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Football is back. The Boys in Brown entertain Nürnberg at the Millerntor on Sunday (13:30 CET), a good two months after the originally scheduled date, though much more seems to lie between then and now. For on Sunday, everything that makes a St. Pauli home game so special will be missing. The roar of the crowd, the singing, the flags and banners, the complaining, the joy. Put another way, we'll miss you.

It's likely to be a strange feeling, then, when the teams make their way to their place of work shortly before kick-off. The corridor leading from the dressing-rooms, its walls adorned with a pattern of black skull and crossbones, announces the way to the "Hell of Sankt Pauli". But there'll be no fire in this hell. This is the unaccustomed situation the 22 protagonists on the pitch will have to deal with.   

Despite this, the Boys and Brown are oozing desire to do a good job on Sunday and there's been no lack of fire on the training ground. In the run-up, head coach Jos Luhukay emphasised how well the players had accepted the situation and worked in training. The return of long-term absentees Henk Veerman, Christian Conteh (who is ruled out on Sunday, however) and captain Christopher Avevor has provided an additional boost. And though it might seem an eternity ago, there is a four-match unbeaten run to continue. 

To prepare for the lack of atmosphere, the senior squad rehearsed at the ground on Thursday – with not many more people in attendance than will be watching on Sunday. Rarely will a practice match have been contested under more realistic conditions. The big unknown is therefore the opposition. Trying to identify pointers after almost two months with no full training and no competitive football is challenging for all concerned.  

And so there is little else Jos Luhukay can do to describe the size of the task than to cast his eye at the personnel available to the visitors: "They're a very experienced side with lots of players who have played in the first division. Up front they're unpredictable because Frey, Dovedan, Hack and Behrens rotate a lot and are dangerous in front of goal. I think they're much better than their league position suggests.“ 

The stage is thus set for an exciting restart, with the Boys in Brown keen to prove against tough opposition that the hard work of recent weeks has paid off. Hard work at home, in small groups and a seven-day quarantine training camp. Though three points are at stake again, the players will only be able to sense the Millerntor atmosphere in their heads and hearts. And will miss it terribly. Nevertheless, they are sure to do all they can to put a smile on the faces behind the masks of all those who normally give them so much. 

Photos: Witters


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