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Apr 11, 2006

Pirates of St Pauli eye another Cup upset

FRANKFURT, April 11 (Reuters) - The German habit of stringing long lists of words together is hardly an endearing feature of the language but there is at least one compound noun that should raise a smile for neutral football fans.

The term 'Weltpokalsiegerbesieger' was coined by supporters of FC St Pauli and literally means 'defeater of the World Cup winners'.

It will be seen on T-shirts throughout Hamburg when the third division outfit host Bayern Munich in the semi-finals of the German Cup on Wednesday - four years on from the famous victory that inspired the slogan.

St Pauli were bottom of the Bundesliga table when they pulled off a surprise 2-1 victory over Bayern at their Millerntor home, round the corner from the Reeperbahn, the city's famous red-light district.

Bayern had won the World Club Championship to add to the Champions League and St Pauli fans, tongues firmly in cheek, revelled in the glory of being beaters-of-the-world-beaters.

St Pauli are an easy club for neutrals to like, even if the club's brown strip is generally regarded as one of the most hideous in the game.

The president is Corny Littmann, who runs the much loved Schmidt Theatre on the Reeperbahn, and the club motto is 'non-established since 1910' -- fitting for an organisation that cherishes its outsider image.

'The flag gives symbolic expression to the rebellious and pugnacious philosophy of the club and its fans,' the St Pauli website explains.

While city rivals Hamburg SV play in a plush stadium that will host five matches at this year's World Cup, St Pauli can fit only around 20,000 fans into a Millerntor stadium that could charitably be described as homely.

PIRATE FLAGS

Long ago, fans took to carrying pirate flags to home game and the club duly accepted the skull-and-crossbones as one of its official symbols.

The supporters have been fiercely anti-racist for a lot longer than the stance has been popular with UEFA and fans have recently put local rivalries aside to collaborate with HSV on a guidebook for visitors to Hamburg during the World Cup.

St Pauli were relegated in 2001-02 and then went down again the following year to the old third division.

That double demotion left the club in dire financial straits but a series of fundraising efforts from the local community came to the rescue.

A 'Swig for St Pauli' weekend in local pubs brought in a big chunk of cash, T-shirt sales, charity concerts and friendlies added more and a bank eventually agreed to guarantee 1.95 million euros to preserve the club's third-division status.

The financial picture is looking a lot rosier now after victories over Hertha Berlin and Werder Bremen in the last two rounds of the Cup, even if promotion looks a long shot as they sit in fifth place in the regional third division.

In fact, looking at the list of victims St Pauli have claimed over the season, Bayern will have reason to be wary when they make the long trip north for Wednesday's game.

To reach the Cup semis, St Pauli have made it past Burghausen, Bochum, Berlin and Bremen - all names beginning with 'B'.

The fans certainly think it's an omen, and on Wednesday many will be carrying banners reminding Bayern of the danger they are in. Could St Pauli be making a 'B-line' for the final in Berlin?