The meeting is given at 2:30 p.m. at Legends, a Manhattan bar located at the foot of the impressive Empire State Building. Here, we are very far from the cold and snowy climate of Munich since the thermostat displays 18 degrees under a beautiful spring sun. On this afternoon of April 7 (jet lag requires), the members of PSG Club New York meet as usual in the “Football Factory”, a large room in the basement of the Legends covered with jerseys, scarves and screens which continuously broadcast the matches of Europe’s biggest teams.
“I am a former Parc des Princes subscriber, who grew up between France and the United States“, explains Julian Stein, founder of PSG Club New York in 2006. The group gradually grew to the point of becoming important. We just celebrated our 15th anniversary in February“. 14 months after the start of the pandemic, life has resumed in New York under the impetus of an aggressive vaccination campaign (34% of New Yorkers have already received at least one dose by April 7). Bars have been able to reopen at 50% of their reception capacity since March 19, which is good news which allows expatriate Parisian supporters to be able to meet again.
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An atmosphere like at the stadium
The Hall of the Football Factory is cut in two on the occasion of these round-trip matches of the quarter-finals of the Champions League. There are a few Chelsea supporters on the left who have come to encourage their team against Porto, and on the right around 40 Parisian supporters standing behind a huge flag in the club’s colors. “Go Paris ! Go Paris ! Go Paris Paris Paris!“, began to sing in chorus a dozen of them at kick-off. They are the Panam Hell Fighters, a group of friends who constitute the hard core of PSG Club New York.”We take care of the management of the association, the organization of events and entertainment during matches“, says Julian Stein.
Among them Fabien Bourdon, 43, who had to “take a half-day off to come“, Youri Vaisse, who has”the chance to have a super boss who gives me (him) free time“, and Pierre Watiez, a fiftieth man working on his own account in finance, who has just arrived from the office in a suit and tie.”I am an eternal optimist. Even if we are not well at the moment, I see a 3-2 victory for Paris“, he blurted out, quite sure of himself.
These early PSG fans barely had time to taste their first beer that Mbappe already gave his team the advantage after three minutes of the game. Pierre Watiez, who added a PSG scarf on his shoulders, improvises capo this afternoon (the kop conductor who launches the songs in the stadiums). “Here it is…. PA-RIS!“, he sings, then repeated by everyone:”here it is…. PA-RIS!The mood rises again when Draxler believes he doubled the bet on a service from Neymar in the 12th minute, before being signaled offside. But it is only part postponed since the Legends are transformed into real Parc des Princes at the moment of Marquinhos’ second goal in the 28th minute. “Maro-quinhos, we love you!“, we can hear cries of joy in the middle.
“At the Parc des Princes, PSG will not be able to afford the same scenario”
American and Brazilian supporters of PSG
Some supporters at the back of the hall also seem to be enjoying the show, although they are not singing. The reason is quite simple: they are not French. Saul Fuentes, 23, is from the Bronx. He has become a big fan of PSG since Ibrahimovic’s visit to the French capital between 2012 and 2016: “I watch all their matches, especially in the Champions League. I really like Neymar and Mbappé“.
The young man, a waiter in a restaurant, explains that the PSG is more and more popular in New York: “I have several friends who are fans of Paris. It really started after the 2018 World Cup, where everyone was talking about Mbappé, and then with the Champions League final last year against Bayern.Sitting in front of him is another foreign PSG fan, Caique Bruscargin. The young Brazilian expatriate in New York never misses a game of his favorite team, proudly listing in English the recent Ligue 1 games he has watched. “I saw against Lille, Lyon, Nantes and even Angers!“.
PSG fans in New York (credit: PSG Club New York)
The smiles then tighten in quick succession, when Marquinhos has to come out in the 30th minute after an injury, then when the former Parisian Choupo-Moting scores with a header to bring Bayern back to 2-1 in the 37th minute. But Pierre Watiez, indefatigable, starts again the machine with the song “Standing on the platform”, taken again by everyone.
The referee finally whistles half-time with a score of 2-1 for Paris. It’s time for the cigarette break, the bar empties for 15 minutes to smoke and see the light of day on Fifth Avenue. “The Legends is the perfect place to meet, as it is very central with many accessible subway lines., explains Julian Stein. We started at Nevada Smiths 15 years ago, an Irish pub in East Village that we shared with OM supporters. It was hot at the time of the classics“, remembers the Franco-American with a smile.
The Marseillais de New York also have their own group of supporters, OM New York, whose HQ is now only a few blocks from the Legends. “More seriously, I have great memories of these matches against OM in Nevada Smiths, with more than 300 expats, all with a beer in hand to drink together., confides the 36-year-old Parisian. Before the Covid, we also organized a lot of trips to see PSG matches during their American tour, and also trips to France to go to the Parc des Princes.“.
“At the Parc des Princes, PSG will not be able to afford the same scenario”
Braces and beers
The second half resumes like the first, based on songs and frantically agitated scarves. “We only need our drum, but we are not allowed to use it at the moment. Supposedly it makes too much noise“, jokes Pierre Watiez.”We had a lot of luck in the first half, but I remain confident. It will end at 3-2 for Paris“, adds Julian Stein, who like Pierre Watiez should have bet on the score of the meeting.
The Munichers stormed the Parisian goal at the start of the second half, with successive attempts by Alaba (53rd) and Pavard (54th) before Muller equalized with a header in the 60th. The silence is suddenly heavy at the Legends, the time for the Panam Hell Fighters to swallow their fourth or fifth beer each, despite the schedule (4:15 pm). Then it was finally the explosion of joy eight minutes later, when Mbappé left to score his second goal of the evening for the 3-2. At that point, social distancing turns into hugs and hugs, with tables acting as drums.
“Everyone has a beer ? Cheers !“(Everyone has a beer? Health!), Shouts Pierre Watiez to the rest of the room, raising his glass. The afternoon ends with a rather unexpected victory for PSG accompanied by the song” Merci Paris “. Caique Bruscargin take the opportunity to leave his chair and go and hug each of the Panam Hell Fighters: “You heard ? I tried to sing like you throughout the game!“.
Just five minutes after the end of the meeting, the bar is already nearly empty, with customers suddenly reminded of their work or family obligations. Time for Julian Stein and the Panam Hell Fighters to sell some PSG t-shirts and scarves. “It’s one of the ways to get some money into the association’s coffers, in addition to an annual fee of $ 20 to be part of it., explains its founder. We have good relations with Paris Saint-Germain. They understood that it was positive for them to have a network of fans in the United States and New York.“, he adds, showing us an autographed PSG jersey dating from 2015 framed on a wall of the bar.
The appointment for the next match is already set. It will be Saturday morning at 11 am against Strasbourg with Pierre Watiez again as conductor: “I have no more voice, but I’m going to make myself some herbal tea and it will start again on Saturday“.
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