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If you can remember Caramail, or even the sound of a modem indefinitely trying to access the ancestor of Internet, you have to remember the Sci-Fi show Sliders. It was about a little genius scientist who managed to create a machine capable of generating vortexes. This machine allowed allowing him to travel through parallel dimensions. So we took the idea – of parallel dimensions – to imagine a world in which Paris would be the center of the football world (take that Madrid!). In this world, the City of Lights would be home to many clubs, 5 to be precise. The Paris Saint-Germain, L’Espérance Barbès, The Tout Puissant Château-Rouge, The Real Paris Saint-Germain-des-Prés and The Olympiades South Paname are ruling our beautiful country’s football. Titles, derbies, pride, money, low blows, but mainly passion: welcome to Paris, football’s Mecca.
Paris’ famous northern derby. L’Espérance versus the Tout Puissant. Barbès versus Château-Rouge. Cigarette street sellers against hair salon owners blasting Fally Ipupa’s latest hits. This derby is without any doubt the most passionate game in the whole country. Comparable to a Boca Juniors-River Plate or a Galatasaray-Fenerbahce.
L’Espérance Barbès, and their dilapidated 26 000 seat stadium outside of Barbès-Rochechouart metro station rallies Paris’ North African population. The club was created in the sixties by the neighborhood’s inhabitants as an association gathering workers from the surrounding factories. What started with casual Sunday morning games became a strong association attracting the strongest players of all North Paris.
From division to division, l’Esperance made their way through the tiers of French football. The club’s first major victory occurred in 1987, with a strong win over the great Jean Tigana’s Bordeaux in the Coupe de France final. A myth was born. France started to foster a special feeling for the club and discovered within it a young Algerian prodigy, going by the name of Rabah Madjer.
The club’s results don’t match the supporters’ ardour. Because yes, Barbès, the Goutte d’Or but also Belleville swing for the team. Sometimes even too much according to some Barbes’ new inhabitants. As often, popular neighbourhoods of big cities have to face what is called gentrification. Vanessa M, new to the neighborhoods told us that she understands “the support on game days”, and that car horns, firecrackers following every victory are normal. However she finds it less understandable to celebrate ties with the same intensity. Still she admits to sometimes chant “One, Two, Three, Viva l’Espérance” at work.
L’Esperance’s best enemy and neighbor: The Tout Puissant Château-Rouge was created in 1978 by the Two Châteaux (Château Rouge and Château d’Eau) inhabitants which has since then has become Paris’ favourite. club.
After hiding in the shadow of L’Esperance and PSG, The Tout Puissant managed to find its audience. Supported by the black African community, the team became even more famous after reaching the Champions League’s semi-finals in 2014. Despite a heroic fight against Atletico Madrid which was won thanks to a victorious goal from Diego Costa – and his hand – The Tout Puissant grew from this European adventure. The club is now managed by the African football expert Hervé Renard – Or the “Charming”. Bringing stability since he took over in 2012.
Yet The Tout Puissant is one of the most popular team in France, it has also had its downs. Take the example of the infamous nightclub escapade in 1995 that made the headlines. A day before the Coupe de France final against Guy Roux’s Auxerre, the Tout Puissant’s players were found drunk and in good company outside of the famous night club “Le Titan”. Led by their captain of the night and the team’s forward Patrice Loko, the players quietly ended up at the police station. The next day was a misery, a 4-0 loss including two goals from Lilian Laslandes. But that’s not all: the recurring players’ strikes became cult as well. Why? There’s only one reason: unpaid post-win bonuses.
Another affair was the name of the stadium, renamed stadium “Roger Milla” in 1998 in honour of the legendary Cameroonian player. But in 2011, the name changed for “Total Stadium”, named after the French petroleum company well-established in Africa. This turning of event led to a controversy supported by French newspaper Libération on the continuation of French imperialism under new forms.
Far for from these politic waves, The Tout Puissant continues to shaken its supporters with a Ligue 1 title in 2013, three years before Eto’o becomes the club’s President in January 2016. A future Champions League title is now a possibility, or at least the club’s new ambitions. As if we needed another proof of love from the club’s fans, a new banner recently made its appearance during every home games, and its full of sense. On it, you can read: “Tout Puissant I love you as much as Samuel Eto’o loves Samuel Eto’o”.
If there has to be one derby to go to in a lifetime, it would inevitably be Paris’ Northern derby. The atmosphere is at its climax. It’s not only about who’s the king in Paris’ northern part, it’s also an African supremacy debate. Between passion, tifosi, or vuvuzelas, everything is reunited for big moments to happen.
Further south, lights point toward another derby: the “Cashico”. After the “Clasico”, the “Olympico”, or the “Corsico” there’s now the “Cashico” – made up once more by French TV channel Canal Plus. As you certainly understood, it opposes the two richest clubs of the country. On one side: PSG, iconic club situated at The Porte d’Auteuil. On the other: the Real Paris Saint-Germain-des-Prés.
When it comes to PSG, you certainly already know everything. Including its creation in 1970 in order to boost the Parisian football life, the Hechter era responsible for the team’s jersey legendary design, then came the Borelli period and the club’s first trophies. Canal Plus who took over as the club’s owner brought the Europe Cup to Parisians, with many of cult players such as Weah, Ginola, Rai, Pauleta, Llacer, and Ronaldinho. The less glorious Colony Capital era followed the arrival of the Qatar Investment Authority in 2011 and the flamboyance that came with it.
