Other sides of football
Hamburg fights for fair play, it’s all about the beach in San Salvador, and Rio de Janeiro trainees practise in the jungle. These are different ways to experience football, an activity that has become much more than a sport.
1 Hamburg and its football in solidarity
F.C. St. Pauli is not your typical club. A symbol of Hamburg, and especially of its namesake quarter, it has millions of fans, who admire it for its work with community and social causes extending far beyond the pitch. Founded in 1910 by sailors and dockworkers, it boasts millions of fans and more than 500 fan clubs worldwide. It all began back in the 1980s, when ultras and violence took centre stage at Europe’s stadiums and Sankt Pauli took a stand against extremism and racism, in favour of tolerance. The club’s fans can even prevent sponsorship contracts being signed with companies they consider contrary to these values.
Both the club and its fans are involved in social initiatives and in projects to raise funds to bring safe water to Cuban schools or villages in Asia and Africa and offer resources and legal assistance to refugees who come to the city.
2 San Salvador’s barefoot football
With so much passion for the game and so much coast, it was inevitable that the Salvadorans would love to play beach football. The sport became immensely popular when a national team – mostly made up of fishermen from Jiquilisco Bay – made it to a World Cup tournament. Now, ten years later, beach football is becoming even more popular, with the launch of its first national league almost three years ago. Among the 12 championship teams are several from Jiquilisco, like CD Island de Méndez, who now has its own court after years playing on the beach. As the day ends, after classes and fishing, the team train under the watchful eyes of their fellow Salvadorans. Besides wins, the team hope that the championship will generate some income for the community and the club, which can barely afford to buy balls.
3 Footbal in the jungle in Rio de Janeiro
The Fluminense club’s Xerém Football School is 50km from Rio de Janeiro. Former students include well-known names such as Thiago Silva (currently playing for Paris Saint-Germain) and Marcelo Vieira (defence at Real Madrid). Every morning, 350 students who dream of becoming great players attend practice, which is held in the jungle. This silent green environment that surrounds the city centre helps the young players to focus only on football. In the school’s gym, players begin using the weight room from the ages of 15; there are also English teachers for those playing abroad as well as a dormitory for trainees coming from abroad. Sugary drinks are, of course, absolutely forbidden in the canteen.