The beautiful game. In the last 170 years it’s grown from just a few clubs scattered around England to an international phenomenon with leagues in countries all over the world. Take France for example. Most people will know them more for their national team at the World Cup in ’98 and ’10 (the first for better reasons than the latter), but believe it or not there are also some top teams in the French football league.
As an expat in France I wanted to find a local team to support but I didn’t know where to start. If you look at recent history the obvious choice would be Paris Saint Germain but I don’t pick a team based simply on success. I want a club with soul, a reason to get behind them which extends beyond what they can do on the pitch.
In my quest to find a French football team to follow I decided to ask the people best able to give an unbiased and objective opinion (or not): football fans.
I asked French football fans four questions:
I tried to find fans of a variety of different clubs:
1/ Which team do you support?
Jeremie – 29 years old
Mathieu – 34 years old
“Olympique de Marseille. The only French team to have won the Champions League.”
Tristan – 31 years old
Nabil – 32 years old
Xavi – 33 years old
“FC Girondins Bordeaux”
Julien – 35 years old
“LOSC (Lille Olympique Sporting Club)”
Ibukun – 25 years old
“My team is Olympique Lyonnais”
Raheel – 29 years old
2/ Who is the best player in your team?
“Difficult to answer that at the start of the season. Eden Hazard once upon a time :P. Otherwise Eder, even if it was his goal which eliminated France (in the Euros).”
“I have no favourite player in this squad. In any case, once a player signs for the club I’m automatically a fan. Except Thiago Motta who’s too much of an asshole for me to like him.”
“Jaroslav Plasil/Cédric Carraso.”
“You could say our best player is (Alexandre) Lacazette as he’s our top scorer every year.”
“I should say Lassana Diarra but he’s going to leave this summer like the mercenary that he is. So I’ll say Bafe Gomis. The best Ligue 1 goalscorer still playing.”
“Difficult to pick a top player this season (our top two scorers last season, Hatem Ben Arfa and Valère Germain are both gone). But I think that the most iconic player in the team is Vincent Koziello. Twenty years old, a product of the youth academy who has the face and body of a fifteen year old and has just had an excellent season in midfield. He kind of symbolises our playing style with skilful little technicians.”
3/ What are your objectives for the 2016/17 season?
“This season I would like to finish in the top two league places and reach the Champions League knockout stages and win a domestic cup.”
“Win the league for the fifth time in a row.”
“It all depends on the end of the transfer window. But this will be a transition season with a new coach (Lucien Favre), new Chinese investors, the departure of multiple important players, and more money to spend in the transfer market (thanks to the new investors) but we’re recruiting very young at the moment. A place in the top eight and an honourable performance in the Europa League would be good.”
“Qualify for Europe next season.”
“Win the Champions League.”
“The real goal this season is to FINALLY reach (at least) the Champions League semi-finals. We must also keep our national title but what the supporters really want is a great run in the Champions League.”
“Honestly? Seeing the incredible mess that the club is in, avoiding relegation would be a good start. Making the top five would be a miracle.”
4/ Why should a foreign football fan support your team?
“To be sure of seeing victories. Seeing the difference in budget compared to other teams, PSG matches promise victories, goals, and plenty of action. And because PSG is the most romantic club in Ligue 1: Paris is the most beautiful city in the world and we play in the legendary “Parc des Princes”. 🙂”
“It’s the youngest team in Ligue 1 who, according to many pundits, produced the best football last season behind PSG. We also have one of the most intense crowds in French football, with an incredible atmosphere at the Allianz Riviera. Issa Nissa!”
“I think that all football fans who love beautiful play watch PSG and our world class players. We’ve eliminated the most hated club in the Premier League twice in the Champions League, Chelsea, which is another reason to like PSG.”
“Because we love good beer, because we love friendliness, and because we love simple and honest people.”
“Because it’s the only French football team who (Zinédine) Zidane played for.”
“I would advise a foreigner to support Lyon because it’s a club with a great academy which has produced a number of future stars who will soon be in their prime and ready to compete with the top teams in Europe.”
“Because something always happens at Marseille, whether positive or negative. Because OM has the most fiery crowd in France, the biggest history, and is the only team to have won the Champions League in the country!”
“If you love beautiful football, avoid disappointment domestically by watching PSG deliver a rout every weekend, and be on the edge of your seat during Champions League matches. Avoid disappointment because if you support any other team than PSG in France, you’ll get bored quickly… and that’s how it’s going to be for at least the next five years 🙂”
So clearly fans of Paris Saint Germain show a similar vein in their answers; take the league title as a given and aim to do well in the Champions League. It may seem arrogant but can you blame them after the last few seasons? If all you’re looking for is success on the field then these are your guys, hands down.
Now how about the rest?
Looking for a friendly club who like to drink beer who also happen to be located in a city which has similar weather to in England? Lille is for you, whereas if you want a big atmosphere in the Mediterranean sun maybe take a look at Marseille and Nice.
Obviously living in Paris means that it was difficult to balance the opinions, which are heavily in favour of Paris Saint Germain and I couldn’t very well drive all over France to find more fans. But at the same time I always find myself backing the underdog which would make supporting PSG difficult. I love a good game day atmosphere and I also like clubs which are close to the community and have friendly, chilled out fans.
So despite all these answers I’m still no closer to choosing a French football team to support, but one thing is sure; there are 38 matchdays to come which will help me make up my mind.
What do you think? Let me know your favourite French football team in the comments section below!
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