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Many clichés are synonymous with Hamburg: the often dreary weather, the bustling harbour, the famous cinnamon buns, called Franzbrötchen. Yet, football also holds a special place in the city, with many immediately thinking of FC St. Pauli. Jackson Irvine, who originally hails from Australia and is also part of the Australian national team, spent many years playing football in Scotland before he made the move to the city in northern Germany in 2021. Being the team’s captain, he became an integral part of a city unlike any other in the world - a city that we, as a brand, proudly call home.

We had the opportunity to delve into both his professional career and personal insights as we strolled through the streets of St. Pauli, stopping by his favourite spots. And yes, it was a rainy day, but this didn’t impact Jackson’s good mood at all.

Jackson Irvine x Closed

“Football is the cruellest yet most beautiful game. It constantly pushes your emotions to the extremes.”

The
interview

You moved to Hamburg from Edinburgh in Scotland in 2021 to join the local football team FC St. Pauli. What impacted your decision to make this big move?

I came to Hamburg after more than 10 years of playing football in Scotland and England. I loved my time there, it was the place that gave me the opportunity to have a career in professional football. However, I yearned for something different, a complete change in lifestyle and footballing environment. Something that would challenge and push me outside my comfort zone, both as a person and an athlete. It only took one phone call with St. Pauli to know that it was the place I wanted to be.

How would you describe your beginnings in this new city? How did you manage to feel at home here?

The people my partner Jemilla and I met when we first arrived are the reason we were able to settle in so quickly. We found a community of local people and other internationals who were able to help us find all the corners of this city which are now our home.

In your opinion, what makes FC St. Pauli, the team and the fans so unique?

I would say it is the strong connection between the community and the football club that makes it special. The values and attitudes of the fans really translate directly into the football. They are intrinsically linked.

Derby match days are often intense and emotional. What makes these match days so special for you as a player, and how does the team prepare for such crucial games?

These are arguably the most special games. You can feel the importance of the game in every aspect of life. You sense it in the supermarket and when speaking to people in the local café. When you step onto the field for the game, you understand what it means to everyone, and you can feel that energy pulsating through the stadium.

How would you describe the dynamics at FC St. Pauli? Are there specific rituals or traditions within the team that strengthen your team spirit?

The team here at FC St. Pauli is fantastic. We are a team primarily of professionals but also friends. We find a fine balance of work and fun which allows us to be successful but also have strong relationships.

There are many highs and lows in football. You can even say it’s an emotional rollercoaster. Can you tell us about a particular moment in your career that was particularly impactful for you, whether positive or negative?

You can say that again! Football is the cruellest yet most beautiful game. It constantly pushes your emotions to the extremes. The World Cup in 2022 was a perfect example! My Australian National team had our most successful tournament ever, qualifying for the round of sixteen after wins against Tunisia and Denmark in the group stage. This led us to a meeting with eventual world champions, Argentina. Although it was amazing to face the great Lionel Messi and compete at this level, ultimately the emotion was heartbreak after we lost the game 2-1. Only upon reflection on the tournament as a whole, you do realise the incredible achievement we had made.

Do you have specific role models in football or in another area of your life who have influenced your career or mindset? If so, what qualities of these role models do you particularly admire?

Someone I admire very much is former Australian footballer and now activist Craig Foster. He’s an exceptional example of a player who reached the highest level of the game in our country and has since used his voice as a force for positive change. On the complete opposite end of the spectrum is David Beckham. I know he has faced controversies in recent years with his endorsements, but he was a trailblazer for footballers breaking down barriers and pushing boundaries with their personal appearance. I always felt like an outsider in the football world, and Beckham was the one I looked up to as a young person to see that it was okay to have long hair or wear what I wanted.

David Beckham is still known for his sense of fashion – just like you, as you are often spotted in very unique outfits. How would you describe your approach to personal style?

My style is heavily influenced by football, much like many other aspects of my life! We’ve increasingly seen the two worlds merge recently, and I love to blend sport and street style, particularly incorporating retro and vintage elements with the contemporary fashion scene. I’d say that’s how people recognise my style! It’s all about being authentic; I believe, like everything in life, it’s about staying true to your taste and sense of self. That doesn’t mean you can’t push yourself out of your comfort zone and try something new and outrageous; my bright pink hair has definitely been one of those moments! But ultimately, it comes down to staying authentic – I think that’s the key.

How do you see your personal development as a football player since joining FC St. Pauli? What challenges have you overcome, and how have you evolved as a player or person?

I’ve grown so much as a player and a person since coming to Hamburg. It’s been a perfect storm of finding a place to thrive as a footballer, but more so the personal growth that comes from being in an environment which actively encourages me to be the person I want to be.

In addition to your career as a football player, you are very involved in different social projects. Could you tell us more about the volunteer work you do and why these projects are especially close to your heart?

Most of the social projects I’ve been involved in have come through the remarkable work of our Australian Players Union (PFA), of which I’m fortunate to now be the President of. Whether it’s speaking out on major social issues within football, supporting LGBTQIA+ individuals in our communities, funding projects for indigenous football in Australia, or focusing on improving mental health support within the game, our organisation strives to be at the forefront of using football as a catalyst for positive change.

In addition to the demands of training, captaincy, and community involvement, how do you balance your personal life, including your relationship with yourself and, of course, your family and friends?

It can be tough to find the balance. Professional sport is demanding and can dictate most of your life. If you want to be successful it’s about how much you’re willing to invest. However, balance is crucial, and I feel fortunate to have Jemilla, who constantly helps me find stability. We also have a wonderful circle of friends with whom we spend a lot of time, whether it’s seeing live music (our favourite thing to do) or simply watching sports at the pub. This not only allows me to switch off from football, I really believe it also maximises my performance.

Hamburg has many interesting places. What are your personal favourite spots, whether it’s a café, a restaurant, or just places where you like to spend your free time?

So many favourites! But St. Pauli, Karolinenviertel and the Schanze are my most frequented areas. Cafés like Playground Coffee or Kaffee Stark. Classic local restaurants such as Cuneo. Ramen at Ume No Hana, noodles at Cai Kitchen or burgers at Grilly Idol. A drink at Hummel & Quiddje, Korallbar, or Haus 73 are also on my list.

What are your long-term goals, both in football and beyond the field? Do you have specific plans for your future after your career?

I wish I had a clearer picture of what life after football looks like! But for now, I live mostly in the present. I aspire to be part of a successful team here at St. Pauli; that’s the current dream. I aim to qualify for another World Cup with the Australian national team in 2026. I always want to be actively involved in the community. I would love to continue exploring the world of fashion, which is gradually opening up to me. It’s incredibly exciting, and I don’t want to miss out on any of it by looking too far ahead!

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Jackson Irvine x Closed

“I’ve grown so much as a player and a person since coming to Hamburg.”