When you watch a Paris Saint-Germain v Olympique Marseille game, it is pretty much a given that you will be witnessing one of the most tense rivalries in football – both on and off the pitch. The fixture may not be the oldest in the France’s top flight. But it is certainly the most prominent, as well as being the most watched game in the country. This is the story of the fixture known as “Le Classique“.
Paris and Marseille are two of the three largest cities in France, while the two clubs are the country’s best-supported teams. The match is often seen by locals as the North versus the South as the two clubs represent Paris, the capital, and Marseille, the chief port city of the French Riviera.
The first meeting between the pair occurred in December 1971 in the Vélodrome, just a little over a year after PSG were formed which finished in 4-2 victory to Marseille. In fact, it wasn’t until 1975 before the Parisiens managed their first victory in the fixture.
PSG and Marseille fans have long had tense relations with various groups of both clubs’ supporters have battled each other. While it’s certainly France’s biggest rivalry, it’s without question the most violent. Security measures are put in place to ensure the meeting of the two teams are without incident, yet this is rarely the case. Numerous arrests are commonplace, as well as far too many injuries.
But on the pitch is where it’s produced it’s most memorable moments. During the 1988/89 season, PSG travelled to Marseille for the final game of the season which would decide the title (what’s not to love already?). With both clubs tied on points, midfielder (and one time Hibernian manager) Franck Sauzee scored a last minute winner giving Marseille the title. Take that, Sergio Aguero!
Many top talents have played in this fixture. Names such as Ronaldinho, Chris Waddle, David Ginola, Rudi Völler, Marcel Desailly, Franck Ribery, Nicolas Anelka, Claude Makélélé, Fabien Barthez, Gabriel Heinze, and a certain Joseph Barton have all competed. Retired PSG legend Pauleta and current PSG legend Zlatan Ibrahimovic are tied as the highest scorers in the fixture with six goals a piece.
It’s certainly ticks all the boxes when it comes to football’s greatest rivalries: passion, intensity, superb football, sold-out stadiums as well as the millions of people watching it on TV. If it wasn’t for it’s infamous and ridiculous off-field antics between opposing supporters, it could easily rival El Clásico or Milan’s Derby della Madonnina.
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