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Nick Davidson is 41. This is his fourth book about football. Since 2007, he has been traveling regularly to Germany to watch FC St. Pauli play. During that time he has gone from an interested outsider to an active member of the club's fan scene.
"Never again fascism! Never again war! Never again the Third Division!" is not a chant you are likely to hear at any League ground in Britain, but its pawky humour encapsulates the unique atmosphere of the Millerntor Stadion in Hamburg, home to FC St Pauli, a club who triumphantly give the lie to every tired cliche about Germans, and German football. Nick Davidson had been a lifelong Watford supporter, but became disillusioned with the commercialisation and hype of the Premier League/Sky era. He initially turned to non-League football, joining the committee of a local club, but soon tired of the petty politicking and minuscule crowds. Having read an article about St Pauli, he travelled to a home game and was instantly smitten. What is it that makes St Pauli so different? The fans. An eclectic mix of anarchists, left-wingers, punks and people who just like to party, they welcome outsiders and, however serious their political views, they know how to have fun; win or lose, they're on the booze, with an occasional toke thrown in. Davidson describes his happy bemusement at that first game back in 2007, as the beer flowed on the terraces and complete strangers, many wearing the club's trademark skull-and-crossbones insignia, made a point of befriending him. Since then he has frequently made the 800-mile round trip from England. While he is not totally misty-eyed, acknowledging that the club, currently in the second division of the Bundesliga, have had their share of hooligan incidents, he revels in their unique culture. You don't have to share Davidson's politics to enjoy this passionate, partisan account of how he fell back in love with football, and it's hard to disagree with his view that, in an era when the top-flight game is perceived to be selling its soul, we need clubs like St Pauli. -- Simon Redfern Davidson's style and keen observation make this one of the most original books on football that it has been my pleasure to read... -- Anton Rippon ...a wonderfully refreshing change from some recently-published footballing tripe. -- Gloucestershire Echo Imagine you're an established publisher of sporting books and an author arranges to meet with you to discuss his idea for a football-related tale. The omens are not good. Far too many football tomes stick to a bland, predictable template, churning out stories we've heard before and presenting their 'authors' with often cumbersome opportunities to settle old scores. Nonetheless, you welcome the author and listen politely, quietly considering the likelihood of his book's appeal. As the meeting draws to a close, you scan your hand-written notes. The author proposes to write about an obscure German football club, relegated from the Bundesliga in 2011 and now playing in the second division, which finds itself forever in the shadow of a more famous and considerably more successful near-neighbour. The club's recent history includes hosting the 2006 'FIFI World Cup' for those nations such as Greenland and Tibet not recognised by world football's governing body; at it's helm is the first openly gay, transvestite president in German football; it boasts the largest number of female fans of any German club; oh, and its 'fundamental principles', coupled with more than a passing association with pirates, make it the most left-wing club you're ever likely to happen upon. Fair play to SportsBooks Limited for not only considering author Nick Davidson's pitch, but publishing Pirates Punks & Politics, a wonderfully refreshing change from some recently-published footballing tripe. Davidson tells of how he fell out of love with the English game and the highly-polished, corporate image it endeavours to project and found FC St Pauli, Hamburg's 'other' football club, whose ground, located in the city's red light district, plays host to an 'alternative' fans scene. For 'alternative', read 'passionate'. The players are an integral part of this too; you can sense the togetherness of this incredible set-up. Early in the book, Davidson describes attending a thrilling FC Pauli cup tie against Bayer Leverkusen, replete with last-gasp winner, after which the players spend quarter of an hour parading around the ground, high-fiving fans, applauding and saluting them. Davidson asks a Pauli fan whether these celebrations are due to the nature of the victory over Bundesliga opposition. "No," she replies. "It's like this every time we win a game." Davidson was hooked - and so too will readers be of this outstandingly distinctive story. -- Gloucestershire Echo And the book of the quarter? One to restore faith in the capacity of sport to inspire, to form a collective, to spark social change. The remarkable story of Germany's FC St Pauli, told with energy and insight in the brand new book (the title says it all), Pirates, Punks & Politics by Nick Davidson. This is a tale, and writing, to take us back to spiky music and DIY politics that framed a long-forgotten moment of football with attitude. A book to remind us that across sport those sparks still exist, vividly illustrated by all that St Pauli fans have achieved. A book to lift spirits, and horizons, just what sport needs. -- Mark Perryman ...the essence of this book is about a rediscovered love for football, coupled with the enjoyment of sharing the experience with thousands of like minded individuals... It is hard not to share Davidson's obvious enthusiasm for his team and the culture that they continue to embody. -- John Van Laer Davidson delivers an impeccably researched, brilliantly readable book that puts St Pauli in context regarding German and world football politics, the community it serves and fan group power. The reason the book is so readable is completely down to how it is structured and the style with which Davidson writes Rather than plough through the history of the club he breaks the book up perfectly, including chapters that tell his own personal journey from disillusioned Watford fan saddened by the commercialised state of English football to FC St. Pauli fan making the long top to Hamburg (or away games) a few times a season. These anecdotes aren;t in anyway self-indulgent or dull they are funny, insightful and offer excellent comparisons of a fan's experience watching German football compared to being a supporter of an English club. Pirates, Punks & Politics to an enthralling, thought provoking book, one that I would recommend to any football fan, no matter what team they support or what country they hail from. The story alone to fascinating, the lessons are obvious and the message is urgent. Read it. -- West Side Bog By weaving his own match going experiences with a history of both the club and the area it represents, Davidson has come up with a real gem of a book that opens the door to a new kind of football and a new kind of support. His involvement with the club's international supporters groups and extensive research of the other fans groups who hold great influence on the largely left wing fan base add colour and realism to this walk through the club's past and present. This is a terrific book that appealed greatly to me as a self-confessed football hipster, but it should have a wider appeal to many a football fan either frustrated with the Premier League's particular style of fur coat and no knickers entertainment at times, or interested in learning more about how the game is experienced elsewhere. -- The Sports Book Review ... is more than just a story of a love affair with a football team - to describe it as Fever Pitch with politics would be a huge insult. The book charts the history of St Pauli as both a district and a club (with the two often being indistinguishable from each other), the history of football in Hamburg and Germany as a whole. This wide scope makes for an engaging read. A vast amount is covered in under 250 pages. Some may find the whistlestop tour of early 20th century Germany lacking, but it does just enough to set the scene ...Details during the Nazi years are vague, not least because the club records were lost in a bombing raid during the Second World War, but Davidson concludes that while complying with the Nazis, St Pauli didn't become Hitler's cheerleaders. ... St Pauli stands out against the bland, moneymaking world of sport. Under capitalism they won't change the world, but they're giving it a damn good try. I'd recommend this book to anyone looking for a example of how sport can be an avenue of resistance, as well as a glimpse of how things could be. -- Socialist Review