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FTW Roundtable: Our Footballing Guilty Pleasures

Who are the FTW writers’ second (or, in one case, first) clubs? Let’s find out!

Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Group D - Borussia Dortmund v Arsenal - Westfalenstadion

In football, everyone has two clubs: the one they support, and the one they probably wish they didn’t like so much (because supporting one team is hard enough). That “second club” is a club that draws you in; a club that holds irresistible charm for you for some reason or the other, and leaves you with a feeling you can’t quite shake. On that note, here are the FTW writers’ second clubs!

Paul: Southampton... and Dulwich Hamlet

So the first of these will come as exactly zero shock to anyone here. I’ve been pretty loud about my being a Southampton fan over the years, and truth be told, Southampton definitely aren’t my second team. They’re my first. But in the interest of me not talking about Saints some more, I have another second (third?) team that is as obscure as they are ridiculous: Dulwich Hamlet!

They’re a South London club based in Dulwich (which is between two more famous areas, Brixton and Peckham) in the National League South, the sixth tier of the English football pyramid.

They play their home games at Champion Hill, which houses about 3,000 people at a push, and it makes for a cracking day. They even put on some excellent beers on tap, and some really good food (some of which has featured on Footy Scran).

Up the Hamlet!

Sarah: FC Union Berlin

When it comes to rooting for a team, there are certain things that draw my immediate and undying support:

  1. Being an underdog
  2. Humility
  3. Weird ass mascots

Little did I know that when FC Union Berlin burst onto the top flight scene in 2019, I would find a new fixation. But, let’s back up a bit first.

As an American who really only knew American league structure for most of my life, the whole idea of promotion/relegation fascinated me. I’m a proponent of this system for many reasons (which I’ll spare you from for now) and, thusly, I am captivated by the teams finding themselves in that situation each season. The top flight can be a challenge for some teams (FC Ingolstadt, SV Darmstadt) but Union simply dazzled. In their three post-promotion seasons they finished 11th, 7th and 5th respectively, showing no signs of departing anytime soon.

Even with this success, the team vibe remains modest. Just looking at their supremely retro scoreboard is a reminder of humble beginnings and makes this stadium a “must visit” on my next trip to Germany.

All of this aside, the absolute most incredible thing about this team goes by the name of Ritter Keule. To me, this knight is hands down the most bizarre effing mascot in the Bundesliga. He wields a mace for crying out loud! It was obsession at first sight and Ritter Keule took the top spot on my list of favorite mascots (sorry Jünter).

I can’t wait to see what this squad does in the new season!

1. FC Union Berlin - FC St. Pauli Photo by Andreas Gora/picture alliance via Getty Images

Zac Weilminster: Eintracht Frankfurt

I was not supposed to like Eintracht Frankfurt. They are Bundesliga competition, quite near to Dortmund, and have a knack for chipping points off of BVB. But back when Luka Jovic, Sebastien Haller, Ante Rebic, and Filip Kostic were all clicking for the Eagles, it was impossible not to fall in love. Frankfurt during this time period was playing some of the best football Germany has seen in recent years, producing deep runs into the Europa League and etching their names into the DfB Pokal trophy with a historic triumph over Bayern Munich. Adi Hutter had created the perfect system to allow his forwards to thrive, and Frankfurt’s electric fanbase lapped up the success of the team. I have only seen one game at the Westfalenstadion which was against the Eagles, and Eintracht Frankfurt helped create an incredible atmosphere and a memorable game that I will always cherish. Now, with young BVB starlet Ansgar Knauff plying his trade for the Eagles, and their emotional Europa League push finally earning them a well-deserved European title, I am quietly hopeful that Frankfurt will enjoy another successful season.

Sean: Werder Bremen

Those of you who have read FTW for a while will know this one. My grandfather was born and raised in Bremen before moving to the United States in the 1960s. Growing up I never heard him profess any interest in soccer, with him always preferring to talk hockey or baseball, so I just assumed he wasn’t a fan of the sport. Then, one day, when he was visiting and a BVB-Werder game happened to be on, he commented that when he was a kid in the 1950s in Bremen he would go to games all the time, collected programs, and knew the names of every player on the team. After moving to the U.S. in the 60s, he’d gradually fallen out of step with his BVB fandom because the games were never covered here. I was already a Dortmund fan by then, so I wasn’t going to change my loyalty on a dime, but it definitely gave me some sympathy towards them.

