Hamburg's soccer haven

"Heroes of the neighborhood" in St. Pauli


Hamburg, Germany

HafenCity is an award-winning .85 square mile development in Hamburg with residences planned for 12,000 people and workplaces for 40,000. It has innovative flood-protection infrastructure, melds into the city's historic canal district and contains award-winning architecture. HafenCity has received global acclaim as well as local derision – from the leftists in St. Pauli.

For Sports Illustrated, I visited Hamburg to learn more about HafenCity and why the supporters of a local soccer team, FC St. Pauli, saw the enormous project as a cash-grab that would inevitably flush out the immigrants, squatters and radicals that found homes among the brick warehouses and frigid canals that were fed by the North Sea. It was a way to understand how sports and sporting culture give rise to community identity, and how the same infrastructures of trade and exchange can be understood as tools of capitalist accrual or anarchist communalism.



Hamburg's HafenCity contains 7,000 new homes as well as workplaces and nearly 70 acres of public space, but planners and activists are concerned over whether the new district is sufficiently "neighborly" with respect to nearby warehouses, import businesses and squats.

HafenCity is for many people and communities a dream project, but it has certainly found its fair share of detractors. A project of its scale can redefine a city – even one the size of Hamburg. A look at how a new institution such as HafenCity is seen by adherents of old institutions like FC St. Pauli can demonstrate how a city changes as well as what core values remain in place.