Over the course of this weekend alone, thousands of words have been written about you and what you mean to FC St. Pauli. Even in retirement, you’ll never have a chance to read through them all, but hopefully just knowing that so many people have felt the need to put pen to paper (or sit at a keyboard) will make you realise how much you mean to us all.
I only joined your adventure halfway through in 2007, but you scored the first goal that me and my Dad ever saw at the Millerntor (against Bayer Leverkusen in the DFB Pokal). It happened in an instant, yet I can still see it clear as day: you sliding in to score in front of the Nordkurve, wheeling away to celebrate, sliding on your knees, in front of the old Haupttibüne. That 87th minute goal crowned a perfect first visit to the Millerntor and it played its part in me returning as often as I could in the years that followed.
Of course, back on that sunny August afternoon, I was struggling to drink it all in: the fans, the atmosphere, the pitch, the players – the Millerntor was a football experience like no other, it literally blew my mind. I must admit, it wasn’t you that stood out that day for me, but your fellow midfielder Björn Brunnemann. I put it down to the fact it was his debut, he seemed to be an all-action type player, full of energy. In reality it was probably his shock of punk-rock, bleach-blonde hair that made him stand out ;) Indeed, shamefully, it took me a little while longer to realize that it was you Boller, who was the beating-heart, lungs, legs, guts, spirit and so often the brains behind FC St. Pauli in the years that followed. Of course, there have been others too, others that have represented something of St. Pauli’s passion and spirit during my time as a fan: both Florians’ Bruns and Lechner, Takyi, Naki, Eger, Ralle, Bene and Ebbers – I love them all dearly, but over my seven years following FCSP I have realized that you are the modern day embodiment of FC St. Pauli.
There’s so many matches, not even matches, seasons, where you have driven the side forward both physically and mentally. Pushing them over the line. We owe a great deal of the promotion from the Regionalliga in 2006/07 (which admittedly I only watched via the highlights DVD) and the return to the Bundesliga in 2009/10 to you. There were important goals too. We could see from your face what your goal at the Millerntor against HSV in 2010 meant to you. On a personal note, your goal at SV Freiburg that same season meant a lot to me: it was the first game I took my daughter to. As a result, it means that you scored the first goal that three generations of my family had seen watching FCSP (it also triggered the comeback and our eventual 3-1 victory down in the Black Forest on another boiling hot August afternoon).
I can’t believe that your St. Pauli adventure is coming to an end. I wish you weren’t retiring as I still think you’ve got at least another season in you at this level. The influence you have on the pitch you still command was still evident last Sunday in Köln – when you came on, a rudderless, listless and tactically all at sea ship was almost instantly steadied. Sure you couldn’t alter the result, but you instilled some stability and passion into a side that was sadly lacking in all departments. However, I can appreciate the amount you have given on the pitch has taken its toll on your body physically. But also, never underestimate the influence that you have had off the pitch. You have made a genuine connection with those of us that watch from the stands. We understand that you hold the club as close to your heart as we do. You have stood with the fans, supporting us on numerous issues. You have earned our trust and respect – not bad for a policeman, eh? ;) You share our passion and our principles, and that’s why we love you.
In so many ways this feels like the end of an era. I worry that not enough of the players coming through share your ethos, or recognise the need for the bond between player and supporter (although I’m delighted that at least Sebastian Schachten seems to have picked up the baton).
Anyhow, these are just my reflections on your contribution to FC St. Pauli’s rich history. There are many people better placed and who can explain far more eloquently than me what you mean to us all, but I just wanted you know that you will never be replaced in our hearts. Thanks for everything.
You’ll Never Walk Alone.