Ste Tudor on five European clubs that are adored by hispter football fans across the continent...
The archetypical hipster club, St Pauli are admired for their counter-cultural politics and punk outlook, dedicating much of their energy away from matchdays raising money for charities and fighting discrimination of all kinds.
“We will always take a stand against racism and homophobia, always look out after the weak and the poor, because it’s important for us. It’s in our blood.”
So said club president Oke Gottlich recently.
On matchdays meanwhile, the Millerntor-Stadion is a fierce and passionate place, bedecked in flags featuring their skull and crossbones crest. It’s never less than an experience, with 20,000 crowds the norm even in the third tier.
In the Seventies, the Hamburg club had significantly fewer fans. That was until it was adopted by anarchists, students and hippies who resided in the red light district nearby to where the ground is based.
Los Azules dropped out of La Liga in 2001 after 13 years of residency, when a financial crisis threatened their entire existence. A fund-raising drive from the fans kept them afloat.
Matters only worsened however two years later, when an unscrupulous businessman with a controlling interest in the club fled Spain when facing fraud charges. One of the oldest footballing institutions in Spanish football appeared doomed at that point.
Enter former players Michu, Juan Mata, Adrian and Santi Cazorla who dipped into their own pockets and fronted a campaign that eventually spread across the globe.
For just over ten Euros, anyone could buy a share in Oviedo, an opportunity taken up by football fans in countless countries, from Denmark to Peru.
They may now have a multi-millionaire at the helm, but Oviedo remains part-owned by the public, truly a people’s club.
Those of a certain vintage still vividly recall the Les Verts side of the Seventies, who threatened to conquer Europe with no little panache.
Up front there was Dominique Rocheteau, the ‘French George Best’ who troubled the continent’s best defenders while looking like he seduced film stars in his down-time, all from a serious stare and a drag on his Gauloises.
Later came Johnny Rep, that most rock ‘n’ roll of wingers, and Michel Platini, who exhibited his genius mainly with his socks rolled down.
It was easy to fall in love with such a team, not least from St Etienne having a succession of stunning kits, and people duly did, gaining them a cult status in a world when assess to foreign fare was restricted to appearances in the European Cup.
It’s a status that has never really left them.
Like their French counterparts, Parma remain impossibly cool from a distinct era, but while St Etienne were all-too-fleeting on our radar, Parma were suddenly there, prominent and glorious on our television sets.
With Football Italia bringing Serie A to our screens several fabulous sides won our affections, none more so than a collection of superstars in yellow and blue who came so close to securing a Scudetto, but like any good cult team ultimately failed.
That didn’t matter though. What did is that, before they financially imploded, Parma had Gianluigi Buffon in nets, and Fabio Cannavaro at the back.
They had Juan Sebastian Veron running every show, a player who could easily have been one of the best Premier League midfielders of all time but rather brilliantly, was anything but.
Up top, Hernan Crespo bagged the goals, alongside Enrico Chiesa.
Of course these hipster staples gained an army of fervent fans outside of the peninsula. It would have been plain odd if they hadn’t.
To the naked eye, Rayo are recent overachievers in La Liga who continue to defy the sports betting by finishing mid-table or better after gaining promotion in 2020.
Their most well-known player is an aging Radamel Falcao and they wear a funky sash kit, a shirt that would look decent with a pair of jeans for those so inclined.
Delve a little deeper though and this is a club defined by a left-wing ideology, fighting the good fights while forever facing head-on the commercialisation of modern football.
Both on the pitch and off it, they are scrappy underdogs and this has struck a chord with many.
*Credit for all of the photos in this article belongs to Alamy*