While PSG was living its new rich quiet life, a new comer showed up. The Real faced the Parisian ogre without any complex but with a lot of money, forcing PSG to fight an opponent its size for the first time in a long time.
So let’s go back to the club’s unusual history. We are in 1951, exactly 10 years after De Gaulle’s famous London Call, France finally lives with the hope of a better future. But in its HQ of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, the French bourgeoisie is facing a dilemma. Their cute little children get bored after school. It’s either they find something for them to do or watch over them. Thus, one day the parents gathered and created a nonprofit sport association for they children. But there’s no way they can play football, a sport played by the proletarian class. No, in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, kids play water polo, fencing, and obviously tennis like rich English families.
Thanks to strong demand of memberships, the leaders of the association decide to propose other sports, like volleyball or rugby, but still no evidence of football. Sergi Fernandez, the Spanish born association president then decides to give the association the name of Real Saint-Germain-des Prés.
It’s only until 1984 and the French victory led by Platini against the Spanish team of the great Arconada that things started moving at the Real. This French triumph really did something to the kids of Saint-Germain des Prés, Odéon, and Mabillon, leading them to the practice of football. The children’s pressure to play football obliged parents to ask for a football section inside the Real association. Seeing their children play football broke their heart but what wouldn’t they do for them?
Despite the club’s ultra modern installations, its debuts were mixed. To its opponents, the club is seen as the rich people’s club of Paris’ 6th district. Results are not good enough and the club lives in the bottom of French football. On the flip side, both the water polo and rugby teams’ results are brilliant which explains why the direction decided to change its strategy so the football club’s bad results won’t affect the club’s image as a whole. Without any pressure, the club decided in the nineties to hire players from other Parisian districts. Which will lead to a conflict with Olympiades South Paname, we will talk about into more details later. This approach paid off and the club went up the ladder so it could catch potential buyers’ attention, but not only.
In the early 2000s, Neuilly former mayor Nicolas Sarkozy felt in love with the Real when the club was playing in the French 3rd division. In addition to his role of French minister, Nicolas Sarkozy became Real’s Honorary Chairman.
It’s not until 2012 and Sarkozy’s defeat in the presidential elections that the club reached new heights. The latter became Real’s president getting access to the French football elite at the same occasion. Using his armful of connections, his quest for new investors didn’t last long. The Bouygues group became the main investor and club’s sponsor. Right after Martin Bouygues, Sarkozy smartly turned to his friend and L’Oreal’s owner Lilian Bettancourt for more funds. Once again, she couldn’t say no to him.
The former French President’s objective is clear: to compete with PSG and to become Europe’s best club. To do so, the stadium first saw its main changings, becoming a 55 000 seat stadium using the best of today’s technology. Right after, came the mercato period. PSG has Beckham and Zlatan while the Real now has Ronaldinho and Neymar. Nothing is too shiny for the Real. When superstars Kendall Jenner or Rihanna take selfies at the Parc des Princes, the Real counter attacks, chartering a private jet for Beyoncé and Jennifer Lawrence.
On the field, the relationship between these two clubs remains tense and bitter. Perfect for the press. If the Qataris try their best to remain close to the people, the Real couldn’t care less. Today’s PSG motto “Dream bigger” is famous all over the country. On the other hand, Real took Jacques Séguéla most famous quote and made it its own official motto “If you don’t own a Rolex by the time you turn 50, you missed something in your life”.
If the French public does generally not appreciate the Real, disliking its show-off attitude, it is however really appreciated by tourists and stars. The club really goes full luxury with a jersey designed by Oliver Rousteing or by throwing half time performances by Madonna, Coldplay or Drake. For the story, the Real is the only club that doesn’t hire security guards at its stadium. Instead, the club hires people standing at every gates who can deny access only if people’s appearance don’t match Real’s criteria.
Despite all that, their results have quickly became excellent and the war between PSG and the Real for the Champions League crown has just started.
Far from all the latter glamour, the Olympiades South Paname football club patiently made its way to the top of French football. Settled in the multicultural Olympiades neighborhood, the club was founded in 1977 and has always counted on an important base of players from the capital’s 13th district.
Often seen as the Asian community’s club of choice, the Olympiades South Paname has always cleverly respond to provocation. We could take the example of its Chinese supporters’ banners “We now own Africa”, mocking at the Tout Puissant’s fans. Although the polemic didn’t last long as South Paname’s Chinese president threatened to stop supplying Château-Rouge’ stores in made in China wax and other cosmetic products. Tout Puissant’s supporters might be fanatic but not stupid as everything went back to normal soon after. Since then, both teams built a friendly relationship.
On the pitch, it took more than two decades for the club to reach the elite. The fame really started in 2002 – year of the signature of Hidetoshi Nakata which by this occasion took the club to a new era. In addition to a powerful training center, the club specialized in signing young up and coming Asian football stars from Nakamura, to Park Ji-Sung, to Kagawa or Chinese superstar Zheng Zi. The club’s peak remains its Coupe de France title over PSG in 2004. Slowly but surely, the club maintains stability in the French elite, participating in a few Europe Leagues.
If it’s often difficult to get tickets for a South Paname game, a new range of supporters is now seating next to day-1 fans. Here we’re talking about Parisian hipsters, looking for a club to support and tempted by the smell of banh-mis sold around the stadium or the promise of a bubble tea during half time. South Paname is definitely Paris’ trendy club.