The emotion of the beautiful game: my first European professional football match in Paris

Photo by Elias Kokin

Photo by Elias Kokinos

A mesmerizing dribble,

a perfectly-weighted chip,

a simple pirouette,

an emphatic finish.

This sequence between Paris Saint Germain’s (PSG) forwards Lionel Messi, and Neymar Jr. was emblematic of the beautiful game I have grown up watching, playing, and adoring. It was a connection I had seen well over 100 times between the two players throughout their stints at the Spanish club Barcelona and now at PSG.

The composed Argentine displayed an otherworldly dribble to free himself from a sea of ​​Angers defenders who surrounded him, then he played an inch-perfect pass to his counterpart Neymar. With his trademark Brazilian flair and confidence, alongside a magical twirl, he slotted the ball past the cemented keeper. This sequence was football* heritage that I previously could only dream of seeing live. Though the goal was soon denied after — it was found to be offside by less than 5 inches — watching it unravel in person was one of the most incredible sporting event memories I have ever witnessed.

Over break, I was lucky enough to travel with my family to France to visit family and friends and see the country’s rich cultural history. My love for football has been a lifelong affair, and when I learned that my family would be visiting France, I knew I had to make a trip to the Parc de Princes, the home playing fields of French football giants Paris Saint Germain, a priority . With the rest of my family mouth-watering at the prospect of a quintessential French trip with visits to the Louvre, the Champs Elysee, the Musee D’Orsay, and the Eiffel Tower, I was determined to visit the stadium.

Since I was three years old, football has been one of my favorite sports to watch and play. The fluidity of movement, the precision of technical execution, and the complexity of tactical decision-making are all aspects that initially made me fall in love with it. The fans’ passion and the players’ athleticism have kept me continually interested, and the nuanced strategies, tactics, and formations adds an additional layer of intrigue. So when I got the chance to visit the stadium and subsequently attend their league game against Angers, I jumped at the opportunity.

Located within the 16th arrondissement in the Parisian suburbs, the Parc de Princes was conveniently situated only 10 minutes away from the Port D’Auteil stop on the No. 10 metro line. Upon arrival at the stadium, a massive mural of all the players enwrapped a portion of the cement outside with the club’s motto, “ICI C’EST PARIS” (This is Paris), plastered on top. After seeing the mural, we made our way inside the stadium.

As we walked around the concourse, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of awe at the history and grandeur of the stadium. From the VIP seating areas to the locker rooms all the way down to the pitch (yes, the pitch where Messi, Mbappe, and Neymar play), the stadium was simply mesmerizing. After a brief trip to the club museum and a much longer journey in the stadium store, I left the Parc de Princes with a sense of awe and amazement at the beautiful stadium, a bubbling excitement for the upcoming game, and a brand new Kylian Mbappe jersey to sport at the game.

As I scootered up to the stadium on Jan. 11, I was immediately entranced by the buzz in the air. The atmosphere was electric as fans from both teams filled the stands, eagerly anticipating the start of the game. Then, as the teams took to the field, the tension was palpable, and the crowd’s energy was contagious. With huge tifos, flares, flags, and constant singing and drumming, the stadium was electric and genuinely symbolic of any top-flight game I have ever watched on television.

The match began with a high tempo, and both teams quickly established their attacking play. PSG dominated possession in the game’s early stages, and this possession paid off within the first five minutes. A low cross from fullback Nordi Mukiele was played perfectly into the path of striker Hugo Ekitike who calmly slotted the ball into the bottom left corner. The stadium absolutely erupted. Fireworks, flags, drums, and pure elation bellowed from the sold-out Parc de Princes as they saw their team move confidently throughout the game and into the lead. The goal gave PSG a boost of energy, and they continued to press forward, but Angers also had their chances, creating several opportunities to equalize but failing to convert.

The second half began with a renewed sense of urgency from Angers, but PSG’s defense held strong. Finally, in the 72nd minute, after another Mukiele assist, Lionel Messi scored the second goal of the match with a perfectly placed shot, putting the game out of reach for Angers. The goal was met with deafening cheers from the home crowd, and Messi’s celebration was met with a standing ovation — marking his return from an incredibly triumphant World Cup for Argentina. After an annoying offside on one of the most technically gorgeous Neymar goals I’ve ever seen, PSG controlled the game, and Angers couldn’t find a way to score.

As the final whistle blew, the stadium erupted in cheers, and I couldn’t help but feel a sense of euphoria. The passion and emotion the fans and players displayed were infectious, and I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride and connection to the team. Tens of thousands of Parisians were sent into raptures with cheers of jubilation and happiness as PSG returned to their winning ways following a worrisome 3-1 defeat to RC Lens in their last league game.

We boarded the metro full of enthusiastic fans who continued to sing and cheer past the sparkles of the Eiffel Tower and to our stop. As we returned to our hotel, I vividly reminisced on the experience of attending my first European football game at the Parc des Princes — an unforgettable one that solidified my love and appreciation for the beautiful game.

* important to note that in this article, the term soccer will be referred to as football.

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