Upon the club’s foundation in 1970, France captain Jean Djorkaeff – father of future Paris star, World Cup winner and EURO champion Youri – was brought in as they started out in the second division. That iconic shirt with the red stripe down the middle was the idea of fashion designer and club president Daniel Hechter, inspired by the racing stripe of a Ford Mustang he had seen on the Champs-Élysées. If that doesn’t give Paris a little je ne sais quoi, what does?
“There are lots of parallels between when the club was founded and how it is now,” explains Julien Froment, author of The Incredible Story of the Birth of PSG. “The club wants to be popular, close to its fans, but it also wants to be bling-bling. They have always understood that you have to get stars to get people to talk about you.”
With no Parisian side in the top division of French football in the late 1960s, and the Parc des Princes set for costly renovations that would make it the second-biggest stadium in Europe, the French Football Federation, L’Équipe and radio station Europe 1 set about trying to form a club worthy of one of the world’s great capital cities. A vote was held to find an appropriate name; Paris Football Club was chosen over Inter de Paris and Racing Club de Paris. They eventually merged with renowned amateur outfit Stade Saint-Germain, based in the cosy Parisian suburb (and former royal town) of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. The fleur-de-lis on the club’s badge is the symbol of the French monarchy and makes reference to its regal origins.
In June 1971, a year after its foundation, Paris then thought they were about to sign footballing royalty in the shape of Pelé (yes, the Pelé). The move didn’t come off, but in the intervening 50 years Paris have recruited stars such as Youri Djorkaeff, Jay-Jay Okocha, David Ginola, George Weah and Nicolas Anelka; they also gave Ronaldinho his first opportunity in European football. All this before Messi came along.
“I was very impressed by Weah and Ginola the first time I trained with them,” said Paris-born Didier Domi, speaking to Le Beau Jeu podcast about when he broke into the first team in the mid-1990s. “They were quite big, had charisma, but they were so kind with the young players; you could fit in very quickly. At the same time, they were so dominant. You could feel it in training. There was an atmosphere of winning; they weren’t on the pitch to mess around. There was competition day after day. You understood why it was such a bright time for PSG.”
In a golden decade, Paris became the second French club to claim a European trophy (after 1993 Champions League winners Marseille) when they lifted the 1996 Cup Winners’ Cup. Domi helped them reach the final against a powerful Barcelona side the following year too, part of a run of five successive seasons in which they reached at least the semi-finals of a European competition.
So when Ibrahimović boldly declared – does he ever do otherwise? – that, “With all due respect for what went before at PSG, I think the club was born the day the Qataris arrived,” he was not entirely correct. But the Swedish superstar’s signing in the summer of 2012 – along with Thiago Silva – did upgrade Paris’s ambition and stature. Ibrahimović’s request for “no foam” atop his coffee was not his only demand from club staff, as he and the other ultra-professional, high-calibre reinforcements provoked a radical overhaul, notably at the club’s Camp des Loges training facility.