The Old Man versus the Skinheads

Posted: August 20, 2011 in FC St. Pauli

So far today we’ve driven to Birmingham in the middle of the night, followed by a flight to Hamburg, a short U-Bahn journey, a train out of town, a bus through the countryside and finally, when the villages got too small even for public transport, a taxi. An epic journey, but we still managed to miss the boat-trip down the River Elbe upon which our friends Carsten and Anna were married at mid-day.

We’re utterly exhausted, and don’t know whether to try to get a couple of hours sleep before their big evening do. But there are loads of old and new friends to meet and greet and we’re so exuberantly proud to be amongst all their mates from the legendary St. Pauli Skinheads as they celebrate our mutual friends’ nuptials in the small hamlet of Gross Heide, where my old flatmate Carsten’s grandparents are the local innkeepers.

With still hours between the wedding ceremony and the party kicking off, and with nowhere open to buy beer, some of the Skinheads decide to ask around.

‘The population of this place is probably less than a hundred’, I say to Claire. ‘No shops and not much chance of finding anyone with twenty spare beers for a gang of skinsheads.’ But the Skins are determined, and decide to go door to door. They may be Germany’s most fearsome band of antifascist supporters, but today they are dressed to impress.

‘Sure’, says an elderly neighbour, well into his seventies. He may or may not be impressed by the skinhead fashion show, but he himself is dressed in his string vest. ‘I’ll sell you a crate or two of Astra that I’ve got here in the garage. No problem, yes, how many of you are there? About eighteen of you? OK, you can all come in and watch the afternoon football with me. There’s just one catch – you have to play a drinking game with me.’

‘OK’, say the Skins. ‘What are the rules of your game?’

‘I’m at home, and you are my guests. So every time a home team scores, I take a shot.’ He gestures towards another, much smaller crate. This one is full of hundreds of those lethal little miniature Schnapps and Jagermeister-type shot bottles they are so keen on in Deutschland. ‘Every time an away team scores, you all have to take a shot each.’

‘OK’, say the Skins, as the word spreads round the gang, some gulping nervously at the prospect, but most bellowing in delight at this memorable challenge – this, they realise, has the makings of a legendary afternoon. At least fifteen assorted Skinheads pile into his fortunately quite large living room, and take up every possible vantage point around the huge telly. But my German, and my cultural knowledge, are lacking, as always. What does he mean by ‘every time a home team scores?’

The Skinheads soon enlighten me. It turns out that on Sly TV in Germany, you can get a live package on Saturday afternoons, where the action switches between every top division match as the goals go in. Kind of like Match of the Day’s highlights on the last day of a title race or relegation battle.  This is live, every Saturday afternoon, whereas in the UK I’m told that some strange people tune in just to watch the ex-pros’ contorted faces and screeches in the Sly Sports studio as they watch the goals go in on our behalves. I hasten to add that I would never pay Murdoch’s filthy channels a penny myself, but I’ll reluctantly watch them when I have to.

The goals certainly rained in this afternoon. In one match alone, five of them went in for Bayern Munich against St. Pauli’s hated city rivals HSV, without reply. This, as you can imagine, went down rather well, and rather noisily, with the St. Pauli Skins. I’m just glad there were so many of us there, because luckily the shot bottles began to run out before the goals did. The old man (his name was Peter) was still adamant:  ‘OK, there’s not enough shots to go round all of you, but one of you on his own still has to play the drinking game with me.’ The Skins discuss who they should nominate. Somebody jokes that it should be me, but I protest that I didn’t even get any sleep last night. ‘That’s why you should do it’, a seconder says. Luckily there’s another volunteer, Carsten’s mate Cheesy, and he takes up the challenge enthusiastically.

When the German football has finished, Sly show highlights of Liverpool’s glorious victory over Arsenal, earlier in the afternoon, before the live English match, Chelsea v. WBA, starts.  By this time, the old man has quite literally drunk his young challenger under the table. And then he just produces another Schnapps bottle, this one full size, and carries on watching the football. He has won the game, as he always knew he would, and know’d better not offer this bottle around. Which seems to suit everyone. The night has not even begun yet.

Fortunately, there’s only a few bottles of Hamburg’s finest left in the Skins’ two crates. I could never have made it through that magical night’s wedding party in the ancient half-timbered village inn, its a free bar flowing with fine wine, champagne and beer a-plenty, if I’d had to drink any more at this stage.

But thank you, old fella, for such unforgettable hospitality.  Prost!

I’ll post more next week about the match v. MSV Duisburg that’s coming up on Monday.

We came, they sawed, the Skinheads lost a drinking game. German wedding traditions at their most entertaining.

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