This is a new series about where all the football action takes place.
I knew I liked football the moment I entered a stadium for the first time. It was Paris’s famous Parc des Princes which can be translated as Arena of Princes, what a great name! I must have been 5 or so and I vividly remember the electifying green of the pitch lit by the stadium’s lights. It was like entering into a surreal world. The excitement had already started before with trying to find a parking spot and then walking at an increasingly fast pace so as not to miss the beginning of the match. I have lived this procession hundreds of times and I just can’t get tired of it. It’s like as if it awakens the everlasting child that remains in me.
Then there is this undefined electricity that surrounds football stadiums, sometimes the danger as well unfortunately, that has always attracted me as if it was forbidden territory. With my father we would sometimes walk quite a distance and I was attracted like a magnet to the glow of the stadium that could be seen from a distance. And then there was the noise, just a grumble to start with, and increasing in volume until one entered the arena and then it was like an explosion of fireworks, left, right, center, goooooooooool!
So, back to the Parc des Princes. It was built to replace the ageing Stade Vélodrome du Parc des Princes and was inaugurated in 1972. It is situated in the well-off 16th district of Paris which in many football cities would seem strange but not in the French capital where is there is no real tradition of segmentation of clubs with respect to their fan’s social class belonging. With a seating capacity of 49,700, it is the 3rd biggest French stadium after the Stade de France which hosted the World Cup final in 1998 and Marseille’s Stade Vélodrome. It was Europe’s first stadium to have lighting integrated in the roof. Remarkably, no spectator sits more than 45 meters away from the closest pitch border line. With the roof overlapping above all seats, it also captures noise to a great level acting like a giant sound box. From the outside, it looks like a giant spider and is built just above Paris’s ring-road, the Périphérique. The Parc des Princes is the home ground of the Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) which has always been my preferred French club. I have seen some memorable games here, like the Euro 1984 final where France beat Spain, the infamous European Club championship final bewteen Leeds United and Bayern Munich where the Leeds fan went violently crazy, the incredible last-minute Bulgarian goal which eliminated France from the US 1994 World Cup, and sitting amongst partying and singing Nigerians when they beat Bulgaria in the 1998 World Cup. But my long lasting high in the Parc remains for sure the return European Club Championship game when PSG eliminated Real Madrid 4 – 1 after having lost the away game 3 – 1. I will always remember th entire stadium chanting Queen’s We Are the Champions as one person long after the match had ended. Enjoy the following video, it’s the best tribute I could find for this magnificent stadium.
Maracanazos feel at home in stadiums.