Carson: My tragic tale of past PSG love
Alex Carson | Monday, February 8, 2016
A few years ago, when I started following soccer for the first time in my life, I did the standard thing. I flipped on Premier League coverage, then provided on Fox Soccer, every Saturday and Sunday morning, watched the games and settled on a favorite team.
That team is Aston Villa, so I’d rather not talk about that.
But beyond the standard thing that almost every American soccer fan does, I wanted to do a little more, to dive deeper. Soccer on the international stage is unlike any other sport in the world. Where it’s commonly accepted that each of the “big four” sports leagues in the United States are at the pinnacle of professional competition — that’s why we can get away with calling teams “world champions” or holding an event titled the World Series contested among one Canadian and 29 American teams — that’s simply not the case in international soccer.
Ask a handful of people around the globe what the best soccer league in the world is, and you’ll get a handful of responses. Nowadays, most would say the Premier League, but the two best teams in the world reside in La Liga. Others, like I did in a previous Sports Authority, would argue the Bundesliga is tops for non-sporting reasons, while Juventus, from Italy’s Serie A, made the UEFA Champions League final last year.
It’s a wide, unique world, and that’s why when I picked up soccer, I wanted to take it and run with it; I wanted to appreciate and experience everything it had to offer.
While I fell for Aston Villa first, it wasn’t much later that I fell for a club from France’s Ligue 1: Paris Saint-Germain. When I first backed PSG, it was off one of the club’s worst seasons, one in which they spent the majority of the year fighting to avoid relegation en route to a bottom-half finish.
Five years ago, PSG were an anomaly amongst capital clubs: They always had the potential to be one of Europe’s best, but they never were, winning just two Ligue 1 titles in their first four decades.
And I fell in love with the club. It was the perfect mix for someone like me — a team for which a league title would be significant, in a location that was easily-accessible and from a city that I had fallen in love with as a 12-year-old on a family vacation.
In the second year I followed PSG, that scenario was rapidly unfolding. The capital club was locked in a tight title race with upstart Montpellier, who was led by now-Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud, and it was going down to the final week of the season to settle the score. It was gripping, meaningful and drew me into the club more than I had been before.
The only problem with me backing PSG occurred the summer before that season, in which Montpellier nicked the Parisians to the title. Qatar Sports Investments took over the club and splashed out the money to buy a title, bringing Zlatan Ibrahomivić and Thiago Silva to the French capital. The squad proceeded to pull away and take the league championship by a 12-point margin.
Though the club had won the title, it meant nothing to me. It was bought, not built, and incredibly anticlimactic. The club has gone on to win two further titles and is well on its way to a third, and I’ve stopped following PSG and Ligue 1 entirely.
For the first time in a couple years Sunday, I watched a PSG match. Ibrahimović and the rest of the club’s hyper-expensive squad, sitting 21 points clear of second-place Monaco at the start of the day, were visiting their arch-rival, Marseille, in France’s fiercest game.
Five years ago, I would’ve been amped for the occasion. And Sunday, I was again.
I was just pulling for the other side.
I figured there was no better way to “get back” at PSG for ruining my love of Ligue 1 than by pulling for their eternal, much-maligned rivals.
Au revior, PSG.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.