Monday, February 23, 2009

Ici, C'est Paris

Last week, I took in Paris St. Germain's 2-0 victory over VFL Wolfsburg of the German Bundesliga. The match, in the UEFA Cup round of 16, filled the decrepit Parc des Princes, a 1972 relic not unlike R.F.K. Stadium in Washington, D.C. It wasn't the prettiest match I have ever seen. Both P.S.G. goals came off set pieces and neither team could dominate the run of play, each choosing to send long through balls toward their forwards rather than build attacks through the midfield. I've seen prettier and more entertaining soccer in MLS. Wolfsburg actually had the majority of possession before shoddy marking and goalkeeping gave Paris the advantage late in the 2nd half.

But as much as I went to see the football, I went to witness firsthand the P.S.G. supporters, notorious for being some of the most boisterous, racist, and anti-semitic in all of Europe (read about them here, here, and in French, here). Just like in the picture above, the stadium hung in a fog of smoke bombs and flares for most of the match.

With Paris being a cosmopolitan city, one would not think the same hooliganism and racism that plague many working class English clubs could break through the glitz of the Champs-Elysees or the café driven intellectualism of the Boulevard St. Germain. But out at Parc des Princes last week, the anger and frustration of much of Paris's working class poured into the stadium as chants of "Ici, C'est Paris" echoed into the February night. The P.S.G. supporters, specifically those who are members of the Kop of Boulogne, remind us that you can write "liberté, egalité, fraternité" on all French public buildings and support a French national football team composed almost entirely of players of African descent, but by and large, the problem of race in France has been pushed away to les banlieus to fester.

That's all I have for now on this subject. For my French language class, I plan to do a more thorough exposé on racism and French football and I'll post that here when I get the chance.

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