Fans

Le chant

Neymar, Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappé… and Phil Collins. Arthur Renard explains how the prog rocker became a staple of the Paris matchday experience

WORDS James Hanley

In the early 1990s, Paris Saint-Germain had a weighty issue to resolve. As is befitting of such quandaries, they implemented a thorough selection process led by a four-man committee. But what decision needed to be made? New stadium? Change of manager? Overhaul of club crest?  

Nope – a walkout song. Gilles Dary, who was heading one of the supporter groups at the time, explains what was on the agenda. “We made a shortlist of around ten songs, with some progressive rock hits,” he says. “If I remember well, among them were School by Supertramp, Abacab by Genesis and Waterfront by Simple Minds.”

At this point it’s probably necessary to back up a little. The Paris side of the 1990s was going places: they reached five consecutive European semi-finals, winning the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in 1996. It was a team populated by flair players such as David Ginola, George Weah, Youri Djorkaeff and Raí, wearing that iconic strip designed by Daniel Hechter. And this was also the decade that saw Paris establish itself as one of the wealthiest clubs in France, thanks to a takeover by TV station Canal+ in 1991.

Paris Saint-Germain fans feel a strong connection with their Phil Collins retro classic

So, things were happening down at the Parc des Princes. And, clearly, this needed to be reflected in one very important respect: sonically. “The club wanted to become more international,” explains Dary. “Back then you already had Tina Turner’s Simply the Best at Rangers and Van Halen’s Jump at Marseille. PSG wanted to do something similar: adopt a big classic rock hit, a song where you would feel, ‘OK, let’s go.’ Like the Champions League anthem.”

So it came to pass that Dary (representing the fans), the club’s marketing director Bruno Barbier, stadium manager Lionel Drexler and Canal+ music programmer André Dgento were sat around a table with a crucial decision to make. And after much deliberation (plus who knows how much head banging and arm swaying), they came to the all-important verdict.

“In the end we chose Who Said I Would by Phil Collins,” says Dary. “We were in the offices of Canal+ and made a studio version of it, where it kind of got the impact of a live gig.”

The badge and the shirt have slightly changed over the years, but the song remains the same.

Then, in 1992, it was put out to the Paris masses. “First there was a bit of a bad reaction, like, ‘What is this?’” says Dary. “But after four to five months the supporters got used to it.” Since then it has become part of club folklore. “There are three things the fans love: the shirt, the badge and the anthem,” he adds. “The badge and the shirt have slightly changed over the years, but the song remains the same.”

Collins himself, despite hailing from Chiswick, is said to be pleased that his 1991 single has become such a key element of the Rouge-et-Bleu experience. However, that legacy was threatened only at the start of last season, when Paris fan DJ Snake’s song Intro Mixed was played before the club’s first home game against Strasbourg. “It became a mess in the stadium,” says Dary. “Afterwards there were a lot of calls to the club about it.” Even DJ Snake himself was a malcontent: “I found out, like you, that it was used as intro music for the players’ entrance when it’s not appropriate – I can’t accept this situation as a supporter,” he hissed. 

However, after two games, the club reinstated the club classic. “It became clear how much the fans are attached to it,” says Dary. “Now they won’t change it, for sure.”

Music
On the flip side

Paris Saint-Germain’s brilliantly bizarre affiliation with a Phil Collins track that’s nearly 40 years old could paint a picture of a city whose musical tastes are stuck in the past. But the reality looks very different – it wasn’t by chance that the French capital gave the world Daft Punk, after all.

The Parisian music scene is rich and diverse, drenched in cool and powered by France’s eternally thriving domestic hip-hop market. Second only to the US worldwide, it has spawned homegrown heroes such as Booba, Ninho, Vald, PNL, Dadju and Niska. The latter has earned a celebrity superfan in Paul Pogba and was spotted hanging out with the World Cup winner following a 2019 gig in London (Serge Aurier and Patrice Evra were also reportedly in attendance). 

Legendary Paris nightspots such as Supersonic, Maroquinerie, Le Trianon, Élysée Montmartre and the Bataclan form the backbone of a rock circuit still shaking off the cobwebs of two years of Covid restrictions. Further up the food chain, the city’s 40,000-capacity Paris La Défense Arena is the largest arena in Europe and the Parc des Princes welcomed the return of concerts with a show by Paris-born DJ Snake this summer. 

Les Parisiens’ iconic footballers have provided ample subject matter for superstar songwriters too. Defender Thiago Silva was immortalised in the 2016 Dave and AJ Tracey grime banger of the same name, while none other than Kanye West referenced Lionel Messi on his track Off the Grid from 2021 album Donda (“They playin’ soccer in my backyard, I think I see Messi”). 

