Soccer Team Ownership and the Billion-Dollar Ethics of ‘Sportswashing’

Foreign investment from countries with human rights concerns raises questions over fans’ complicity and the price of success.

James Kwak
Marker
Published in
11 min readNov 22, 2021

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The Auteuil end of the Parc des Princes, seen from the Boulogne end (CC BY-SA 3.0)

In 1994, I lived in Paris, on a small side street with an Afghan café on the corner, near Denfert-Rochereau. On August 10, PSG played a match against a Hungarian team from Vác in the qualifying round of the Champions League. The cheapest tickets were in the two ends (virages) of the Parc des Princes. The salesperson asked if I wanted to be in the Auteuil or the Boulogne end. “Boulogne,” I said, not knowing the difference. I later found out that Boulogne was known for having the more hard-core ultras. (The club just suspended three groups of ultras from the Boulogne end.) Luckily for everyone, PSG won 3–0, so the most violent thing that occurred was thousands of supporters jumping up and down after each goal. “Qui ne saute pas est marseillais” — anyone who doesn’t jump is from Marseille — was a popular stadium chant at the time.

On September 14, PSG played its first Champions League match ever (although the team had competed in the European Cup once before) against three-time European champions Bayern Munich. We won, 2–0, but my only memory is of the fans in the Boulogne end taunting Bayern…

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James Kwak
Marker
Writer for

Books: The Fear of Too Much Justice, Take Back Our Party, Economism, White House Burning, 13 Bankers. Former professor. Co-founder, Guidewire Software. Cellist.