I got my first PSG season ticket before I signed an apartment lease in Paris.
It was early 2016, I was house-sitting and looking for a permanent place. My box of stuff from Chicago hadn’t arrived yet, everything else was in two suitcases, unpacked.
For a few weeks, I was balancing between my new life in France and the one I had left behind. Why did I move 4,000 miles away, speaking intermediate French at best and knowing three people in the city? Short answer: Paris was too strong of a force to resist. But I needed an anchor, something that would make me feel at home.
Ici c’est Paris.
I don’t know when I first heard that line. It may have been during my initial match at the Parc des Princes, seven years earlier. Back then moving to Paris was only a wish, but something clicked that night, as I watched PSG beat Le Mans 3-1. Maybe it was the goals, maybe the resounding “Allez Paris” chants exchanged by Boulogne and Auteuil, but I knew this team would mean something to me. Even though I had the Chicago Fire.
Following PSG from afar wasn’t easy: there was the time difference and daily life. I did see them play in a few tournaments in Chicago, such as the 2010 Sister Cities Cup (when they played the Fire, quite an agonizing experience for me) and the 2015 International Champions Cup when they beat Manchester United to lift the trophy. But it wasn’t until living in Paris became a real possibility that I was back at the stadium.
And I saw Cavani score from a free-kick. I was hooked once again.
The day Paris Saint-Germain clinched the 2015-2016 league title, I met up with one of my new friends before heading to the Parc. He is a native Parisian and longtime PSG supporter – in fact, football is one of the things that brought us together. Knowing him makes me more connected to the club and its history, the part that I missed.
He was the first person to ask, “You go to the stadium by yourself, just to watch football?” Yep. French women have not taken to club football as much as Americans have, and my interest in PSG raises eyebrows even today, in my fourth year as a season ticket holder. When I walk into the Boulogne stand, I am one of the few female supporters around, which used to be intimidating. Now that my French has improved and I can chant (or talk to fans) with more confidence, it’s not a big deal.
I live in Paris now and this is my team.
It’s not the first time I have felt at home thanks to sports. Having moved to the US from Poland, I quickly started following local teams: first baseball, then soccer (I still use this term when talking about MLS). When you are out there in the stands, wearing club colors, you are bound to feel more connected. And people start to see you as their own.
After all, sports is tribal. It’s us vs. them.
One of the defining moments in my PSG journey was an away match in Toulouse a couple of seasons ago. To both the traveling Paris ultras and local fans, I was a Parisienne – it didn’t matter that I was a foreigner or a fairly new supporter. I remember singing a lot at that match, more than ever.
I no longer have the two suitcases I brought from Chicago. My stuff would no longer fit in them anyway. There are a few more PSG jerseys and a new season ticket coming. I can’t wait to be back at the Parc des Princes when the coronavirus outbreak is over and Ligue 1 resumes.
At least in lockdown, I have time to brush up on PSG’s history.
Want more PSG? Visit the PSG Talk Podcast Network page and subscribe to PSG Talking, The 1970, and 24th & Parc.