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Paris Saint-Germain Football Club… Les Rouge et Bleu… Les Parisiens… PSG… But you knew all those nicknames, right? The beautiful game is France’s most popular sport by far and as residents of, or visitors to, the capital of this footy-mad nation, you ought to know a thing or two about one of the best teams in the country’s top-tier, known as Ligue 1. Two facts are good but nine are better, so keep reading if you want to pass the test as a PSG superfan.
A relatively young team at just 46, Paris Saint-Germain was formed August 12, 1970. Towards the end of the 1960s, a number of ambitious businessmen got the idea in their heads that Paris needed a major club of its own. Twenty-thousand people agreed and signed a petition to that effect. So it was that Paris F.C. and Stade Saint-Germain merged to form PSG. However, the marriage was short-lived with Paris F.C. splitting in 1972. PSG got their revenge in 1974 when they returned to Ligue 1 and their ex-partner slipped into the division below.
With 31 titles to their name and the glittering silverware in their trophy cabinet to prove it, PSG are the most successful club in French football history. They have finished the season at the top of Ligue 1 on six occasions, the first time coming in 1986 and most recently just a few months ago. In fact, 2016 has been an excellent year, with the team winning their sixth Trophée des Champions, sixth Coupe de la Ligue, and tenth Coupe de France. PSG are also only one of two French sides to win a European title: the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in 1996 and UEFA Intertoto Cup in 2001. Finally, you should also know that they won the Ligue 2 title in their inaugural year.
Paris Saint-Germain have played their home games at the Parc des Princes since 1974. The stadium, a concrete masterpiece with a razor-edged frame, is an unmissable feature of the local skyline. It was designed by architect Roger Taillibert and can seat 48,712 screaming football fans. It is actually the third stadium to be built on the site, replacing the 1897 and 1932 efforts. This corner of the 16th arrondissement is remarkably sports-obsessed, with the Stade Jean-Bouin rugby venue, and the Roland Garros tennis complex, home to the French Open, just a short walk away.
PSG makes up one half of the most intensely fought football derby in France: Le Classique. Their opponents? Olympique de Marseille. Its alternative name, the Derby de France, gives some perspective to the rivalry’s dimensions. Unlike most other football feuds, this isn’t about two teams grown too big to share their home city. No, this is about north versus south, upper crust Parisians versus blue-collar Marseillais, the political center of the southern provinces versus the national capital. It’s a heated affair. It should be noted (but not overstated) that PSG are second to OM in terms of supporter numbers.
In 2011, Qatar Sports Investments took a 70% stake in PSG and just one year later became their sole shareholder. At this time, the club was valued at 100 million euros, making it the most highly valued club in France and one of the wealthiest in the world. By 2016, PSG had the world’s fourth-highest revenue for a football team at 480.8 million euros and was its thirteenth most valuable, at 720 million dollars.
Throughout its history, PSG have sported six different crests, however, all but two of them (those from their first two seasons and a strange period between 1992 and 1996) are more or less the same. The Eiffel Tower logo, originally designed by the club’s fashion designer director Daniel Hechter in 1973, features the iconic monument in red against a blue background, with Louis XIV’s cradle and a fleur-de-lis in white between its feet. Hechter also conceived the traditional PSG home strip which is predominantly blue with a central red stripe edged with white. The red and blue are Parisian colors, a nod to revolutionary figures La Fayette and Jean Sylvain Bailly, and the white is a symbol of royalty and Saint-Germain-en-Laye. The new season’s strip remains faithful enough to the original design.
In terms of the number of games played, there has been no greater PSG player than Frenchman Jean-Marc Pilorget. He played 435 games for the club between 1975 and 1989, which is 55 more than his nearest rival. When it comes to goals, the Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimović is the king (or prince) of PSG. He put away 156 goals in four seasons before his transfer to Manchester United at the beginning of this season, that is 47 more than anyone else in the club’s history. The current captain is Thiago Silva of Brazil, one of the best central defenders in the world.
If you make it to one of their games, home or away, you are more than likely to hear the familiar sounds of the Pet Shop Boys. Surprising, isn’t it? The club’s official anthem is Allez Paris Saint-Germain, which takes its tune from the London electro-pop duo’s song Go West. Ville Lumière is another song close to the fans’ hearts. As far as chants go, you should prepare to shout yourself hoarse with countless repetitions of Ici, c’est Paris! and the incontrovertible Paris est magique!
Last but by no means least is the club’s mascot, Germain the Lynx. His broad smile and bright blue eyes aren’t likely to intimidate any opposing teams but he is as much a part of PSG as the stands of the Parc des Princes or the blue, red and white of the jerseys.