Just like John in the post before this one, I too watched Stage 5 of the Tour de France. However, unlike John, my motivation was not to watch the cycling but rather the route in southern France that finished in the small town of Privas.
Most people (French people that I have met included) have never heard of Privas. With a population of less than 10,000 people it is easy to understand why. However, the town is a commune of France, and capital of the Ardèche department, the smallest administrative centre of any department in France. The reason I know is Privas is because I was lucky enough to visit the area 5 times during 2010-2013 while completing my PhD. It was fantastic to see the sprint finish into the town, along it's narrow streets, a far cry from the Champs-Élysées where the tour will finish.
And turning to Paris, where the Tour will end on the 20th of September, one can imagine that the Champions League loss is still fresh in the memory of Parisians. The end of the Tour might be a welcome distraction for many. The club's first appearance in the showpiece European game did not work out as expected. And while the champion of the Tour de France will always be crowned in Paris, the Champions League trophy has never been to the French capital.
And Paris is not alone in this regard.
One my second trip to Privas in 2010 I spent the entirety of my TGV journey from Paris Charles de Gaulle to Valence (south of Lyon) reading the wonderful Soccernomics by Kuper and Szymanski. I couldn't put it down. It was one of those rare books that I had to stop myself from reading, so as to have it for just a little longer. One of the earlier chapters recalls the success of club football teams in the European Cup. It is somewhat remarkable how so few clubs from Western capital cities have won the competition. PSG and Paris remain in this list.
The Table below lists the number of times the European Cup/Champions League trophy has been won by capital cities and regional cities in Western Europe. Just two other countries have clubs teams that have won the cup - Romania and the Former Yugoslavia. In both cases the teams were from the capitals (Steaua București (1986) and Red Star Belgrade (1991). Both were under dictatorship communists government at the time of their success.
And this is what make the list to the left even more interesting. The obvious outlier is Spain. Real Madrid have won a remarkable 13 European titles. Adding in Lisbon (Benfica), the two national capitals on the Iberian peninsula have won 15 European Cups/Champions Leagues. It is worth noting however that both cities had authoritarian governments until the 1970s. Benefica won both titles (1961 and 1962) under this system and Real Madrid their first six.
Western European capitals that have been fully democratic since 1945 have a pretty dismal record at winning the tournament. Ajax of Amsterdam (if you agree this is the capital and not The Hague) is the only bright spot. In fact, even London with the might of Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham had to wait until 2012 to win the competition for the first time.
Kuper and Szymanski hypothesize why this might be the case, and why capitals like Paris could emerge as winners in the not too distance future. But for now, Neymar and co. will have to wait.