St. Pauli - Germany's rebel club gains promotion back to the top flight after 13 years

Published on 13 May 2024 at 20:00

Supporters of the 'Die Kiezkicker' celebrated automatic promotion to the Bundesliga at the Millerntor Stadia on Sunday, for the first time since 2009-10. The 'Boys in Brown' defeated VfL Osnabrück, 3-1, in front of 29,500 to top Germany's second division going into the final game week.


The German club is synonymous within Europe for representing anti-establishment and has attracted a worldwide fanbase for its political activism and social responsibility. 

Founded in 1907 they became 'noisy neighbours' of rival club Hamburg SV, with their home games located close to the famous Reeperbahn which influenced St. Pauli becoming a magnet for Bohemians of the Hanseatic port's red light district.

Prior to 1974 a German FA ruling forbid St. Pauli from participating in the Bundesliga because it only permitted one club from each city to participate. For years the Kiez-based club remained confined to the shadows of its bigger local rivals Hamburg SV, until in 1974 they made their professional debut.

On Sunday, it was confirmed that for the first time in over 20 years St. Pauli have finished higher than their adorning older brother who currently sit eleven points behind in fifth.

The former European Cup winners came out on top in the Hamburg derby against St. Pauli on May 3 with a 1-0 win, which delayed their rivals promotion party. However, if St. Pauli defeat Wehen Wiesbaden on the final day they will lift their first title since 1976-77.

The last time the Bundesliga second division side played in the top flight, Borussia Dortmund lifted the Bundesliga title however, that season in 2010-11 they suffered immediate relegation finishing 18th.

It will be St. Pauli's sixth promotion to the top flight, for a club which has been championed for its impact off the pitch but found silverware absent during its 126 year history.


For many football enthusiasts St. Pauli's return to the Bundesliga signals more than football, the Hamburg club represent a purist antidote which challenges the commercialised hype of modern football.

Bayern Munich are loathed in Germany by opposition fans as the anti-Christ, perpetuating everything which is wrong with football in the present day. The serial winning giants are fuelled by money and success, and the return of St. Pauli will set up a distinct juxtaposition with the minnow club renowned for its alternative leftist identity.

Expect to see their famous 'Skull and Cross' bones waving above the Millerntor Stadia next season, symbolic of their anti-fascist leftist stance. A regular tradition for supporters is the Blur's Song.2 anthem erupting 'woo hoo' after every goal.

Despite successive fifth placed finishes in the second division, under Fabian Hurzeler this season St. Pauli have crossed the line. It has been their solid defensive record, averaging 1.1 goals conceded per match and only 35 goals all season which has made them very hard to beat.

Holstein Kiel, Dusseldorf, Hamburg and Hertha Berlin have all been more prolific, averaging higher goals per match but St. Pauli have only lost five games all season.

One shining story from St. Pauli's promotion season is 26 year old forward Dapo Afolayan who scored a brace against Vfl Osnabrück at the weekend. The London-born winger was a product of Chelsea's academy before short stints in English football's lower tiers at Solihull Moors, Mansfield Town and Bolton.

In his second season in Germany he has scored nine goals and will taste his first season in a top-flight in his career next season.

Former Hull City and Burton Albion midfielder Jackson Irvine has enjoyed a revival at the Hamburg-based outfit after a struggling spell in Scotland and made 14 goal contributions during this campaign.

Meanwhile, midfield hero Marcel Hartel has experienced a stand-out season scoring 21 goals and creating 14 assists, smashing his previous goals tally of five. 


The promotion of this distinct club is special, a club in which it is entirely owned by its members. This is a club which has the rebellious desire to be different from its unique brown home colours to its radical political values.

Finally, after a thirteen years absence St. Pauli have something to champion on the field, while touching the hearts of everyone away from it with their free will to operate a liberating system which is not dictated to by the hierarchy above.

The club has always been unequivocal in its purpose to be activists against racism, homophobia and poverty but finally with this latest promotion its proved it can captivate fans with success in football too.

Written by Lewis Eadie

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