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Real Unrest is growing among the PSG Support
The Champions League final is one of the biggest games in club football, if not the biggest. Certainly it is in terms of TV rights, column inches and air time. It is when bookmakers such as 10bet pull out their biggest offers, in a betting market that only comes in second to the world cup. From a player and manager's perspective, there is no better winners medal to have around your neck. On the flip side, it has been the catalyst for PSG fans to stage demonstrations against their team. Those demonstrations have shocked many people in the game, but scratch beneath the surface, and what you see going on in the French capital is a warning for the way the game is going, as it gets further away from the working-class ideals that the most popular sport in the world was founded on.
It is the PSG ultras at the forefront of the protests as you would expect, but anyone who thinks that they represent a small minority of the club’s supporters, or that the normal fan has no sympathy for what has prompted them understands very little about what is actually happening, and what has led to this extreme action. We said that the Champions League was a catalyst, and the side’s dramatic defeat in the Round of 16 waswhat started these protests, but the feelings behind them have been there, simmering beneath the surface for months, if not years.
The move from a regular club to one of the richest ones in the world is never going to come about without its problems. The demonstrations are aimed at two distinct targets: the owners and the group of highest-paid players. We will get to those shortly, but there is another angle that is oftenignored or at least not acknowledged, and that involves the complete disenfranchisement of the fans, the ones who have been there for years, who followed their team when it was not littered with the biggest names in football. Suddenly people claiming to be die-hard PSG fans are coming out of the woodwork in every country on the planet. On the surface that sounds great, and it is if you think of the club as merely a brand, a means of generating interest and revenue. If, as you should, you think of the club as something special, something dear, that no matter what happens will be a part of you for the rest of your life, then this influx of Johnny-come-latelies is far from welcome.
Is PSG more a brand than a football club?
The ultras sent an open letter to club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi outlining their concerns. They are upset about the lack of connection the club and its hierarchy have with the fanbase; the fact that for all intents and purposes their season revolves around the knockout stages of the Champions League, and the fact their team is filled with incredibly highly paid footballers who again have no connection with or love for the club. Those sentiments to a certain extent will ring true with fans of teams across the world, but they are exaggerated at PSG due to the nature of their domestic league, and the way the owners have gone about trying to make them the biggest team in the world.
It is a fine line. The same supporters booing the likes of Neymar and Messi every time they touch the ball will be the same ones who cheered their arrival. There are ways of building a team, however.
Simply buying the ones with the biggest price tag year in and year out is not the way. It is no wonder that the players feel no allegiance to the club in the same way it isn’t that the fans feel no allegiance to them. Clubs are all about legends, those whoplay for the club for years, who would run through walls for the badge. It is hard to do that when you know you will be shipped out for the latest world superstar as soon as your number of Instagram followers begins to dip.
The fact that when PSG won Ligue 1 this season the vast majority of their fans had already walked out in protest, says almost everything you need to know about the relationship between the club and its supporters, those who are the very essence of the club, the people who will be there when Neymar has retired to his own private island. The fact the players were left to celebrate not on the pitch but at a private party tells you the rest.