There is a lot of activity at the sports center in Wichmannstraße. About an hour and a half before kick-off in the quarter-final district class delegate match in the Association Cup against SC Hansa 11, the area in front of the dressing house is cordoned off with warning tape . In the locker room, chairman Ralph Hoffmann pumps the balls already marked by numerous matches and training sessions on the Grandplatz. And another club manager threw himself into the fight against water with a classic household broom. He sweeps up the puddles in front of the gates.
A few of his teammates are already sipping coffee from paper cups and chatting among themselves when Sako arrives in his white limo and parks at the Altonaer Schützengilde clubhouse, which also has its premises at the Bahrenfeld sports ground. The 40-year-old steps out with his two sons and warmly hugs each of his teammates in greeting.
The Frenchman, who was under contract with St. Pauli from 2007 to 2010 and then played for Arminia Bielefeld, does not show airs and graces.
“We laugh, we sing and we dance a lot”
“We are a family, a team,” says Sako and is excited that there is “lots of laughter, song and dance” at the “Berg”, as the club is affectionately known. “It’s different and just great,” adds the former professional footballer. The Frenchman with Malian ancestry has been playing for the St. Pauli club for two years. Many of his teammates also come from other countries. There are players from more than ten nations in the district class team. It is not a coincidence. Since its founding in 2014 by ticket and security guards who make their living on the side street of Hamburger Berg, the club has been heavily involved with refugees.
Social and integration work is an integral part of the association’s philosophy. But busy President Hoffmann also has lofty sporting goals. “He told me his dream was to reach the top of the ‘mountain’. I liked that,” Sako said.
An ex-professional fired in the meantime in the leisure league
The ex-professional ended up by accident at the second-lowest division club Hamburg. He was working for a South Korean software company at the time, some of his colleagues had joined the “Mountain” and then took him to training sessions. The 40-year-old quickly fell in love with the multicultural team. “We don’t speak much German. It’s good and different. It makes the whole atmosphere and the club special,” says the former St. Pauli striker. Before returning to club football, Sako had even scored for a company team in the recreation league.
Ditching his football boots for good was never an option for the striker. “I have two small children who love football. I can’t say that I’m sitting on the sofa and can’t participate. I love football and I live football. As long as I can still stand up, I’ll be on the pitch and I’ll have fun there, ”explains the Frenchman.
Son at team meeting in cubicle
Alongside former national players Martin Harnik (TuS Dassendorf) and Marcell Jansen (Hamburger SV III), he is Hamburg’s most prominent former professional in amateur football. The fact that the district classist made his way to the quarter-finals of the state cup is also due to Sako. He did not shine as an attacker, but as a ball distributor in midfield. Now the most important match in the club’s history is getting closer and closer. Tension mounts in the outsider’s locker room. Coach Gerd Kruspe, whose home was once the oceans, swears his team in the duel with state league club Hansa 11. “So I’m going to say this for the last time: Hamburger Berg, we can To do !” the 73-year-old concludes his speech.
The fact that the opponent is a heavy favorite and is three classes higher cannot shake the former sea dog. Neither do Sako’s sons sitting next to their father in the locker room during the meeting and munching on cookies.
Unforgettable three and a half years in St. Pauli
Such a scenario would have been unthinkable for Sako when he was a professional, even if he was under the St. Pauli coach. Holger Stanislawski was not always very serious. “I will never forget that time,” said the forties with a little nostalgia. In 2007, he moved from English Fourth Division club AFC Rochdale to Kiezclub. At Millerntor, the 2.02m striker quickly won the hearts of the fans as he always left him on the pitch. His big fighting heart covered some of football’s deficits.
So, of all things, header play was not a “soft giant” specialty. He also rarely scored. There have been eight in 74 competitive games for St. Pauli. Hamburger Boulevard gave him the nickname “Torlatte”.
Unlucky commitment to Arminia Bielefeld
Promotion to the Bundesliga in 2010 was the highlight of the Frenchman’s career. “Wonderful Morike Sako,” sang fans of the neighborhood club as the team celebrated their leap into the top flight on the Reeperbahn. It was the striker’s last party as a St. Pauli professional. He no longer received a contract from the Millerntor club. “The majority of people wanted me to stay. Only one or two people didn’t want that,” the forty-something turns around, somewhat annoyed. At this time, he switched to Arminia Bielefeld, but was not happy with the “Alm”. After only a year, Sako left East Westphalia again.
This was later followed by engagements with regional league sides Hessen Kassel and Eintracht Norderstedt, before the former kickboxer began to pursue his great passion just for fun.
Hoping for another cup feeling
With his participation in the DFB Cup, Sako would celebrate another return to the big football stage. The prerequisite for that would be success in the state cup, from which Hamburger Berg are still three wins away before the quarter-finals against Hansa 11. And the dream of the ninth division quickly finds new food when Najimu Mohammed scores from the penalty spot after three minutes to bring the score to 1-0. “Exactly what I said happened – exactly,” said coach Kruspe, as Sako congratulated the goalscorer with a pat on the shoulder. The belief in the next sensation is also growing among the players on the substitutes’ bench, whose plexiglass window has a huge hole.
Dream explosion: “It was deserved, deserved, deserved”
But then Kruspe steps more and more nervously over the weeds along the outside line that have pierced the Great. The hosts are falling far too far and trailing 2-1 before the break. Goalkeeper Patrick Antwi, who once handled the goal for the Ghana national team, had to come back three times after the break. In the end, the “mountain” is beaten by its neighbor – Hansa 11 also has its house in the neighborhood – by 2:5. Sako turns out to be a fair loser.
“It was deserved, deserved, deserved,” he told guest coach Erkan Sancak, whom he had hugged beforehand: “We’ve known each other for a long time and we met in the neighborhood before the match .”
For Sako, after the match is before the match
Even if the forties has lived a lot in his professional career, this bankruptcy of amateur football is eating away at him. “I always want to step on the accelerator on the pitch and be the best. I have to involve the boys. And when you lose, it’s always bad…” says the man in the number 26 jersey work done in a relaxation swimming pool or on the massage bench. Past. Today is after the game before the game for Sako. “Now I have to play a little football with the children,” he says, and he walks with his sons to the rowdy Grandplatz.