By Shai Mamou
Paris will always be Paris. This saying about the City of Light also applies to the local soccer team, the Paris Saint-Germain, commonly called PSG. In forty years of existence, the team of the French capital has never left any observer indifferent. You hate or you love Paris, that’s all. Last Saturday, the eleven of Antoine Kombouaré (former local hero because of his goal against Real Madrid in 1993), won the Coupe de France after one of the most tumultuous season of the club’s history. The unworthy eleventh position in Ligue 1, the incident with the young prospect Mamadou Sakho (who slapped a journalist because he had written that the defender was at a disco after the humiliating loss against Lorient), the noxious atmosphere inside the Parc des Princes and of course the death of a “Boulogne Boys” fan during an internal brawl with another group, the PSG has known many dark hours this year. The victory in Coupe de France against Monaco (1-0, goal of Hoarau in extra time) with a brave performance of captain Claude Makelele and his team mates can’t outshine all these problems.
A noxious atmosphere
I went to the Parc des Princes twice this year. And each time my impression was the same. The fear of their fans is visible on the players faces and behaviours. If the Parisian stadium can become one of the most amazing European arena in terms of atmosphere when Paris wins, the opposite is also true. It is obviously not fair to say that the whole assistance is dumb, violent or racist. But how can the club decision-makers be so tolerant towards guys who openly sing nazi-inspired songs or boo players or other fans because they are not white?
Photo from fOTOGLIF
The measures recently taken (banishment of several groups, freezing of the tickets sale for away games, etc…) were necessary even if unpopular. Because Paris deserves a worthy crowd and a worthy team.
There also are problems on the field. Seriously, the Paris suburb is a treasure mine for the scouts. Where do you think Thierry Henry, Nicolas Anelka, Patrice Evra or William Gallas come from? The list is long and none of them except Anelka played for the PSG… They were all grabbed by other teams of the Hexagon. And today, the Paris Saint-Germain is forced to recruit unknown foreigners or not-so-valuable Frenchmen.
A few months ago, Jérôme Leroy, former player of PSG and Marseille, explained to me that the pressure on youngsters was too strong compared to when he played here in the 90’s (golden age of the club). “Raï, Leonardo, Weah, were perfect players to help youngsters to grow. Today, everyone ask them too much too young. They just can’t hold it and they sometimes fall in the Parisian context”. Translation: They spend all the money they earn in parties, clothes and big cars, forgetting why they are here. But who really is to blame?
Without being a PSG fan, it would obviously be better if France could count on a strong team in its capital. Look at England, Italy or Spain. London has three clubs among the top 4 of Premier League (Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham), Italy has AS Roma and had Lazio (well we could find resemblances with PSG…) and Spain has Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid. Let’s hope for the resplendence of the French championship that Paris, just like Marseille for a few years, will learn from its mistakes. However, Paris will always be Paris…