By David Harding ,AFP
DOHA, Qatar — Paris Saint-Germain may be Qatari-owned, runaway Ligue 1 leaders, unbeaten all season and an outside bet for this season’s Champions League but they are still battling to win over Qatari fans. The French champions are currently on their winter tour in Doha, a 4-day visit combining training sessions, PR work and, ultimately, Wednesday’s friendly against Italian league leaders Inter Milan in front of a sell-out crowd. The club have been Qatari-owned since 2011, when Qatar Sports Investments became the majority shareholder, in a deal thought to be worth around 50 million euros (US$54.6 million). It made Paris not only the richest club in France but one of the wealthiest in the world, pushing PSG into competition for a worldwide fanbase with clubs such as Barcelona, Manchester United and Bayern Munich. But winning over fans even in the country where the club is now owned, is proving considerably more difficult than winning the Ligue 1 title for PSG.
And as on the pitch, off it, in Qatar at least, PSG are in a battle to overcome the Spanish giants of Barcelona and Real Madrid. “They (PSG) are not the most popular because they have just been around for five years,” says Mohamed Majdi Al-Jozali, a Qatari soccer fan.
The 23-year-old civil engineer — “Qatar’s biggest AC Milan fan” — was speaking after a PSG training session. Wearing a yellow Swedish national team shirt with the name “Ibrahimovic” emblazoned on the back, Jozali says it will take time, and success, for PSG to become the number one team in Qatar.
“I think we should give them some time and a lot of people will get on the bandwagon. But, for sure, Barcelona and Real Madrid are … probably the two best clubs in history and there is a lot of deep football fans in this country and that is why they choose to support these clubs.”