly finds me repellent but
feels obligated to go through with everything, awkwardly, while looking through
me.’ Both are credible, because, well, look around.
And then he
shows up, and all that anxiety just vanishes, because it clicks more perfectly
than you dared imagine - you’re clearly sympatico on a lot of levels, you’ve got
similar family stories, and you’re passionate about the same things. When he
departs after two whirlwind days, he’s no longer a blue check mark, and you’re
no longer a cipher - you’re brothers-from-other-mothers, regretfully parting,
making plans for your next escapade.
this weekend in Detroit
with FC St. Pauli was like. For supporters, for players, for staff, for the
bigwigs and the sponsors - for everyone in both communities - the weekend
Detroit City FC hosted FC St. Pauli will remain a touchstone, a warm memory in
harder days. We really, truly are all in this together. There’s nothing virtual
or tenuous about it. We are community clubs, invested in making things better
for the people in those communities. We understand that project to be a long
one, and we expect to prevail. We want no further gods and respect no masters.
We are comrades-in-arms against the prevailing ethos of modern football.
sometime between noon and 1 p.m. on Saturday, and a small crowd is gathered in
Amnesia, a chic party space in the MotorCity Casino Hotel. It’s the first event
of gameday, a panel talk arranged to discuss community football clubs. One side
of the room is wall of towering windows, allowing a view of the Cass Corridor,
including the lumpy, narrow high-school gridiron where City began its
existence. Leaning forward to get within range of one of the shared
microphones, Detroit City FC co-owner and CEO Sean Mann intones, “American
sports business is rotten at its core,” and no-one blinks.
we? The ongoing power and dysfunction of the overlapping cartels claiming
control over sports in America
has become so obvious as to no longer seem controversial: The NCAA and its
shamateurism. The NFL and the trail of broken lives from CTE damage, domestic
violence, PEDs and opioid abuse. USA Gymnastics, MichiganState
and Larry Nasser, with a victim list in the 100s and remorse only for their
lost power. MLS ‘building communities’ until whoops, sorry, Columbus, we hyped you as cradle of the game
but your billionaire has other ideas. All of them share a similar cold-eyed
detachment, a hawkish, predatory approach that seeks to leverage unearned
advantages, make them seem permanent, inevitable. The results are uniformly
As FC St.
Pauli President Oke Gottlich sees it, the dysfunction comes from disconnecting
professional sports from the communities which support them. “The problem is
they’re missing the chance to make it a volkssport, to really grow the
communities,” Gottlich said. The concept of volkssport - literally, ‘sport of
the people’ - includes sports that anyone can participate in, at any stage of
life; usually it is understood to include walking, hiking, biking, swimming and
the like. Americans associate most types of volkssport with summer camp,
activities adopted because of their essentially universal benefits and general
capacity for provoking joy.
list, Gottlich would add football - if it is run in the community-oriented
style exemplified by DetroitCity and St. Pauli. “This
sport is for all people, all genders, all types - but also all income levels,”
he said. “Without the community, nothing matters.”
technical director Ewald Lienen put it more starkly: “People need a home, a
community where you can feel at home, with the ideas, with the organization,
you can identify with it. That’s what happened at St Pauli.
life is decreasing everywhere. You don’t see people coming together. Football
becomes a business. We see where people come together, support each other, then
also the football is better. It’s how ideas about the game really spread.”
which leaves us, their American comrades, Detroit City FC, walking into an
absolutely blistering headwind in the soccer environment in the USA. The
MLS shop is a closed one, run for the benefit of NFL lords and resource barons,
and applications are simply not available to five thousandaires with big
dreams, no matter the club’s Q rating or social-media reach or community
footprint of good works. Contemplating top-flight football in the USA at the
moment would require both a pocket billionaire, and the surrender of every bit
of social, moral and intellectual property the club has built up; what would
shamble on would not be Detroit City FC, but a branded product crafted in its living
image by its murderers.
that possibility seems, it’s hardly the only scenario. “This is the way
football has always been organized, around community clubs,” explained Dr.
Stefan Szymanski. “The corporate version is the interloper.”
this club because they created a club worth supporting,” Northern Guard capo
Jackie Carline said; implicit in that statement is the idea that a club not
worth supporting might not continue to attract support. But it’s not as simple
as class warfare, of course; when we say football is for all, we should mean
it; through that crack, we come to final evolution of thought on the matter of
the best form of ownership for a community football team - it depends on the
seeds down everywhere you go; let them grow as they may. Let a thousand clubs
bloom; we shall judge them by their works. Gottlich: “It’s the people running
the club. It could be that an oligarch is running a club that is devoted to its
community, that’s not popular to say, but it could be. And if a club set up
like St Pauli, if the board is shit and we’re not playing good football, the
model won’t save it.”
magical structure that guarantees healthy, vibrant football clubs that enrich
the lives of their supporters. As Lienen said, “You can’t direct these things.
