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St. Pauli follow Holstein Kiel in promotion to Bundesliga

Published May 12, 2024last updated May 12, 2024

Soccer side St. Pauli join rivals Holstein Kiel with a spot in the Bundesliga top flight. Kiel's promotion a day earlier make it the first club from the state of Schleswig-Holstein to reach German football's elite level.

St. Pauli celebrate after going 2-0 up over VfL Osnabrück
St Pauli moved top of the league with an unassailable six-point lead over third-place Fortuna DüsseldorfImage: Axel Heimken/dpa/picture alliance

Hamburg football side St. Pauli will play in the Bundesliga for the first time in 13 years next season after they secured promotion with a 3-1 victory over relegated VfL Osnabrück on Sunday.

A day earlier, league leaders Holstein Kiel secured a tough 1-1 draw with third-placed Fortuna Düsseldorf.

That ensured that it was no longer possible for Düsseldorf to overtake them following the last game of the season next weekend.  Being assured of either first or second in the second Bundesliga tier meant Kiel gained automatic promotion to Germany's top division. 

How did things go for St. Pauli?

St. Pauli were, in any case, in a great position for the other automatic promotion. The club had needed only one point from either of its last two league games to put it definitively out of Düsseldorf's reach. 

They were also firm favorites at home against VfL Osnabrück, who sit 18th and last in the standings.

Oladapo Afolayan was on target in the seventh minute and again in the 58th. Marcel Hartel completed the win in the 68th. While Lars Kehl pulled one back for Osnabrück in stoppage time, St. Pauli's fan celebrations came even before the 3-1 scoreline was final. 

The cult club has a major following in Hamburg and beyond, particularly on the left of the political spectrum, and has been absent from the Bundesliga for more than a decade.

They were last promoted in 2010, but finished bottom of the table the following season and returned to the second division. Since then, despite frequent finishes high in the top half of the 2. Bundesliga, promotion has eluded them. 

St Pauli's fans celebrate with flags
Famous for their skull and crossbones flag and adoption of left-wing causes, St. Pauli have a wide followingImage: Axel Heimken/dpa/picture alliance

St. Pauli fans will be particularly delighted that they make their return to the top before city rivals Hamburg, who were long a mainstay in the upper tier.

Celebrations in Schleswig-Holstein

Holstein Kiel, who booked their top-berth place on Saturday, have never made it to the Bundesliga before. Indeed, nor has any side from Germany's northernmost state of Schleswig-Holstein.

Supporters rushed down onto the pitch after the final whistle, and the club set up a makeshift podium where the players could stand and lead the celebrations. 

"The view from the platform of the crowd was overwhelming," captain Philipp Sander said after the game. "I don't know if I will ever experience something like that in my career again." 

Kiel's veteran midfield star Lewis Holtby, who's played on bigger stages earlier in his career with clubs like Schalke and Blackburn, was similarly moved. 

"I'm proud and grateful to be a part of this historic success for this state," he said, referring to Schleswig-Holstein teams' perennial absence from the Bundesliga ever since the league was formed in 1963. 

Lewis Holtby holds a bottle of beer and smiles on the pitch near fans amid the celebrations after Holstein Kiel secured promotion. Kiel, Germany, May 11, 2024.
Lewis Holtby raised a bottle with supporters after the matchImage: Marcel von Fehrn/picture alliance/Eibner-Pressefoto

Sander acknowledged that it had been a tough night, calling the draw "hard work."

Kiel had been faltering in recent weeks, struggling to complete the fairytale after building a big lead early in the season with a lightning start. Düsseldorf played well on Saturday — with more than 60% possession and more than twice as many shots at goal as Kiel — and were probably unlucky not to be awarded a penalty and perhaps a red card for handball from Kiel's Patrick Erras. 

Coach Marcel Rapp called an impromptu press conference fairly soon after full time, but as has become tradition, players interrupted it within a matter of moments, barging in and dousing their coach in beer and halting Rapp's comments. 

"The feeling's overwhelming," Rapp did manage to say in his brief appearance.

Holstein Kiel fans stand tightly packed, many of them holding up club scarves for the cameras, on the pitch, celebrating after Saturday night's result. Kiel, Germany, May 12, 2024.
Fans flocked onto the pitch to celebrate with players after a difficult draw against Düsseldorf, who arguably had the better of the chances on the nightImage: picture alliance/dpa

Kiel came very close to promotion a few years ago but lost the 2021 relegation playoff game against Cologne's FC Köln and so stayed in the second division.

msh,rc/dvv,lo (dpa, SID)