GESET - Parc des Princes 1997 by Digger
"The Greatest European Story Ever Told" is an epic undertaking started by the brilliant Wooltonian to raise money for The Hillsborough Justice Campaign. It is no longer available in book-form and not hosted anywhere for free access but Wooltonian sent it to us to share with Reds all over the world at LFChistory.net. The Greatest European Story Ever Told (GESET) stands at over 100 pages and covers every match the Reds have played in Europe since Liverpool's first game against KR Reykjavik in August 1964. It tells the stories of the games and interweaves many humorous fan recollections regarding their adventures away from homePSG – Parc des Princes, Semi final CWC 97 Coming back to Paris brought back mixed memories. Only a year before this match I was living with the girl of my dreams in a typical Parisian studio. How quickly the dream can turn sour...but how would I feel on my return? The streets through which we used to run hand in hand were now filled with the memories of a lost love. The one thing, surely, to help reclaim the city as my own would be through my other faithful love, the one that had never let me down, the one that coursed through my veins and that would be there for me until my last dying breath – Liverpool, the red machine, the mighty, magic, unstoppable Liverpool. And so it was that I stepped off the Eurostar with Jon, and we met up Martin who still lived in Paris in a flat overlooking the Eiffel Tower. The time before the match went in a blur that wasn’t only due to amount of drink we were consuming – we were all like little kids again, going to our first Liverpool game. The semi-final, against PSG! Martin had managed to get us tickets in the PSG end, so unfortunately we weren’t with the travelling Kop, and even worse one of the tickets was separate from the other two. We decided that since my French was the best that I would take the single ticket. What a poisoned chalice that ticket turned out to be! So the day of the game, the butterflies, the stomach churning excitement, the endless conversations over who would play, would Robbie score, how would they stop Macca?
The French paper, L’Equipe had a whole section on the game, and even they wondered how PSG would stop the red machine from steam rolling their team just like we had done to others so many times in the past. We go to the ground and think about trying to get into a café for beer – forget it! Dozens of Frenchmen throng on the pavement drinking their demis, with a mad crush all the way to the bar. The atmosphere was tense, and we warned each other not to talk to anyone, don’t let anyone realise that you are English. Somehow you could sense there was a bad vibe in the air. At the end of the street was a line of French riot police, fully equipped with guns. Not a sight to give you confidence! Then, suddenly, as if from nowhere, a dozen Liverpool supporters decked out in red come out of the Metro station into the street, blinking at the sudden contrast of dark to light. The PSG supporters at the top of the road see them and assemble menacingly to block their way to the square where now hundreds of other supporters rush over in order to see what the fuss is all about. The police stand bored and unmoving. Then, the missiles start to arrive – bottles, bricks, stones, and bits of road block that were now being taken apart by the French. Amongst the Liverpool fans were a few girls, and they rapidly started to get scared. The lads eventually realise that they are in a no win situation and pick up some of the larger items that were thrown at them and run at the literally hundreds of PSG supporters as though in some kamikaze attempt, screaming wildly as they do so. The police still stand there impassively and do nothing. Bizarrely enough, the crazy behaviour of the Liverpool fans make the PSG fans stand back and the lads return in a huddle unharmed. Eventually, the Liverpool supporters realise that the only escape is back in the Metro station, and so they disappear again, as quickly as they had come. If a TV camera had been there it would have shown Liverpool supporters rioting but this episode demonstrated quite clearly to me how pictures can lie, how they don’t always show the whole story.We then make our way round the stadium, which was enormous, to see the Liverpool supporters making their way into the stadium. Many of the PSG fans are throwing stones at the coaches as they go past, and the atmosphere even here, where again hundreds of police are assembled, is pretty nasty. We decide to go in the stadium to get away from it all, and to take in the atmosphere. Inside, the Liverpool fans are as always making us proud to be Kopites, and singing their hearts out. As the stadium fills the equivalent of the Kop at the Parc des Princes sing back at the Liverpool fans, and a healthy singing competition starts up.
I had a grandstand view being just beside the maddest of the PSG fans, amongst a group of Algerian French. The game eventually starts and Liverpool are swept aside. I won’t relive the entire nightmare of the game (the scoreline says it all really), but a few moments from the game stand out. One is the Liverpool squad chatting on their mobiles before the start of the game, relaxed as though on a holiday outing. Another in particular is during the game with Dom Matteo asking Mark Wright who exactly he should be marking, and where he should be standing. That for me summed up quite well the shocking unorganised state of our team at that time. Barnes was past his best and could only move sideways and although at times we passed the ball well, we had no cutting edge, and PSG dealt with us easily, swatting away our attacks like some common household fly. The first half was unbelievable, and watching it unfold before me was like passing a road wreck, I couldn’t take my eyes away from the horror of it all. Each time that PSG scored I had to stand and cheer as though I enjoyed it or face the wrath of the PSG fans beside me. On more than one occasion the PSG supporters around me grabbed me to join in the communal hug – little did they know the traitor amongst their midst! (although I reckon they were beginning to suss me out towards the end, I couldn’t keep my pretence up the whole game as Barnes or Macca gave the ball away yet again). I was sick to my stomach, but many Liverpool fans that had been found amongst the French were ejected from the stadium. Jon and Martin were a few rows back from me looking glum and not daring to speak. We exchanged shrugs and frowns. I had to try to respond positively to the animated Algerian beside me whose gutteral slang I barely understood. The gist of what he was saying was clear enough though – Liverpool are rubbish and PSG are great. Well at 3-0 down I couldn’t really disagree with him. After being so excited I almost couldn’t wait for the game to end, but the one thing that kept me going was the singing of the Liverpool fans over to my right. At the end of the game the maddest of the PSG fans insisted on singing YNWA back to the travelling Kopites – it was a mark of respect, they were impressed by the singing, particularly after the poor performance of our team on the field.
It's easy to be magnanimous in victory, but they genuinely seemed to be impressed by the vocal support for our lads. So we left the stadium and caught the Metro back into the centre. It can’t get any worse surely? We’ve been dumped out of the CWC after effectively the first leg, our team looked hopeless, and I couldn’t even enjoy being amongst fellow scousers. I had to cheer every time PSG scored for fear of my life if I didn’t, and agree with the PSG fans around me that Liverpool were rubbish. We sat in silence surrounded by happy French men. I felt I was like the Pink Panther with a black cloud over my head. I couldn’t get more miserable. Or so I thought. Two blokes sit opposite us, who were already on the train when we got on. They’re speaking English, and they have worked out what the score was. “Three nil! Christ, Liverpool took some hammering, eh?” Jon, Martin and I exchange looks. “I tell you something,” one of them says in a horribly recognisable accent, “there’s no way that Manchester United would have lost three nil to that lot!” So not only did we watch our beloved reds get slaughtered, we end up on a train opposite probably the only Manchester United fans in Paris, who then proceed to gloat over how bad we were. The memories of Paris were reclaimed from the nightmare of my ex to a worse nightmare of two Mancs wallowing in Liverpool’s ineptitude! The drinks in the café by Martin’s apartment didn’t taste as nice as the ones we’d drank only a few hours before, and an early night was had by all. The Eurostar back to London the next day was packed, and rather than try to chat up the French girls that had sat opposite us, Jon and I decided to drown our sorrows in the bar on the train. At last the fellow scousers were found, and we sang and drank our way back to Britain. And that’s what its all about at the end of the day – the fans, the Kopites, the singing, the support, the mighty reds (hopefully winning again one day), the traditions that our club has that others don’t. Happy at last, singing as though we were stood on the swaying Kop and not the smooth running (well in France anyway) Eurostar!
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