St. Pauli is directed by its members. You can’t make things different than they
really are.” Which is great news for City and its supporters; how could we be
other than we are?
of Saturday’s match, Leinen - a St. Pauli legend, a guy who’s managed all over
Europe, and whose comments at the panel discussion carefully skirted whether DetroitCity was the type of club he was
describing when he described FCSP - was won over entirely. Pointing across the
bubble soccer bouncing along on the Keyworth pitch to the other side of the
stadium, where the 4,000-plus people filling the Northern Guard sections were
moving about erratically, pursuing their halftime routines in a bouyant mood,
Leinen was emphatic: “The thing I see is that these people understand that
being the supporter of a club is not only supporting the football club, but
also being part of a family, being part of a community.
around there - Refugees Welcome, you see?
they did to welcome us?
something special. This is something very important.”
talked all business so far. Mostly. I have a confession to make: While the
prospect of the visit was a bit intimidating, and the alignment of philosophies
and ideologies was remarkable, and the ideas exchanged were both deep and
fruitful, I’ve been writing about them first and putting off writing everything
else, which was the best part of the weekend, just to draw out my personal anticipation,
sort of rolling it around in my mouth and savoring it, because “everything they
did to welcome us,” as Ewald put it, was a Detroit weekend to remember, an
extended joy-ride up a dopamine rainbow. If I was writing this in German, I’d
know a word that means friends-in-waiting, and I’d use it to describe everyone
I met. Time there was measured by the flights of bumblebees and stars.
arrived in Detroit from the nation’s capital Thursday night, where they seemed
a bit surprised to be greeted by not only the far-flung supporter diaspora of
the first Kult club, but also a smattering of Northern Guard Supporters. Friday
morning brought a brief tour of some of the highlights of this city that looms
so large over the cultural landscape - Hitsville, U.S.A., where the immense
reach of Motown never fails to astonish, the Spirit of Detroit, which they
recognize a bit from the badge in a moment of revelation, and the odd
neighborhood between everything, not part of the tour but of course still implicit,
where they start to see why we fly the skull and crossbones - Detroit, cradle
of Detroit City FC.
whirlwind tour complete, it’s down to managing a steadily-advancing
intermingling of these two tribes of crazies, the Brown and the Rouge, arms
open to each other and the world. There was this steady progression of the mood
over the weekend as the groups got to know each other and realize just how
absolutely in-tune they really were.
afternoon: Third Man Records, Jack White’s very cool Ultimate Merch Shop. Picture
small groups of similarly-clad folks sipping drinks, each group sprinkled with
a member of the opposite group. Mood: Cautious. “I believe we may be
fellow-travelers in this community soccer business. Of course we will sell you
merch. Could I offer you a lager, as well? Those are free.”
early-mid evening: Detroit City Distillery. Now it’s starting to come together,
players and supporters and leadership from both teams swapping stories. Mood:
Feelin’ it! “I also agree with EVERYTHING HE SAID. (he is a genius, you know).
This drink is delicious. We should have more of them. Lemme get those.”
late evening: Rise Against concert at St. Andrew’s Hall. Mood: PIRATE COMRADES,
LET US RAGE.
Then it all
started over, on a much larger scale, on Saturday morning. First was the
aforementioned panel discussion, which served the overarching purpose of
putting the most-ardent supporters in direct contact with each other, then
starting the conversation in a deep, meaningful way. And cocktails.
mass gathering began in the mid-afternoon in and around the Fowling Warehouse,
which several out-of-towners tried for the first time. The DadVan, a
semi-underground Northern Guard pregame staple on the side-street near Fowling,
suddenly went into wide distribution, ballooning into a massive street party
that snowed food and rained drinks. Multiple groups of St. Pauli supporters
came in from all over North America as well as Hamburg, mingling with both City supporters
and unaffiliated supporters just curious to see what the whole thing is about. The
size of the gathering dwarfed every previous prematch festival; longtime
Northern Guard members kept bumping into each other and exchanging that “can
you believe this?” look that accompanies success unlooked-for.
was enormous, but the Northern Guard didn’t sound that much louder than usual -
until they were standing shoulder-to-shoulder on the concrete steps of
Keyworth, increasingly packed as kickoff approached, making themselves at home,
making sure it’s a home for everyone. The concussive blast of “COME AND GET IT”
had the St. Pauli support grinning, knowing their singing was almost completely
inaudible against this demonstration of group will, not minding a bit, just
basking in it the way a cat basks in a shaft of sunlight, singing all the
while. My god, they get it.
game. The weather threatened to be horrible, but that clearly kept no one away,
and at the last minute the storms simply veered off to the north. The result
indicates the heights to which community soccer in Detroit can still aspire. But the result was
hardly the point - the teams did their thing, they expressed themselves, we
expressed our love for them and each other, the purest form of this joyous
thing, football, a friendly, a game just for the delight of it. Our boys were
resolute and promising. Theirs were at times astonishing. It’s hard to imagine
feeling better after a 6-2 loss. The full house that filtered out into the
streets of Hamtramck
was energized, kinetic.
descending action took place at the Magic Stick, a night club on Woodward Avenue of
some note. The teams had rented out the upper level, and supporters of every
stripe - owners to players to the hard-core to new fans and everyone in between
- sprawled out over the dance floor, filling the mingling spaces, lounging
around the tables for social interactions of every intensity with this, their
family, old and new, these people who share this love. It had the bittersweet
of a long goodbye; the laughs that rang over the dance floor during the
kickaround - which took place in front of a performer who imitated both Wayne
Newton and Elvis Presley - had that shrieky edge, that sense that it
was coming just a bit too hard in anticipation of certain sadness. We found new
family, then they had to go back to their lives, and we won’t see them for a
while. But it’s a tiny sadness, hiding inside the immense joy that was this
Club Sankt Pauli, thank you. In a world of nightmare-scenarios-come-true, we
present a shining counterpoint: If we stick together, if we’re smart and
passionate and unafraid, we can make things better for everyone around us. We
shall live to see these days renewed. We will find a way. Detroit City FC will
keep the light burning for community football, and we will hope to see you soon.
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