Paris, lest we forget, is the city of love. And if music be the food of love, play on. 

In the early 1990s, Paris Saint-Germain had a weighty issue to resolve. As is befitting of such quandaries, they implemented a thorough selection process led by a four-man committee. But what decision needed to be made? New stadium? Change of manager? Overhaul of club crest?  

Nope – a walkout song. Gilles Dary, who was heading one of the supporter groups at the time, explains what was on the agenda. “We made a shortlist of around ten songs, with some progressive rock hits,” he says. “If I remember well, among them were School by Supertramp, Abacab by Genesis and Waterfront by Simple Minds.”

At this point it’s probably necessary to back up a little. The Paris side of the 1990s was going places: they reached five consecutive European semi-finals, winning the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in 1996. It was a team populated by flair players such as David Ginola, George Weah, Youri Djorkaeff and Raí, wearing that iconic strip designed by Daniel Hechter. And this was also the decade that saw Paris establish itself as one of the wealthiest clubs in France, thanks to a takeover by TV station Canal+ in 1991.

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Paris Saint-Germain fans feel a strong connection with their Phil Collins retro classic

So, things were happening down at the Parc des Princes. And, clearly, this needed to be reflected in one very important respect: sonically. “The club wanted to become more international,” explains Dary. “Back then you already had Tina Turner’s Simply the Best at Rangers and Van Halen’s Jump at Marseille. PSG wanted to do something similar: adopt a big classic rock hit, a song where you would feel, ‘OK, let’s go.’ Like the Champions League anthem.”

So it came to pass that Dary (representing the fans), the club’s marketing director Bruno Barbier, stadium manager Lionel Drexler and Canal+ music programmer André Dgento were sat around a table with a crucial decision to make. And after much deliberation (plus who knows how much head banging and arm swaying), they came to the all-important verdict.

“In the end we chose Who Said I Would by Phil Collins,” says Dary. “We were in the offices of Canal+ and made a studio version of it, where it kind of got the impact of a live gig.”

The badge and the shirt have slightly changed over the years, but the song remains the same.

Then, in 1992, it was put out to the Paris masses. “First there was a bit of a bad reaction, like, ‘What is this?’” says Dary. “But after four to five months the supporters got used to it.” Since then it has become part of club folklore. “There are three things the fans love: the shirt, the badge and the anthem,” he adds. “The badge and the shirt have slightly changed over the years, but the song remains the same.”

Collins himself, despite hailing from Chiswick, is said to be pleased that his 1991 single has become such a key element of the Rouge-et-Bleu experience. However, that legacy was threatened only at the start of last season, when Paris fan DJ Snake’s song Intro Mixed was played before the club’s first home game against Strasbourg. “It became a mess in the stadium,” says Dary. “Afterwards there were a lot of calls to the club about it.” Even DJ Snake himself was a malcontent: “I found out, like you, that it was used as intro music for the players’ entrance when it’s not appropriate – I can’t accept this situation as a supporter,” he hissed. 

However, after two games, the club reinstated the club classic. “It became clear how much the fans are attached to it,” says Dary. “Now they won’t change it, for sure.”

Music
On the flip side

Paris Saint-Germain’s brilliantly bizarre affiliation with a Phil Collins track that’s nearly 40 years old could paint a picture of a city whose musical tastes are stuck in the past. But the reality looks very different – it wasn’t by chance that the French capital gave the world Daft Punk, after all.

The Parisian music scene is rich and diverse, drenched in cool and powered by France’s eternally thriving domestic hip-hop market. Second only to the US worldwide, it has spawned homegrown heroes such as Booba, Ninho, Vald, PNL, Dadju and Niska. The latter has earned a celebrity superfan in Paul Pogba and was spotted hanging out with the World Cup winner following a 2019 gig in London (Serge Aurier and Patrice Evra were also reportedly in attendance). 

Legendary Paris nightspots such as Supersonic, Maroquinerie, Le Trianon, Élysée Montmartre and the Bataclan form the backbone of a rock circuit still shaking off the cobwebs of two years of Covid restrictions. Further up the food chain, the city’s 40,000-capacity Paris La Défense Arena is the largest arena in Europe and the Parc des Princes welcomed the return of concerts with a show by Paris-born DJ Snake this summer. 

Les Parisiens’ iconic footballers have provided ample subject matter for superstar songwriters too. Defender Thiago Silva was immortalised in the 2016 Dave and AJ Tracey grime banger of the same name, while none other than Kanye West referenced Lionel Messi on his track Off the Grid from 2021 album Donda (“They playin’ soccer in my backyard, I think I see Messi”). 

