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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

PSG v Man City clash is ‘El Cashico’

PSGThe Champions League quarter-final between
Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City on
Wednesday is not just a contest between two
of Europe's richest clubs, it is also a battle of
honour between Qatar and Abu Dhabi.
The English Premier League and Ligue 1 champions
are emblematic of the domination of wealthy
foreign owners in modern-day football.
Between them they are estimated to have spent
more than 1.5 billion euros ($1.7 billion) on
players, according to sports industry studies.
The football clash has sparked interest across the
Middle East. Adding to the spice away from the
football pitch, political relations between World
Cup 2022 hosts Qatar and the United Arab
Emirates, of which Abu Dhabi is one of the seven
constituent emirates, have until recently been
poor.
"Yes, you can say there is competition to see who
has the best team," said Qatari football fan,
Mohammed Al-Jazali, talking of the competition
between Qatar and UAE.
"It is like seeing if my BMW outperforms my
neighbour's Mercedes."
The tie has been dubbed "El Cashico", the "Oil and
Gasico" and even the "Abu Derby" by inventive
fans on social media.
It is clear that without Middle East involvement,
this fixture would almost certainly not be taken
place, and definitely not in the Champions League.
Under Gulf ownership the two teams have been
propelled into Europe's elite, uncharted territory
for both sides.
Before Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) took
ownership in 2012, PSG had most notably won two
Ligue 1 titles and a UEFA Cup.

They are estimated to have spent more than 550
million euros since on transfers.
Turbo-charged by Gulf wealth, PSG have won four
consecutive league titles, and are bidding, like City,
for their first Champions League semi-final.
Chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi, who also heads up
beIN Media, has made it no secret his aim for PSG
to win the Champions League.
Similarly, City had last won a major trophy in 1976
and had been in the third tier of English football as
recently as 1999 before being taken over by Abu
Dhabi United Group, led by Sheikh Mansour bin
Zayed Al Nahyan, in 2008.
In those eight years they have doubled to four the
number of English league titles they have won
since being formed in 1880. City are said to have
spent one billion euros on players under their Abu
Dhabi owners.
Now PSG are estimated by Deloitte to be the
fourth most valuable side in the world with an
estimated revenue of 480 million euros.
Manchester City are not far behind, the sixth most
valuable club side, with a wealth of 463 million
euros, say Deloitte.
"Qatar's project is much bigger," added Jazali. "It
helps to get Qatar's image out there more
effectively for the World Cup."
UAE-based City fan Chris Newbould disputes this,
and pointed to Sheikh Mansour's investment in the
city as well as the club.
"Our guys have done it in a different way to the
typical Qatari approach," he said.
"They have regenerated east Manchester, the
(youth) academy is probably the best in the world.
They seem to be in it for the long-term and I can't
definitely say Qatar will do the same."
- Off-pitch rivalry -
Beyond football, there is also a political aspect to
this thoroughly modern clash.
In March 2014, the UAE withdrew its ambassador
from Qatar in protest at Doha's support for the
Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, although the envoy
has since returned.
"Ties have improved markedly since... March
2014," said Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, a fellow for
the Middle East Rice University's Baker Institute.
"Emir Tamim has been a regular visitor to the UAE
and has patched up relations that came under
unprecedented strain during the rule of his father
and in the immediate aftermath of the Arab
Spring."
British academic and author Christopher Davidson
said the days of both states funding such expensive
overseas projects as PSG and City may be over
because of the slump in energy prices.
He conceded there are warmer relations between
the Gulf state rivals, but questioned how long that
will last.
"(There is) no trust at all between the two, with
only their shared interest in maintaining a US
alliance binding them together," he said.
"Either regime would relish a chance to topple the
other whenever the opportunity arose."

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