Founded in Paris in 1897, Red Star Football Club – commonly referred to as Red Star FC or simply Red Star – is the second-oldest club in France.
Based in the northern suburbs of Paris, Red Star is an institution in Parisian football despite having played in the lower tiers of French football for most of its history.
Despite the club’s struggle to attain and retain top-flight status, Red Star has managed to win the Coupe de France five times. In 1920, 1921, 1922, 1928, and in 1942, they lifted the prestigious trophy. In 1946, Red Star became runners-up after losing 4-2 to Lille in front of 60,000 fans.
Red Star was a founding member of the Ligue 1 but only played 19 seasons in the first division. The 1974-75 season was the last time that Red Star played top-flight football.
In the decades leading up to today, Red Star has yoyo-ed up and down the leagues all from the second to the sixth tier and back again. Despite coming close to promotion to Ligue 1 in the 2015-16 season, the club has been mainly found in Ligue 2 or the Championnat National in recent history.
The Battle for Bauer
The Stade de Paris – usually referred to as Stade Bauer – is the home of Red Star FC. Stade Bauer was erected in 1909 in Saint-Ouen-sur-Seine on the northern fringes of the capital. It has a current capacity of 3,000.
The highest attendance ever recorded was 23,000 when Red Star played against Olympique Marseille in 1948.
However, 110 years after the stadium was built, it is in dire need of restoration for it to be fit for Ligue 2 (or one day even Ligue 1) football.
As a result, Red Star had to move to another ground during its recent stints in the second tier of French football.
In response to this, Red Star ultras and other passionate fans started to campaign for the club to stay at Bauer.
The “le Red Star, c’est seulement à Bauer” campaign is lobbying for the revitalisation of the stadium but is also wary of a potential “Disneyland-isation” of their ground. Plans to develop a new stadium are already underway.
In January 2020, Red Star announced that the major of Saint-Quen-sur-Seine has authorised the renovation of Stade Bauer to make it fit for Ligue 2 should the club manage to secure promotion. The improvements will take place regardless of development plans for the new Stade Bauer.
While this will unlikely mean the end of the battle for Bauer, it is good news for the fans who want the club to remain in their neighbourhood.
The club also stated that it will release more information about the new stadium development soon.
The Paris Derby
It may come as a surprise to some but Red Star’s main derby rival is not Paris Saint-Germain. Instead, it is another Parisian club from the lower leagues, called Paris FC.
Paris Football Club was founded in 1969 and calls the Stade Charléty in the 13th arrondissement of Paris home. Similarly to Red Star, Paris FC has played in the lower echelons of the French football pyramid.
As a result, Red Star has faced off against Paris FC more often than PSG in recent years, which has cemented this local rivalry.
The Paris derby does not boast the kind of attendances as big European derbies. However, given the relatively small size of both clubs and their supporter scenes, “le derby de la capitale” is still a heated affair.
Red Star Fans – Notre Cœur, Notre Force
The active fan base of Red Star FC is known for being inclusive, anti-racist, anti-fascist, and politically left-leaning.
Given that Paris’ flagship club Paris Saint-Germain is evolving into a poster child of “modern football,” driven by its well-heeled Qatari backers, it should come as little surprise that Red Star has become somewhat of a bastion for alternative fans in France’s capital.
You will find anarchists, communists, liberals, and, lately, also a ton of hipsters on the stands at Bauer. Racism, and homophobia, and islamophobia, on the other hand, will be hard to find on the terraces.
Red Star is a working-class, community-focused club. The club’s players, staff, and fans reflect that. As a result, the club is as culturally diverse as its neighbourhood.
Despite bouncing up and down between the second and third tier of French football, Red Star fans are a passionate bunch who are present home and away.
Former Machester United player and Red Star creative director, David Bellion, arguably best described the club and its ethos in an interview with The Guardian.
“Red Star is an underground, romantic, popular football club where there is absolutely no social status. People love it because it still has that old-school football vibe. The club was not built for just victory and winning. It is a very powerful symbol of freedom and creativity. Not a lot of clubs have that natural credibility,” Bellion stated.
If you are in Paris to watch football and prefer to avoid the glitz and glamour of PSG, pop up to the Bauer and join the Red Star party.