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Football: Neymar braced for French culture shock in PSG debut

After dazzling Rio's imposing Maracana and Barcelona's storied Camp Nou, the world's most expensive footballer Neymar will be welcomed to French football on Sunday at Guingamp's humble 17,000-capacity Stade du Rouduorou in sleepy Brittany.

Football: Neymar braced for French culture shock in PSG debut
Paris Saint-Germain's Brazilian forward Neymar at a training session on August 11th. Photo: Alain Jocard/AFP
With the mundanity of transfer paperwork finally resolved, the 25-year-old Brazilian magician will line up for Paris Saint-Germain for the first time since his mind-boggling 222 million euro ($261 million) move from Barcelona.
 
 
“He's physically ready to play the whole ninety minutes,” PSG coach Unai Emery told AFP.
 
“He's been working well and we looked hard at tactics and free-kicks. We all want him in the starting 11, he's a player we need in the group.”
 
Even Guingamp coach Antoine Kombouare, himself a former PSG boss, wants Neymar to play despite the potential havoc he could wreak on the home defence.
 
“I want the fans to come on Sunday to see Guingamp win… preferably against a side with Neymar in it,” he said.
 
It will be a major culture shock for Neymar in a town which has a population of just 7,000 and is best known for its annual Breton dance showcase, the Saint Loup Festival.
 
 
However, that's not to say that Guingamp do not have football pedigree — former Chelsea and Ivory Coast star Didier Drogba spent a season at the club in 2002/2003.
 
They were French Cup winners in 2009 and 2014, and last season beat PSG 2-1 in the corresponding league fixture.
 
“We could have filled a stadium of 40,000 seats with no problem at all,” said Guingamp president Bertrand Desplat, whose club budget is an eighth of what PSG paid for Neymar.
 
Journalists from far and wide are expected for the game — the ground's press tribune, built to hold 80 people, has been extended to cater for 350.
 
A total of 145 stewards will be on duty at the ground — 30 more than usual.
 
Neymar will simply be glad to put his tax troubles behind him and get back to doing what he does best after his lawyer revealed on Saturday that the Brazilian superstar has agreed to pay a $2.5 million fine for tax evasion in his homeland.
 
His 2013 transfer to Barca from Sau Paulo's Santos is also the subject of a Spanish tax fraud investigation.
 
1,200km away, Barca start new era
 
Meanwhile, French media speculated over who in the expensively-assembled PSG team will make way for Neymar.
 
Le Parisien suggested it will be Javier Pastore, the Argentine star who was the first major signing after PSG were bought by their ambitious Qatari owners.
 
“After first giving up his No.10 shirt, will he (Pastore) now give him (Neymar) his place in the team?” Le Parisien asked of the player who took up the No.10 shirt after Zlatan Ibrahimovic left for Manchester United last season, only to hand it to the Brazilian this summer.
 
“Neymar will start on the left at the expense of Pastore.”
 
Sports daily L'Equipe saw things differently, though.
 
“A trio of Neymar, Pastore and Angel di Maria will support (striker) Ederson Cavani,” predicted L'Equipe.
 
The match in Guingamp kicks off at 1900GMT.
 
 
An hour later, and around 1,200km further south, Barcelona will start their first competitive match without Neymar by facing bitter rivals Real Madrid in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup.
 
Barca's scattergun approach to finding a replacement for Neymar has so far been unsuccessful with bids for Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele of Borussia Dortmund rebuffed.
 
Gerard Deulofeu was handed Neymar's role alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez up front in Monday's 5-0 friendly win over Chapecoense on his return to the club after spells at Everton and AC Milan.
 
And while he's not a like-for-like replacement, Spanish press claim former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Paulinho, a Brazil international, is on the verge of a 40-million-euro move to Barca from China's Guangzhou Evergrande.

BRITTANY

French town of Nantes votes for referendum on exiting Pays-de-la-Loire region

The French city of Nantes is to hold a referendum on exiting the Pays-de-la-Loire region and becoming part of Brittany instead.

French town of Nantes votes for referendum on exiting Pays-de-la-Loire region
Photo: AFP

On Friday the town council of Nantes voted in favour of requesting the French government organise a referendum so local people can have their say about whether they wish to remain in the Pays-de-la-Loire region or become part of Brittany – a region that many say the town has more historic and cultural connections to.

The vote on Friday was carried by 56 votes and concerns whether the département of Loire-Atlantique – which contains Nantes – should move regions.

READ ALSO The 20 essential maps you need to understand Brittany

 

The vote follows a petition in 2018 which gathered 105,000 signatures.

Nantes mayor Johanna Rolland said: “This strong citizen mobilisation cannot be ignored. It reflects the aspiration of our fellow citizens to be consulted to a greater extent, in a context of essential revitalisation of our democracy.”

The desire of people in the Loire-Atlantique to become Breton isn't new.
 
The départment was part of Brittany until World War II, when it was separated and made part of the neighbouring region by the Vichy government. That region eventually became the Pays-de-la-Loire in 1955.
 
The issue has been simmering since then and pro-Breton voices have become louder in recent years as they hope to take advantage of a law that allows départments to chose which region they belong to via a referendum.
 
The town, which is the historic seat of the Dukes of Brittany, also declared its intention to  “set up a permanent pluralist body to engage in a genuine consultation with the State on the organisation of this referendum, organise an in-depth debate on the issues and consequences of a redistribution in order to feed the citizen debate, and formulate proposals to strengthen cooperation between Nantes and the other Breton territories”. 
 
However the referendum will have to be approved by both the national government and the regional authorities.
 

France's regions were reorganised in 2016 and several were merged to create the current 13 regions of mainland France.

Brittany currently covers four départements – Ille-et-Vilaine, Côtes-d'Armor, Finistère and Morbihan – while Pays-de-la-Loire covers Loire-Atlantique, Maine-et-Loire, Mayenne, Sarthe and Vendée. Nantes is currently the largest town in the region.

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