Since January 11 2016, Paris Saint-Germain, via its foundation, has opened its first ‘Red and Blue’ school.
“Based on the fact that struggles at school take source before they become six, the school welcomes students of primary school age already in difficulty in their schooling, or at risk of falling into problems,” the Parisian club have explained.
There is no question here of substituting regular school, but of doing something that works as a complement. The 64 children are divided between four groups and then welcomed twice a week between 16:30 and 18:30 once their usual school day is over. It provides a total of 120 hours of additional schooling a year.
At first sight, no sign of PSG is visible on either football field or the athletics track. It is a normal place like any municipal sports complex surrounded by buildings. It is a small wooden structure of 66 square metres with a classroom.
Christine Legal, director of the Paris Saint-Germain foundation and the mastermind behind the project, has seen in this school many years work become reality. “It’s small but it’s very convivial,” says someone who believed that the foundation might take a back seat when QSI arrived to take over the club.
On the contrary, during the takeover, the Qatari owners, including Nasser Al-Khelaifi, the president, immediately pinpointed the foundation as the basis of the Parisian organisation. He asked to meet Legal the following day to understand their projects. Sometime later, he took the decision to triple the investment into the PSG Foundation to €600,000. This allowed them to build upon their plans, including the ‘Red and Blue’ school.
Here, like at the training base of Camp des Loges, situated 35 kilometres away, the fundamentals of respect – tolerance, fair play and solidarity –are written on the walls, along with a modified version of the club’s motto: ‘Dream together’.
“We have three aims,” Legal explained. “To give the children confidence, to teach them to read and write, and to make them enjoy participating in sport. As with any area of PSG, we have no right to fail, so we will do everything to help these children.”
Blaise Matuidi, the France international midfielder, has given his backing to the project. “He will come when his schedule allows,” Legal continued. “I think he’s a perfect symbol for the club, and he’s really nice!”
To help her dream become reality, the director of the PSG Foundation could also count upon the support of the local government, and in particular the Mayor of the 19th arrondissement, Francois Dagnaud.
“That the strength of PSG has been put in the regular areas of Paris for the locals is an excellent thing,” he said. “During the first visit, Nasser Al-Khelaifi was here and kids were eager to see the school. Because it’s PSG, it can lead to some forms of jealously, but that’s part of life. Each will find his place. It’s a unifying mission.”
The six teachers present each day manage the children in two parts. The first is in a classroom and the second is outside.
On Thursday, the youngest learned about playing rugby as a form of fun. A few days earlier, they were taught about disabilities and played wheelchair basketball and blindfold football to help them understand the difficulties experienced by those who have problems in everyday life.
The PSG Foundation still have ambitions to see their social ambitions for the club grow. Following a one-year audit on their first school, Legal and her team would like to open another in the local region before exporting it internationally.
So it is hard to say: “I have wasted my time.”