Credit: Barry Briggs

They say Christmas is a time of giving, and there is one club that has been giving a great deal to the community of late. Yorkshire St Pauli formed just over five years ago as a fan club for the German second division team St Pauli, so that people could come together to watch their games. However, the group would take an interest in more than just the footballing principles of this Bundesliga 2 team.

“Most of us are attracted to St. Pauli due to the fan’s association with Left-wing activism,” said Yorkshire St Pauli team member Chris Webster via email to Box to Box Football. “Given the current global situation, this is often most visible when it comes to promoting and fighting for the rights of refugees and asylum seekers, and taking an active stance against racism as well as all forms of discrimination.”

At first team members of Yorkshire St Pauli raised funds for refugees, linking up with a charity named Positive Action For Refugees and Asylum Seekers (PAFRAS). People were also invited to come and watch St Pauli games at the pub, but team members soon discovered an appetite for something else – to actually play football! And thus, a new idea was formed – the Football For All project, a regular Sunday kick-about where the transport, kit and pitch hires were covered by the supporters’ club. Here, people who have gone through more torrid times than many can possibly fathom get to enjoy the simple pleasure of playing football together. “Everyone that takes part in Football For All has an equal stake, and our aim is to always ensure that our weekly football sessions just feel like a bunch of mates having a kick about,” explains Chris. “It’s not about winning, or even the taking part, it’s just about having fun and forming a strong sense of community in a society that’s feeling more and more divided.”

The Yorkshire St Pauli badge was designed by team member Barry Briggs. It displays the white rose of Yorkshire, but with a brown background to reflect the colour of the original St Pauli’s kit. The team have played matches against refugee sides like FC Lampedusa in Hamburg, and enjoy a friendly rivalry with local Sunday League side Republica Internationale in Leeds.

So yes, Christmas is a time of giving, but it is also known for bringing people together and spending valuable time with friends or family. It is easy to forget that many people struggle to come close to such luxuries, but forward-thinking initiatives like the popular Football For All project ensures that these affected people can still experience a sense of community and belonging in hard times. As Chris explains, “We aim to provide a space for regular structured, noncompetitive football where everyone is welcome regardless of their ‘race’, ethnicity, gender, sexuality or any other discriminatory factor”. So, for all the cynicism that accompanies modern football due to years of huge salaries and ever-shifting loyalties, it is reassuring to know that there is in fact so much that football can still give.