But plenty changed at Parc des Princes
21 May ~ Paris Saint-Germain were crowned French champions last week for the first time in 19 years. I didn't celebrate too much, having secretly hoped for a more exciting finish on the last day, similar to Manchester City last season. The celebrations at the Trocadéro square in Paris turned into a fiasco. I skipped them, having had bad memories of the Cup-Winners Cup celebrations at the Parc des Princes in 1996: soon after the team came out the pitch was invaded, first by hooligans from the "Kop of Boulogne" (KOB) stand, then by others as the players hurried back inside.
This time the trouble began with protests from ultras who used to be based in the Auteuil stand at the Parc des Princes. Three years ago, after the death of a KOB member who had been beaten up by some from Auteuil before a PSG v Marseille match, the ultra groups were dissolved. Attempts to reform them since have been prevented by the implementation of a random seating system for season-ticket holders in the Auteuil and Boulogne stands.
The disorder meant the players only displayed the trophy for five minutes. After that there were violent clashes with riot police and property damage in the neighbourhood, some of which has been attributed to opportunistic troublemakers who aren't necessarily PSG fans. The club had chosen the Trocadéro square because of its Eiffel Tower backdrop but it was not a suitable venue for such an event – not least because the Paris police had underestimated the attendance, which turned out to be more than 10,000 – and the potential risks.
The actual ceremony took place after the last home game against relegated Brest. It was the occasion for the supporters to thank the squad and the staff, especially the key players to whom PSG owe their success: Salvatore Sirigu (22 clean sheets and the Best Goalkeeper award), Thiago Silva, Blaise Matuidi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (who scored 29 goals and got the Best Player award).
David Beckham was not part of the team's backbone, but despite performances ranging from mediocre to good, his attitude was much appreciated. He played 12 matches at PSG, mostly as a substitute and with a right wing-back (Clément Chantôme) alongside to help with defensive tasks. Against Brest he was made captain, set up a goal and received a standing ovation when he was replaced. Carlo Ancelotti's name was also sung by the crowd, which was not enough to convince him to stay. The Italian coach has confirmed that he has asked to leave, probably for Real Madrid, though PSG chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi said yesterday that if Ancelotti broke his contract without respecting the proper procedures, there would be a "legal problem".
So many things have changed in 19 years. Nowadays at the Parc des Princes, it's not unusual to be surrounded by Swedish retirees on a pilgrimage to watch Zlatan. Even the merchandise we are handed out is more sophisticated. In 1994 I got a simple tifo card, last Saturday it was a PSG flag and a glowstick. Just about the only thing that remains unchanged is the players' entrance music – the remarkably kitsch intro of Who said I would? by Phil Collins. Matthieu Richard