How a lowly German football club is inspiring a movement that counters the ugly side of the sport

There is a resistance forming by supporters who have taken influence from openly anti-fascist clubs like St. Pauli, and appropriated their message to suit the needs of the British terrace

St Pauli fans before the Hamburger SV v St Pauli football match

St Pauli fans before the Hamburger SV v St Pauli football match ( Reuters/Fabian Bimmer )

Racist organisations have long coveted the collective power of football fans. In Britain, football – The National Game – remains the most popular sport in the country. To many who follow it, such is the tribal pull of their fandom; the word “sport” doesn’t even come close to describing the importance of football in their lives.

Whether it’s the National Fronts’ presence on the crumbling terraces of the seventies or eighties, or more recently, the recruitment drives outside British stadia by the English Defence League or the Football Lads Alliance, such organizations have long known that within football, there’ll always be a gene pool of passionate men ripe to radicalise.

Football is ugliest when the society it exists in is at its worst. “We’d get off the coach at away matches and the National Front would be right there in your face,” recalls the former West Brom defender Brendon Batson of his time playing for the West Midlands club during the late seventies.

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