Le Classique is a football match contested between Frenchtop-flight clubs Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique de Marseille. These meetings became important during the late 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s. Canal + and Bernard Tapie promoted the rivalry, making these matches more interesting for all French football fans. OM and PSG fans have tense relations, and various groups of Marseille and Parisian supporters have hated and battled each other. Important security measures are taken to prevent confrontations between the fans, but violent episodes still often occur when the duo meet.
Like all rivalries, the antipathy between PSG and OM extends outside the pitch as Paris and Marseille are two of the three largest cities in France, while the duo are the country's two best-supported clubs and were the dominant forces before the appearance of Olympique Lyonnais during the 21st century. The rivals are also the only two French clubs to have won a major European club competition.
The so-called "French clásico" has a historical, cultural and social importance that makes it more than a simple football game, facing capital against province and the chosen ones of French football against their "enfants terribles". The match is often referred to as the North versus the South as the duo represent Paris, the national capital, and Marseille, the chief city of the Cote d'Azur. Many French people dislike Paris due to its dominant political, cultural and economic influence. By extension, they tend to dislike its chief football team, Paris Saint-Germain, which remains mainly supported by Parisians. As the best-supported southern club, Olympique de Marseille also attracts its share of detractors. The rivalry may not be the oldest in France's top flight, but it is still significant, being (typically) the most-watched domestic football match of the year in France. The southerners have been around for over a century now, while "Les Parisiens" only came into being in 1970, and in their early meetings there was little indication the two would become deadly adversaries as the situation between both clubs were two worlds apart.
Meetings between the duo gained intensity during the 1988–1989 season. PSG and OM faced each other in a virtual title decider at the Stade Vélodrome, with both clubs tied on points. Franck Sauzée scored a last minute winner giving OM the title. Former PSG owners Canal+, knowing the significance it could take on in the French socio-sporting landscape, began to promote the rivalry in the early 1990s. Infamous former OM president Bernard Tapie also claims he instigated and nurtured the rivalry to motivate his team since the late 1980s.
1993 saw Marseille reached both the very pinnacle and the very bottom of the European club game. A corruption scandal and a Canal+'s shining light for Paris Saint-Germain would threaten their hegemony. Basile Boli hit home the winning goal against Milan as Marseille became the first French side to win a European trophy and the only to win the Champions League. Their fans greeted the triumph by chanting "A jamais les premiers" which referred to the fact that they won the first "Classico" against PSG in 1971. Three days later, Boli's 18-yard header against PSG gave Marseille their fifth straight Ligue 1 title. The city exploded with a joy shared across the nation but no sooner had the trophy been hoist aloft than the celebrations were brought to a halt. It is believed that Bernard Tapie bribed Valenciennes to lose so that Marseille would win the French League earlier, giving them more time to prepare for the Champions League Final. Marseille was later stripped of their League title and relegated to Division 2 by the FFF, while Bernard Tapie was forced to step down as its President. Marseille would dominate the fixture for many years and from 1990 to 1999 they did not lose to PSG.
On 8 May 1996, Paris Saint-Germain became the youngest European club to win a European Cup, doing so in its 26th year. Driven by French playmaker Youri Djorkaeff, PSG became the second and last French club to win a European title, beating Rapid Wien in the Cup Winners' Cup Final thanks to Bruno N'Gotty's indirect free kick. Luis Fernández became the first and, so far only, French manager to win a major European trophy. Paris Saint-Germain then earned their first league win over their arch-rivals since 1990. Olympique de Marseille would finish the season a point behind champions Bordeaux making the victory even more special for the capital club. PSG became the dominant side, achieving eight consecutive wins between 2002 and 2004. Paris won all the three matches disputed in 2003, including two wins at the Vélodrome, with superlatives performances from Ronaldinho. Six more victories arrived for PSG thanks in part to Pauleta's goals. He scored 6 times in 11 appearances, becoming Le Classique's all-time top scorer. The two met in the French Cup Final in 2006. PSG was struggling to avoid relegation, while OM was looking for a spot in Europe. PSG, however, lifted the French Cup for the seventh time in their history thanks to a magnficent 25-yard-goal from Vikash Dhorasoo. PSG then recorded their first victory at the Vélodrome since 2004, but Marseille responded with their biggest ever win and their first back-to-back victories at the Parc des Princes. These victories set "Les Marsellais" on the road to their ninth Ligue 1 title, having already clinched their first League Cup. PSG, meanwhile, repaid their fans after a tough season with their eighth French Cup to ensure a return to European competition. Olympique de Marseille then defeated PSG for a fourth consecutive match after Edouard Cissé struck the winning penalty against his former club as the Ligue 1 champions lifted the 2010 Trophée des Champions.
