Detroit City FC, St. Pauli fans find common ground

Larry O'Connor
The Detroit News

Though mired in the middle of the second division of German professional soccer, FC St. Pauli has garnered worldwide appeal for championing inclusiveness and being socially aware.

A legion of U.S. and Canadian followers of The Boys in Brown will descend on Metro Detroit as the Hamburg-based club plays like-minded Detroit City FC in a friendly Saturday at Keyworth Stadium. Kick-off is 6 p.m.

Supporters groups from New York, Toronto and Buffalo are among those that will make the pilgrimage. They will be welcomed by a relatively new FC St. Pauli Detroit supporters group, which formed a month prior to the shock announcement in March that DCFC was hosting the cult German outfit whose firm stand against racism, sexism, homophobia and facism are embedded into its core.

“Everyone has been absolutely ecstatic from our group,” said Chris Copacia of Berkley, whose fledgling club has about 10 members and is growing.

FC St. Pauli Detroit Supporters plans to meet at Detroit City FC Fieldhouse, 3401 E. Lafayette St., once renovations are completed at the facility in the fall. Members have been gathering informally to watch replays of the FC St. Pauli matches, which are available through the club’s streaming service.

About 12 to 15 members of the 10-year-old FC St. Pauli-Fans NYC group are making the trek to Detroit, said Shawn Roggenkamp, whose group meets at The East River Bar in Brooklyn.

“A lot of us are looking forward to hanging out with the Detroit City fans,” said Roggenkamp, whose group is also known as The East River Pirates. “They are like FC St. Pauli and it’s great to see that in the U.S. and see it in a successful way.

“You can have something that is more than sports, you can have that really engaged and involved fan community.”

About 20 representatives from FC St. Pauli Toronto Fans will be heading to the Motor City, founder Mark Palmer said.

Detroit is part of a brief, two-city tour. The club, which finished 12th (43 points, 11-10-13) in 2. Bundesliga, plays the United Soccer League Portland Timbers2 on Tuesday.

A supporters meet-up will take place 2:30-4 p.m. today at Third Man Records, 441 W. Canfield, Detroit. Toronto-based Bad Waitress and Turnstile open for Rise Against in a sold-out show at Saint Andrew’s Hall. Doors open at 9.

On Saturday, a panel discussion on the future of supporter-based football will take place at 11 a.m. in the Avenue Room, 21st floor, Motor City Casino Hotel, 2901 Grand River Ave.

University of Michigan soccer economist Stefan Szymanski will lead the talk, which includes FC St. Pauli technical director Ewald Lienen.

Like their New York brethren, Toronto FC St. Pauli are eager to meet Detroit City FC supporters, namely the Northern Guard.

“They are simpatico with us,” Palmer said.

Supporter groups in the U.S. and Canada backing a soccer team abroad is not unusual, but FC St. Pauli fans take the club’s mission of inclusion to heart.

Which is why members of the 2-year-old Toronto club have taken part in that city’s gay pride and international women’s rights marches.

“While it is sometimes easy for a club to take on initiatives, it’s the supporters that are always loud and outspoken about these initiatives as well as their support for the club,” said Fish Conklin of FC St. Pauli Detroit Supporters.