This, combined with the fact that I went to Bremen to visit family a few years ago and came back decked in Werder swag, make them my second favorite team.

Patrick: Los Angeles Football Club

Yup, that’s right! Some good ol’ American Major League Soccer makes an appearance on Fear The Wall! I would not even call Los Angeles Football Club my ‘second team’. Like a good parent, I split my sporting love equally between Dortmund and LAFC, who I have followed since their inaugural season in 2018. Why LAFC? Well, not only are they my local MLS team who I get to watch live, but the league is also absolutely bonkers.

Los Angeles Football Club is the perfect balance of young stars like Jose Cifuentes and Diego Palacios, two players who I think will be playing in Europe really soon, and superstars like Carlos Vela, Giorgio Chiellini, and Gareth Bale. In only their fifth year of playing, the team has become associated with the cream of the crop in American soccer and this season is no different as they smash teams en route to MLS playoffs. They’re scoring goals for fun, and unlike Dortmund, I can watch it all in person eating churros and getting beer thrown on me in LAFC’s supporter section, the 3252.

Los Angeles Galaxy v Los Angeles Football Club Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Now I know MLS gets a lot of flak. There’s no promotion/relegation, some teams have apathetic owners, and the quality of play is not the greatest on the planet. That being said, there is a lot to love. The league has goals galore with one matchday earlier this August even seeing 57 goals in 13 games! It has also become a landing spot for talent as both local Americans and imports from South America have begun using the league to propel themselves to Europe. Guys like Almiron, Weston McKennie, Borussia Dortmund’s own Giovanni Reyna, and roughly a third of Leeds United all got their start in MLS or MLS academies. Despite no promotion and relegation, the parity within the league and playoff format ensure competitive high-stakes soccer throughout the entire season. Finally, aspects of soccer culture from Latin America and Europe are seeping into MLS to create an unrivaled sports culture for American audiences to enjoy. If you are an American, then I recommend going to an MLS game if you can make it because nothing beats live soccer. If you are from abroad, I recommend finding a way to tune into an MLS game, the chaos is fun for all ages.

Yash: Union Berlin (Honorable mention: Sean Dyche’s Burnley)

Union are a cool team, so much so that I’m about to write an article pitching them as your second club (or, who knows, first club?!). We played them in the Pokal a few years ago, and they’ve been my second team ever since. Every year, on Football Manager, I start with a BVB save and (after winning the treble) go straight to Die Eisernen to repeat the trick.

As an honorable mention, the rather agricultural brand of football practised by Sean Dyche’s Burnley (as well as the way they clung to Premier League survival) struck a chord within me, and I was very disappointed when the old worm-eater was sacked. However, he departs with the knowledge that he has attained the highest level of distinction any manager can ever achieve: he had a pub named after him! The higher-ups at Burnley may just have made an inspired choice by hiring another top guy in Vincent Kompany, and I think he’ll prove his worth as a manager, given some time.

Burnley v Liverpool - Premier League - Turf Moor Photo by Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images

Joey: FC St. Pauli

St. Pauli is the cool Hamburg club. It was bittersweet watching them defeat Dortmund in the cup last season, and I felt a mild heartbreak at their failure to secure promotion, a mere 3 points from the playoff position and 6 points from automatic promotion. For those of you less familiar with some of Germany’s biggest rivalries, I encourage you to watch the Hamburger Stadtderby or “Hamburg Derby.” There’s a certain energy in these matches which echos the drama of the more familiar Ruhr Derby.

I have a lot of respect for the History of St. Pauli. While most clubs try to stay out of politics, St. Pauli has not. They have gained renown in the last few decades for their left-leaning philosophies and social activism. In the 1980’s, St. Pauli became the first german club to ban right-wing nationalist activities within their grounds. Through their outreach, and opposition to far-right politics, fans adopted the skull and crossbones as an unofficial logo. This has evolved into a cult symbol for the club. Their player tunnel is full of graffiti-like imagery which creates the atmosphere of a 90’s punk rock or grunge concert. Fans at times have even referred to this tunnel as the Gate of Hell.

So if you’re looking for an exciting second team, look no further than the cult appeal of St. Pauli! And how many of your friends can boast supporting a team that regularly wears brown jerseys?

FC St. Pauli v Hamburger SV - 2. Bundesliga For DFL
Inside St. Pauli’s player tunnel
Photo by Lukas Schulze/Bundesliga/Bundesliga Collection via Getty Images

Your Thoughts?

Do you have a second team? Which? Let us know in the comments!