“St. Pauli is a lifestyle”
Today, Ian Joy is best known for being the host of FOX Sports’ TV coverage of the German “Bundesliga”. As a professional soccer player, he spent a lot of time in Germany: From 2005 to 2008 he played for FC St. Pauli. He helped the club to gain promotion to the second division in 2007 and played 87 games for them – more than any other team in his career. “If you spell my name backwards, it even has the word Pauli in it. It’s a match made in heaven – or hell”, he smiles. But there’s much more to his ongoing love for the team. We sat down with him to talk about how St. Pauli is different, about Major League soccer and his huge skull and cross bones back tattoo.
What happens when you hear “Hell’s Bells” by AC/DC, the song that St. Pauli’s players come out onto the field to?
Ian Joy: It takes me back to beautiful memories: In the players’ tunnel with all focus on our opponent and making them feel the Hell of our Millerntor, the big games we played that had so much on the line, our DFB Pokal run and our promotion to the second division – it was all a great memory.
Having grown up in Scotland, when did you first hear about St. Pauli?
I didn’t know about St. Pauli until my agent at the time invited me to a trial. I did some research and couldn’t believe every game in division three was a sell out with 18.000 fans in the stadium. I decided to go for it and my first impression did not disappoint. The club was crazy and it fitted in with my morals. St. Paulis’ coach at the time unfortunately hesitated to sign me, while the amateur head coach of Hamburg’s other team HSV offered me a contract immediately. So, to stay in Hamburg that’s exactly what I had to do. In the end, I fortunately managed to make it home to the Millerntor!
What’s your favorite memory of your time at St. Pauli?
The DFB Pokal run was magical because it helped our club out with some much-needed finances. During that run, we played Werder Bremen at the Millerntor on ice and snow and it was comical, players slipping and sliding! It was like watching Disney on Ice, but because of the conditions it gave us a really big chance to surprise Germany: We managed to beat Werder 3:1 and made the semi-final. The promotion to the second division was also very special because we knew our club needed to move back into the 2. Bundesliga. My whole time for the team was life changing. I was lucky to play in one of the most magical FC St. Pauli teams ever and in that locker room we had some of the best characters that soccer in Germany has seen. We were all a family and we continue to be friends. I have contact with every one of them even to this day on a regular basis.
What makes St. Pauli stand out?
The attitude. Everyone is friendly and welcoming. No matter what culture or background you come from. If you love life, you’re welcome at our club. St. Pauli is more than just a soccer team, in my opinion it is a lifestyle. A choice you make in life. An honesty to be the person you want to be. The club and fan culture opened up my eyes well before I even pulled on a FC St. Pauli jersey as a player. I used to go watch games at the Millerntor on a Friday night before I had my own games at HSV amateur on the saturday, so I understood what it took to be a St. Pauli player and what it meant to represent those fans, our badge and our beliefs.
How would you describe those believes to someone who has never heard of St. Pauli?
I have had to do this many times because of my move back home to America and also because of the traveling I do. FC St. Pauli is a special club with perfect traditions. It is a club that fights for human rights and against discrimination no matter it be racism, fascism, homophobia or sexism. It is the people’s club and there simply is no better atmosphere in the sporting world.
How is Major League Soccer different from German football?
That depends. MLS is spread all over North America and to be completely honest every single club embraces an “all fans welcome policy”. I cannot name you one club in MLS that is politically incorrect. As far as fan cultures go, Portland’s Timbers Army is a culture that is as close as it gets to an FC St. Pauli fan base. The atmosphere at every single game is immense and they embrace the same life values. I have played in many soccer matches here in the USA and the supporters deserve a lot of credit for the way they have built their own specific fan base. By the way: St. Pauli is a known club to most if not all fan bases here. I have met St. Pauli fans from New York City, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Toronto, Columbus, San Jose and Salt Lake. Word has spread long before now. Portland named their Fanclub the “Fanladen”, just like St. Pauli, and Orlando have a similar players tunnel to the one at the Millerntor. Both are happy to acknowledge that they took those ideas from our club.
Did the quality of MLS change since you came back, with players like David Beckham coming over?
David Beckham changed Major League soccer the moment he signed for LA Galaxy. He opened the door for superstars to come and play in the league. Many have done so, but today’s game is so much different. There is a lot more history now behind the league. With history, you have experience and experience tells you that this league is now a younger man’s game. Clubs have more money now than ever before, stadiums are better and attendances are extremely impressive. The technical side of the game is getting better because of that. Major League soccer is one of the most difficult leagues to predict scores. And we love it that way, but I am dying out for a team that becomes the club that everybody loves to hate. I am still waiting…
Today you work as a commentator on American TV, reporting about German football. How is it being on the other side?
I retired young at 29 and as much as I had the passion for television and entertainment, I never thought it would be possible for me to move into the industry – but I was proven wrong! I have worked now as a host, a commentator and as an analyst for almost seven years. I love every part of my job because I get to work so close to the game and entertain the viewers who are at home watching. Maybe I am fulfilling the role I was born to be in. You can ask my former teammates and colleagues and I am sure they will all tell you that I was already an entertainer on and off the field and I simply have a love for life.
Do you still watch St. Pauli’s games and follow the team?
I try to watch every single FC St. Pauli game. My network FOX Sports shows the majority of all 2. Bundesliga games online and I always find a way. Due to my work commitments, the timing is not easy for me to be at the Millerntor on match days but I do have the dream of one day getting a space inside the Millerntor stadium where me, and all the former players can share magical moments together and support the current group of players on match days.
What do you miss about St. Pauli and Germany?
I had a very quiet life off the field, with family and friends. It gave me the chance to see all the positives that Hamburg had to offer and I loved every minute of the years I spent in the city. My daughter Madison was born in Hamburg and she understands exactly how important it is to represent her city and her club St. Pauli so she, too, shares the same life values. Hamburg will always hold a special place in my heart, because it simply is one of the most beautiful and energetic cities in the world.
And a special place on your back, right?
True, I have the St. Pauli skull and cross bones tattooed on my body as a symbol of life, so that I never forget where I came from and who I continue to strive to be as a human being. I only spent close to three years with the team because of my early return to the USA, but this club was living in me before I arrived and it will live with me forever.