Paris, lest we forget, is the city of love. And if music be the food of love, play on. 

In the early 1990s, Paris Saint-Germain had a weighty issue to resolve. As is befitting of such quandaries, they implemented a thorough selection process led by a four-man committee. But what decision needed to be made? New stadium? Change of manager? Overhaul of club crest?  

Nope – a walkout song. Gilles Dary, who was heading one of the supporter groups at the time, explains what was on the agenda. “We made a shortlist of around ten songs, with some progressive rock hits,” he says. “If I remember well, among them were School by Supertramp, Abacab by Genesis and Waterfront by Simple Minds.”

At this point it’s probably necessary to back up a little. The Paris side of the 1990s was going places: they reached five consecutive European semi-finals, winning the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in 1996. It was a team populated by flair players such as David Ginola, George Weah, Youri Djorkaeff and Raí, wearing that iconic strip designed by Daniel Hechter. And this was also the decade that saw Paris establish itself as one of the wealthiest clubs in France, thanks to a takeover by TV station Canal+ in 1991.

Paris Saint-Germain fans feel a strong connection with their Phil Collins retro classic

So, things were happening down at the Parc des Princes. And, clearly, this needed to be reflected in one very important respect: sonically. “The club wanted to become more international,” explains Dary. “Back then you already had Tina Turner’s Simply the Best at Rangers and Van Halen’s Jump at Marseille. PSG wanted to do something similar: adopt a big classic rock hit, a song where you would feel, ‘OK, let’s go.’ Like the Champions League anthem.”

So it came to pass that Dary (representing the fans), the club’s marketing director Bruno Barbier, stadium manager Lionel Drexler and Canal+ music programmer André Dgento were sat around a table with a crucial decision to make. And after much deliberation (plus who knows how much head banging and arm swaying), they came to the all-important verdict.

“In the end we chose Who Said I Would by Phil Collins,” says Dary. “We were in the offices of Canal+ and made a studio version of it, where it kind of got the impact of a live gig.”

The badge and the shirt have slightly changed over the years, but the song remains the same.

Then, in 1992, it was put out to the Paris masses. “First there was a bit of a bad reaction, like, ‘What is this?’” says Dary. “But after four to five months the supporters got used to it.” Since then it has become part of club folklore. “There are three things the fans love: the shirt, the badge and the anthem,” he adds. “The badge and the shirt have slightly changed over the years, but the song remains the same.”

Collins himself, despite hailing from Chiswick, is said to be pleased that his 1991 single has become such a key element of the Rouge-et-Bleu experience. However, that legacy was threatened only at the start of last season, when Paris fan DJ Snake’s song Intro Mixed was played before the club’s first home game against Strasbourg. “It became a mess in the stadium,” says Dary. “Afterwards there were a lot of calls to the club about it.” Even DJ Snake himself was a malcontent: “I found out, like you, that it was used as intro music for the players’ entrance when it’s not appropriate – I can’t accept this situation as a supporter,” he hissed. 

However, after two games, the club reinstated the club classic. “It became clear how much the fans are attached to it,” says Dary. “Now they won’t change it, for sure.”

Music
On the flip side

Paris Saint-Germain’s brilliantly bizarre affiliation with a Phil Collins track that’s nearly 40 years old could paint a picture of a city whose musical tastes are stuck in the past. But the reality looks very different – it wasn’t by chance that the French capital gave the world Daft Punk, after all.

The Parisian music scene is rich and diverse, drenched in cool and powered by France’s eternally thriving domestic hip-hop market. Second only to the US worldwide, it has spawned homegrown heroes such as Booba, Ninho, Vald, PNL, Dadju and Niska. The latter has earned a celebrity superfan in Paul Pogba and was spotted hanging out with the World Cup winner following a 2019 gig in London (Serge Aurier and Patrice Evra were also reportedly in attendance). 

Legendary Paris nightspots such as Supersonic, Maroquinerie, Le Trianon, Élysée Montmartre and the Bataclan form the backbone of a rock circuit still shaking off the cobwebs of two years of Covid restrictions. Further up the food chain, the city’s 40,000-capacity Paris La Défense Arena is the largest arena in Europe and the Parc des Princes welcomed the return of concerts with a show by Paris-born DJ Snake this summer. 

Les Parisiens’ iconic footballers have provided ample subject matter for superstar songwriters too. Defender Thiago Silva was immortalised in the 2016 Dave and AJ Tracey grime banger of the same name, while none other than Kanye West referenced Lionel Messi on his track Off the Grid from 2021 album Donda (“They playin’ soccer in my backyard, I think I see Messi”). 

Paris, lest we forget, is the city of love. And if music be the food of love, play on. 

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