Thursday, 19 February 2009

St Etienne

Les Amis Reunis

St Etienne 1-1 Bordeaux (22:02:09)

- click on photos to enlarge image -

Hands up who - outside of France - knew that St Etienne and Bordeaux fans were the best of friends? I certainly didn't until the week before this match. This sort of stuff doesn't occur in England but apparently can be fairly commonplace abroad. This stems from a bonding of two of the ultra groups; The Magic Fans of St Etienne and the Ultramarines of Bordeaux both of whom favour their politics to the left.

Politics and football go hand in hand in France and Italy unlike in England. I can't imagine myself down at the Withdean Stadium, Brighton quoting from the Tony Benn diaries and receiving a standing ovation. More likely, I'd be on the end of a bout of short shrift, blank faces, much shoulder shrugging and classed as a mentalist.

On the morning of this match we awoke in Grenoble after watching GF38 v PSG the previous night. Such was the quality of the beer - taken seriously abroad and lacking in chemicals - that we didn't have hangovers. We still had to blow away the cobwebs though so it was decided that we'd walk up to the top of La Bastille, a fortress atop a small mountain (475m) overlooking the City. I say walk, actually we let the famous 'bubbles' (cable cars) do the work.

After that we strolled through the French food markets before jumping in the car and driving to St Etienne for the big match, naturally with the best of St Etienne pumping on the stereo. We collected our tickets and headed over to the Casino Cafeteria next to the ground for some welcome beers. The casino retail stores built in St Etienne in the 19th Century were the first of their kind in France. The man behind these was Geoffroy-Guichard. I mention this only because a) it makes me look as though I've done some research and b) This is the chap who the stadium is named after.

I've wanted to go and see St Etienne for years. For someone of my age (36) they are one of the great names of European Football. During the 70's they were regularly there or thereabouts in the European Cup in the days when the European Cup was good and not obsessed by money. In the 1976 final at Hampden Park, Glasgow they outplayed but eventually lost to Bayern Munich. That night they hit the post twice. In those days Hampden Park famously had 'square' goal posts. If they'd have been the standard round ones, St Etienne would have won. As such, the 'square goalposts of Glasgow' are still talked about to this day. St Etienne are underachievers/ underdogs and that's why I like them.

The Geoffroy-Guichard Stadium is known as The Green Cauldron. I now know why. There was a cacophony of noise from start to finish. At one end of the ground you have the 'Magic Fans' and at the other you have the 'Green Angels 1992'. We were on the half way line in with our friends from another ultra group the BB42. Also surrounding us were lots of Bordeaux fans. They were in the home end as well as their own section but nobody gave two hoots. I've only seen the noise, singing and general fan behaviour bettered once on my travels and that was at Besiktas.

The Green Angels 1992

The Magic Fans

BB42's newest member. My good self.

A BB42 flag keeps an eye on proceedings

A bit of action

Some of the Bordeaux fans

Bordeaux fans on fire

Friends reunited

Danny Last of European Football Weekends

There is nothing worse on these trips than brilliant goalkeepers. We want to see goals and plenty of them. So with respect to the ASSE stopper Jermaine Janot and FCGB keeper Matthieu Valverde, you two chaps nearly ruined my EFW. Both made outlandish one handed saves and by and large performed heroics all day. It was going to take something pretty special to break the deadlock. Luckily, help was at hand in the form of Blaise Matuidi who - in the 54th minute - opened the scoring with a 15 yard effort using the outside of his boot which screamed into the top left hand corner. This prompted two enormous surges down each terrace at either end of the stadium (fantastic) and a silly dance from the players (not fantastic).

During any article on Bordeaux these days, one is contractually obliged to wax lyrical about midfielder Yoann Gourcuff. He is attracting more clubs than a baby puppy seal and is definitely the new Zizou. That's probably been said a trillion times in France before but this time it's for real. This wasn't his day though. He injected a little quality into the game at times but overall he was strangely out of sorts and was eventually substituted by Bordeaux boss Laurent Blanc midway through the second half.

Laurent Blanc wore jeans (jeans!) during the match. Previously, I've written letters to UEFA demanding teams be deducted points if their manager wears jeans. Blanc however is a World Cup winner. Rumour has it that so excited was he at scoring France's golden goal winner v Paraguay in the 1998 World Cup, he wet himself. So on reflection, I've decided to let him off. Fans of Bordeaux can breathe a sigh of relief. No points deduction for you. Lucky chaps.

Late on in the match, Bordeaux keeper Valverde got smacked in the nose by a swift knee resulting in an outpouring of blood onto the pitch. I couldn't help thinking this was justice and that karma had intervened. How dare he have his best game of the season in the presence of the EFW team. Only joking mate - get well soon.

Bordeaux ended up rescuing a point in the last minute when following a corner, Marouane Chamakh flicked on to Cavenaghi who headed in from close range. The away fans around us lept to their feet, the home fans stopped singing for the first time in 90 minutes and that was that 1-1.

After the match, Nick the wheels drove us back to Lyon where a bizarre hotel incident ensued. We'd booked a hotel there as we had to fly back from Lyon Airport early on Monday morning. On arriving at our hotel, Basil Fawlty let it be known that his hotel was full and we'd not booked anything with him. The Lonely Planet book had printed the wrong phone number but correct hotel description in their book. The owner said that this happened to him all the time. He told us he wasn't too sure where our hotel was. Three minutes after walking out of there confused we were unpacking our bags in the Hotel Paris opposite. Our hotel was actually 20 seconds across the road. Fawlty could have told us that but claimed he didn't know.

With it being late on a Sunday we broke one of our own EFW golden rules and did a pub crawl of English and Irish bars in Lyon. There was nothing else open in the vicinity and so places such as the Wallace Bar and the Albion had the pleasure of our company. A word of warning if you are thinking of going to Lyon. It's a lovely place but it costs over £5 a pint. Still, we drank like men until closing time and agreed that the great EFW meeting in Tilburg in October will be named the 'EFW Oktoberfest'. Fans from all over Europe are set to attend. So if you have ever wanted to join us on one of these trips then this is your chance. What are you waiting for!? Get in touch.

Big Deaks, Myself (Danny) and Nick the Wheels

Sincères salutations sportives!


Anonymous said...

'Attracting more clubs than a baby seal'. That I LIKE a lot. More cliches, please.

Unknown said...

Bravo !

Anonymous said...

Yes, bravo !

Anonymous said...

Attracting more clubs than a baby seal is the funniest thing I've heard since the BBC stopped showing Terry and June.

Anonymous said...

EFW badges duly arrrived DJL and will be sported at a forthcoming event in NE Florida with pics to follow.

Merci beaucoup as they say at Grenoble and St Etienne.

Anonymous said...

Im happy that you have a good time in S Etienne!! My hubby who is british loves to go to the "cauldron"..
Carry on your work!!
Its Great

Karine McGivern