Paris — The contrast couldn’t be more stark.
On a frigid Saturday night earlier this year, the stands inside Stade Charleti, a World War II-era stadium along the highway, were only a quarter full. With only about 3,000 fans at a Paris FC match, the crowds are so small that the players only need to go to a corner of the stadium when his home team goes to greet them after a win. No other sections are open due to low demand for tickets.
On Sunday, another Parisian team will take to the field for fans around the world to join in the viewing. This Parisian team is his billion dollar project you know from the Champions League, a team with all the money, all the charm, all the stars, another installment of the greatest French football rivalry I traveled to Marseille for There, they took another step towards their latest championship, behind goals from Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi.
The yawning rift between teams is something the owners of Paris FC want to fill. They argue that the Paris region, with a population of more than 12 million, deserves an elite league rivalry over European cities such as London, Lisbon, Madrid and Milan.
The problem Paris FC finds is that even with football’s deepest pool of talent on its doorstep and support from Gulf royalty, it’s very difficult to close the gap in a one-team town. .
Sitting in a brasserie near his home in the exclusive district of Napoleon’s tomb, Pierre Ferrazzi, majority owner of Paris FC, explains why Paris is one of the great cities in the world and not just footballers. I’m thinking about producing soccer players. He has only one top division team, Paris Saint-Germain, of any other big city in the world.
Ferracci, 70, lists a group of European capitals before moving on to other metropolises, highlighting Paris as an outlier. He eventually arrived in London, less than three hours away by train, and with so many teams currently playing in his league, Ferracci gave up naming them all. .
He describes the contrast between France and England (and Germany and Spain and Italy) as a kind of French exceptionalism. “It’s a culture,” Ferracci says. “We are less into football than other countries.”
He knows that, at least in Paris, the dedication to sports is not deep. “The supporters here come when we have success, when we climb a rung of the ladder,” he said.
In Charletty’s stands, a handful of supporters seem to confirm that view. Self-proclaimed PSG fan Zuber Hadji Larbi said he chose to attend Paris FC’s opening match because the tickets were much cheaper than the tickets for the team he actually supports.
With the home side struggling to score a goal, he laughed, “It wasn’t that spectacular either. Some say they are in the game alone.
Nearby, Laurent Pinet, part of Paris FC’s small cohort of regular fans, sympathized with his friend about the team struggling to attract fans. “Being a football club in Paris is harder than anywhere else,” he said. “You need immediate results to attract the masses.”
Ferracci, who has been the club’s majority owner for 13 years, is confident that the team will attract more fans if they play in the top division, which attracts both its success and its name. A good chance is to have a good name, Paris FC,” he said.
He admits his club is unlikely to become a true rival to PSG, certainly as long as Qatar is funding its neighbors. However, careful and careful planning was made to build a team that could ultimately give the Parisians a second top-flight option.
The plan hinges on leveraging the resources Paris has in abundance: talented young footballers.
Ferracci’s idea to revive Paris FC came to fruition after a dinner with renowned French manager Arsene Wenger, a few years after taking control of the club in 2008. make his point. Ferrazzi now often do the same.
By his calculations, 13% of all registered footballers in France hail from the ring in Paris or its suburbs, and a staggering 50% of the professionals who make their living in France’s top two divisions live in the capital or France. Growing up in its shadow. These players live not only in the French national team, but also in several other Moroccan national teams. Senegal. Tunisia. Algeria. For example, at last year’s World Cup, Paris FC was able to track seven of his alumni among the participants.
But getting closer to the best players isn’t enough, said Jean-Marc Nobilo. A well-traveled coach, Nobilo was hired two years ago to lead the youth development section of Paris FC. He knows that all the big teams in Europe are looking for players in Paris.
Fierce competition for that talent means that Paris FC will have to unearth it before it is discovered by others. Bidding wars are usually won by the wealthy team. This is thanks to French football rules, which allow clubs to pay parents of talented children a fee (sometimes he is $100,000).
For economic reasons alone, Nobilo said, “We have to get to the case before anyone else.”
Ferracci acquired star power and his own Gulf money to ensure Paris FC could do just that. arrived in the form of Rai was hired as an ambassador for the club, connecting him to Sao Paulo, the basin of football’s other great talents.
The much-needed money arrived as an investment from the Gulf Emirate’s ruler, who became a minority shareholder in Paris FC three years ago
Transferring shares to a foreign partner, with Bahrain, plus an American, an Indian group and an Armenian shareholder in Paris FC, was somewhat bittersweet for Ferracci. It funded a multi-million dollar renovation of the club’s training facility on the edge of Paris and helped the club find more by investing in new talent and staff.
But it also made Paris FC yet another club dependent on foreign capital. and PSG’s Qatari, he says – Paris FC’s annual income of €23 million ($25.4 million) is about half what Messi makes to play around town. – And Fellaci that’s fine.
“I don’t like countries like the Emirates and Qatar investing in football because the standards are too high.”
Ferrazzi is determined to keep the team under control as long as he can.
“Even today, we want to leave most of the capital in local hands and remain largely French and national,” he said. “Why? At this rate all the clubs in the top two leagues are going to foreign investors and I don’t think it’s a good thing.”
For now, he’s focused on what his investors and his plans can pursue. The dream is to create the best finishing school in French football. The new facility, the opportunity to play closer to home and the ability to give teenagers a faster shot at first-team football have all helped Paris FC reach its goal of filling at least a third of its roster with local talent. Five players from Paris FC’s current team have made it through the youth ranks. But it requires more.
How he handles those recruits and others who arrive will determine the success of his project.Paris FC is now spending another year in the middle of the Second Division standings. That means we’ll have to wait at least another year to match PSG, even if they’re more exciting than true rivals.
“For now, they are aware of our presence,” said Pinette, one of the team’s regular fans. “We’ll talk about the rivalry later.”
Tom Nouvian contributed to the report.