FC St. Pauli – one of the world's most progressive football clubs – took over the UK last week on a post-season tour with Levi's to champion gender equality in the beautiful game. Both of FC St.
Pauli's men's and women's teams crossed the channel to undertake a three-part "Football Has No Gender" tour that included friendly games against similarly-minded clubs.
The first stop for the women’s team was London for a panel talk at Levi’s Haus of Strauss. The denim brand began their relationship with the German club 8 years ago, eventually becoming the women’s team’s primary shirt sponsor. Representatives from both St. Pauli and Clapton CFC – their opponents for a friendly the following day – sat to discuss the differences between the men’s and women’s games and the issues preventing progress towards equality. For Inga Schlegel of the St. Pauli Advisory Board, visibility is a major obstacle:
“People need to see the quality of the women’s game. Leagues and broadcasters need to work with this to make sure there are fewer clashes with men’s fixtures and that as many eyes are on our matches as possible.”
Although the panel agreed it was important to work alongside the men’s game, it was clear they saw a different path for women’s football. Bernd Von Geldern, FC St. Pauli’s Commercial Director, believed there are lessons to be learned:
“Women’s football has enormous momentum right now but it is important to not get swept up in it. We need to learn from the mistakes of the men’s game, avoid the obsession with profit, and champion the differences the women’s game has.”
It’s a feeling echoed by Schlegel: “We need to defend what we have and not get swallowed by the system. Men’s football is all about money. No mistake, the only reason FIFA care about the women’s game is because they can make money from it. We need to be wary.”
The panel covered topics from grassroots accessibility to diversity in the women’s game as part of a far-ranging and insightful discussion.
The following evening, Clapton CFC welcomed St. Pauli Frauen into a carnival atmosphere at the Old Spotted Dog as a record 775 spectators arrived to witness the opening game of the pre-season. Die Kiezkicker ran out victorious in an 8-1 triumph on the night but few in the stadium cared about the result: the evening was a spectacular celebration of diversity, inclusivity and equality across the beautiful game.
The men’s team followed with a trip north of the border to face fan-owned Dunfermline Athletic. The Pars put up a fight but eventually succumbed to a 3-0 defeat against Fabian Hürzeler’s 2. Bundesliga side. St. Pauli fans also delivered an impressive performance, unveiling banners in support of trans rights and the sea rescue of refugees.
“The tour was to make a statement,” Von Geldern told VERSUS. “We wanted to shine a spotlight on the women’s team, on women’s football and really push the momentum of the women’s game. Football has no gender, that is an absolute purpose of St. Pauli”
“We want to make women’s football normal, to make it common,” Christian Weiss, lead on the St. Pauli-Levi’s partnership, told us. “Sponsorship depends on your values and for Levi’s St. Pauli is a manifestation of our values of diversity and equality. The tour has helped tell an important story to a broader audience”
It was a week celebrating equality across football and stating firmly that, for St. Pauli, Clapton, Dunfermline and many more, football has no gender.
Photography by Ethan Bucher for VERSUS. and via FC St. Pauli