Capital cities don’t always provide the bulk of a nation’s top football clubs, but generally, the most influential come from the most affluent parts of the country and by definition, that is invariably the capital. So it’s no surprise that in some places, clubs in and around the metropolis figure among the most successful.
There are glaring exceptions right across Europe, however. In Spain, the balance of power is currently not in Madrid, but in Barcelona. Now some people would claim that is a capital city in its own right, but despite the fact that four clubs from Madrid are members of La Liga’s top division, Barcelona are hanging onto their position at the forefront of the Spanish game. That could change this season.
Likewise, in Germany, there’s only one team from Berlin in the Bundesliga 1 and that’s under-achieving Hertha. Munich is definitely the footballing capital of Germany. And in England, despite the fact that around 25% of the Premier is from London, Manchester remains the seat of power. Prior to that, it was Liverpool, with the odd interruption from London.
In Italy, Roma and Lazio are members of Serie A, but you have to go North to find the real movers and shakers in the Italian game – in Turin and Milan.
In France, Paris has struggled to keep pace over the years. Today, Paris St. Germain are firing on all cylinders, thanks to a huge injection of cash from the Middle East. PSG are making a real fist of becoming a European force, but their recent rise has left Parisian football struggling to get noticed. PSG are the only club from Paris in Ligue 1 or 2.
This is a city that has hosted two World Cup finals (1938 and 1998), two European Championships (1960 and 1984) and provided the impetus to start both competitions as well as the European Cup. Paris – the Parc des Princes and Stade de France – has hosted five European Cup finals (1956, 1975, 1981, 2000 and 2006). It has definitely played its part in the development of the international game.
Yet club-wise, it has struggled to produce a credible pan-European contender. PSG, who have started to capture the imagination of the city, attracting 45,000 people almost every home game, have no local rivals.
You have to go right down to Championnat de France National (CFA), a competition that comprises professional, semi-pro and amateur clubs to find a Parisian club. There are two Paris clubs in the top section of this level of the game in France, Red Star and Paris FC.
Red Star, which dates back to the later 19th century, has seen much better days. Founded by Jules Rimet, Red Star won the Coupe de France four times in the 1920s – 1921, 22 and 23 and 1928. They also won it in 1942.
Red Star play at the homely Stade Bauer in Saint Ouen and attract attendances of just over four figures. But they have a cult-like following and they have hopes of progressing into Ligue 2 by 2015. They will have to step things up a little, for they are languishing in mid-table this season and have little chance of winning promotion.
Paris FC are also in the CFA. They play at Stade Déjerine located in the 20th arrondissement of Paris. Their crowds are no better than a Ryman League Premier club in England.
They too have enjoyed more successful times and played in the top flight. They are really the discarded parent of PSG, whom they formed when they merged with Stade St. Germain in 1970. In 1972, though the merger came apart and Paris FC in its current form came into being. The club last played in Ligue 1 in 1979. In 1983, they merged again with Racing Club, another club that has had its troubles.
Racing Club Paris, who play at the famous Colombes stadium, is one of the grand old names of French football, but today, what remains of it is playing at an even lower level. It’s had more names than a serial monogamist: Racing Paris; RCF; Matra Racing; Racing Club; Racing and now Racing Club de France Colombes 92. Make what you will of that lot.
Financial problems have not been uncommon with Racing and that has been the main catalyst for the club’s decline into the Regional League for Paris. And they are struggling in that in 2013-14!
Paris St. Germain have tapped into something in the French capital, but the city is big enough to support another top flight club – it is a city of 2.2 million people, after all. PSG shouldn’t have it all their own way, but with the kind of backing they have, it could be many, many years before another club from Paris emerges as a contender.