Le Classique transcends the boundaries of the pitch in France. Since the first meeting in 1971, these two clubs have squared off in what many believe is France’s biggest rivalry. At the very least, it is France’s most violent. The rivalry increased in importance and ferocity during the late 1980s as PSG and Marseille battled each other for the Ligue 1 title. The rivalry grew into the national spotlight as PSG owners Canal + and Marseille’s Bernard Tapie promoted the matches between these clubs to a confrontational level. Since then, the rivalry has been marred with injuries and arrests over the years.
11 April 1995 : 146 arrests and 9 policemen hospitalized due to fighting in the semi-final of the Coupe de France.
13 October 2000 : an 18-year-old Marseille supporter was paralyzed for life after being struck by a seat thrown from the Parisians section of the Parc des Princes.
10 February 2002 : a 16-year-old Marseille fan was half decapitated (his head was out the window of a moving bus when it slammed into a bridge abutment); a Parisian fan suffered a broken arm after falling into the ditch that separates the turn Auteuil from the lawn; 15 arrests; 2 provisional detentions; several vehicles damaged; a fire inside the Parc des Princes.
47 players have worn the shirt of both Olympique Marseille and Paris Saint-Germain. Sometimes through a direct transfer, sometimes after many years and some have even found their way back. The number increases to 49 if we add Abel Braga, who played for PSG from 1979 to 1981 and then managed OM in 2000, and Tomislav Ivić, who managed both Paris and Marseille. The large amount of players who have represented for both sides is surprisingly high considering the enmity between the clubs. OM's current squad features former PSG players Édouard Cissé, Fabrice Abriel and Gabriel Heinze. Paris Saint-Germain, meanwhile, have former Marseille members Péguy Luyindula and Claude Makélélé. An incredible surprise for many supporters, as it seems obvious that a player from Marseille has nothing to do in Paris and viceversa, especially when there isn't a 10-year-career in between. Only four players have left one club for the other and then returned. Jérôme Leroy left PSG in 1999 for OM and then returned to the French capital in 2002. Xavier Gravelaine, meanwhile, left Paris Saint-Germain in 1995 to join Guingamp before signing for Marseille in 1996. Three years later, he returned to Paris. Bruno Germain was directly transferred from Marseille to PSG in 1991. He returned to the south of France in 1994. Saar Boubacar had the same experience, arriving at the capital club from Olympique Marseille in 1979 before returning to his first club in 1983. The rivalry has never prevented the business. Many players have crossed the bridge without knowing or caring about the intense rivalry between both clubs and have subsequently suffered abuses from the supporters.
Love and passion for the shirt is a figment of the imagination and career choices from the players have ended in sounded failures. The 2004 French Cup Final was marred by the persistent barracking of the PSG captain, Frédéric Déhu, who, it had been revealed earlier in the week would be joining deadly rivals Olympique Marseille when his contract expired at the end of the season. He was even jeered when he collected the trophy and subsequently disappeared straight down the tunnel in tears, failing to return for the lap of honour. Months later, Fabrice Fiorèse slammed the door at Paris Saint-Germain after a confrontation with then manager Vahid Halilhodžić. He was transferred to Olympique Marseille in stormy conditions and went from being a fan favorite to being the most hated. Considered to be the new Christophe Dugarry at the time, Fiorèse insisted on the fact that Halilhodžić had refused his request to miss a match when his wife gave birth. A player's transferring directly from one club to another is seen as high treason, as Fabrice Fiorèse discovered when he was effectively whistled and chanted out of a Clasico by Paris fans outraged by his transfer to their arch-rivals. "Treason" has in fact happened in different ways: transfers, players out of contract or exchange. During the 1990s, we witnessed the record shuffles between the two cities, when the sporting and media rivalry was at its peak. French football hope Jocelyn Angloma from Paris Saint-Germain was exchanged for OM players Bernard Pardo, Bruno Germain and Laurent Fournier. Laurent Fournier replaced Vahid Halilhodžić as PSG coach and midfielder Lorik Cana fell out of favour in 2005. This prompted him to move to the south of France. Although previously declaring they will never play for Olympique Marseille, PSG players Modeste M'bami and Gabriel Heinze joined "Les Phocéens" in 2006 and 2009, respectively.