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Ici C’est Paris

Paris Saint Germain vs Lille, Parc de Princes, Paris, 14/12/16

Ici C’est Paris-here, it is Paris.

That is the cry of the up to 60,000 Paris Saint-Germain fans who fill Parc de Princes to watch their team play. On Wednesday, I was one of them and I can easily say it was one of the best experiences of my life.

I am currently on a 6 week language exchange in Paris, France. I am actually attending a school in Meudon, a calm and picturesque suburb around 15 minutes from central Paris (coincidentally where Dan Carter now lives). My host family were kind enough to take me to a football match in the Coupe de Ligue against Lille last night.

Parc de Princes is in Paris’ 16th arrondissement, which places it in the heart of Paris itself. It is an amazing inner city stadium and once you’re inside, the atmosphere is like nothing I’ve ever experienced in New Zealand, except perhaps at a Rugby World Cup game. There were hundreds waving flags, many more holding their PSG scarves aloft and periodically, the cry of “ici c’est Paris”would whistle around the stadium. It was not really even a big game for PSG, evidenced by the fact they started the match with the likes of Matuidi (he did come on in time to create a beautiful goal), Silva, Di Maria and Cavani wrapped up in blankets (and I expect some bubble wrap hence their non-inclusion) on the sidelines. That did not bother me, nor did it seem to bother the Parisiens who screamed their lungs out continuously anyway, and for me, having never viewed non New Zealand football live, the quality of the game was unbelievable.

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Right by the corner flag.

Cup games, as we at ITBOTN often mention, are their own entities that do not care for the context of League Placings in how they dish out results. Their do-or-die nature also draws out more impassioned support from fans and you could definitely see that last night. It probably also had a little bit to do with the fact Lille is in the very north of France, which the Parisiens refer to as “Le Stix”, the sticks, and mock incessantly. Nevertheless, it was a buzz, akin to an adrenaline rush, even to be in the stadium.

For the first 38 minutes, PSG were wasteful. Lille were basically just occupying space and clinging on for dear life but the Parisiens were profligate and so it remained 0-0. Then, the goalie took out Augustin as he came through on goal and the ref pointed to the spot. When it was duly converted, there were absolute scenes. PSG went on to score 2 more goals (and concede a random one off a corner) and ultimately cruised through to the next round of the Cup.

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Allez Paris! Celebration time.

First and foremost, the football was very beautiful for me to see. Their tempo of passing, the ease with which they pull a ball out of the air, land a raking, cross field ball right on the foot of their team mate and push and pull their opponents until a gap opens up was like watching a stunning, exhilarating game of chess.

Yet it was the atmosphere that made me wish the ref hadn’t blown his full time whistle quite yet. Another thing they say over here by the Seine is “Paris est magique”. If you can’t guess, that’s French for Paris is magic. Last night, as a football loving kiwi a long way from home, Paris was absolutely magical. I was surrounded by people who, despite yelling their support in a totally different language and living a very different life, were as swept up by and in love with the beautiful game as I am. To those people, it’s not just that other sport that occasionally happens when the All Blacks aren’t on. To them, it is exactly what it is to me. It’s a safe haven, an escape, a passion. Most of all, it’s their city and Parisiens love their beautiful, enchanting, magical city. Really, it can all be summed up like this:

Ici, c’est Paris.

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Me trying not to die of excitement.

Categories: Other Football Topics

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Helena Wiseman

A lover of the game since the age of 4. Living and playing for club and school in Auckland and loving every second on the pitch (apart from the end of a losing match).

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