Tag Archives: Football Away Days

ALLEZ L’OM! A visit to Olympique Marseille with Avalanche

Olympique de Marseille v Lorient

Velodrome

26th August 2016 20:45 Ligue 1
Stade Vélodrome, 3 Boulevard Michelet, 13008 Marseille, France

Last Christmas I was absolutely delighted to find some cheap flights from Lulsgate to Marseille, in that sweet spot at the end of the school summer holidays when the new football season has begun. The whole of France is En Vacance so there’s no risk of strikes and the mistral is down to a gentle breeze, almost making the 30 ° + heat fairly bearable. After a wet week in Wales last year, a family holiday in the South of France was something to look forward to, especially as I could probably factor in a trip to catch an Olympique de Marseille game. Yes some of my motivation for visiting this neck of the woods was OM driven, having been a fan from a far for many years.
Once the fixture list for the new season was finally revealed, I saw that we would see them lining up against Lorient from in the north-west France in Brittany. Purchasing tickets online from Bristol was a breeze – I selected a pair in the Tribune Jean Bouin (a French athlete from 100 years ago), clicked on the “Achter” button and then they were immediately mine to print out.

Jean Bouin

Fast forward several months to holiday time and disaster struck in the departure lounge. I realised that I had forgotten my tablet pre-loaded with loads of holiday reading material, so I panic bought some magazines which I will barely consume and a copy of Hunter S Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas to re-read.

We were to spend our first 24 hours dans la Ville de Marseille before heading out west, on a train along the beautiful Côte Bleue to our holiday resort near Martigues. In this time we could see how important the club is to the City, spotting the OM logo everywhere and specifically on a variety of the distinctive white and sky blue Adidas maillots (replica shirts) being proudly worn. In the tourist Information office I booked a stadium tour for the day after the game and I managed to leave a few well-chosen Bristol City stickers round the place before we left until our return at the weekend.

Cut to a few relaxing days later, leaving the girls by the pool, me and my Son are heading back into Marseille for our football adventure. Spotting our shirts, a young French lad, who was heading back up North with his family after a week off, was doing his best to engage my Son with a few football related questions, but my lad did his best to pretend he wasn’t there – probably for the best as it turned out they were heading back to Paris and he was P$G. Being a long time OM fan, I’d already schooled my son that the Parisien team are to be respected as much here as we do Bristol Rovers at home.

Gustave Ganay

On arrival back in Marseille we made our way to our Airbnb near the stadium, which was on the brilliantly named Boulevard Gustave Ganay. We were afforded a fine view of the magnificent new Velodrome from our room and it was complete with mosquito nets which amused Avalanche Jr after I explained what they were for. After a reasonably confusing but entertaining conversation in Franglais with the host we headed back into the centre of town for an ice cream on the Vieux Port.

Much to my dismay I discovered that the tres grande Mural of local boy Zinedine Zidane on the Corniche is no more. So we hit up the local Adidas store, which has a fantastic tribute by a local graffiti artist to Zizou in the stairwell. The merchandise was more expensive than ever due to the Brexit effect – €90+ for a shirt is a little beyond my willing, despite my sons pleading, so we left empty handed. Taking a stroll through Castelane, heading back towards the stadium I remind Joe that his namesake (his middle name is Zinedine – my Wife was caught unaware in the hours following his birth) heralds from this very area. Maybe he’s just taking it all in but he doesn’t seem that impressed.

Zidane

Supporters ShopOnce we made it back up to the Boulevard Michelet, the place was a little busier with OM shirts everywhere. We made a visit to the official club superstore, where my favourite piece of tat was a pair of 3D OM boxer shirts complete with glasses. No I didn’t understand the point either. I was tempted by a full size replica of the European Cup, but it close a few zeros more € than I had at my disposal. (Incidentally Marseille are the only French club ever to have won it – something fans like to remind those in Pari$ whenever possible.) We then headed over the road to the Ultras own shop (pictured above), at the foot of a massive block of flats opposite the stadium. This was a refreshing place after the clinical interior of the official, Adidas sponsored shop we had just escaped form – there was a great level and variety of stock, from t-shirts, scarves and badges  Some fantastic anti-P$G stuff was on display) and the whole organisation was impressive – it puts most official club so called “super shops” to shame.

Back outside, after I had strategically placed a BCFC Away Days sticker, we sat down for a Velo 2quick glass of Ricard at the amusingly titled “Le Fair Play pub”. Ricard is a type of Pastis, which is an aniseed flavoured aperitif, best consumed diluted with water, ice and hot weather. It’s incredibly popular in Marseille and everyone was at it – the beer drinking (La Cagole, a popular malty + fizzy local brew was my favourite) seems to happen after the game. A few locals were curious about our accents and once they found out we were English it was all about the local legend that is Chris Waddle. His name was the first two words anyone said to us when they discovered our origin. There was also talk of Joey Barton, who is a minor cult hero after his season long loan here a few years back.

Waddle

Refreshed, we had a few Kodak moments before making our way up the ginormous mass of steps to the foot of the stadium and made our way into the stadium through the Kiddies Haribo section – I presume this was to get the younger fans as suitably wired as the adults. A very smart looking lady (airline hostess standard) handed us a free program each and escorted us to our seats.

MLD

With 30 minutes to go before kick-off, the two Ultra groups at both ends were already in action and produced a constant wall of sound until the very end of the game. Their positive enthusiasm for the duration of the game was refreshing, despite the protests that were also happening, targeted at owner Margarita Louis-Dreyfus. MLDGO signs were everywhere (inside and outside) and the Virage Sud Ultras displayed a massive strongly worded, sign which spanned the whole width of the Velodrome. Fans seemed to be very unhappy about the owner’s lack of interest in their club. Days after, their wish was granted and she was selling the whole concern to an American investor. The game was poorly attended with the reported number being 26193, with many fans were staying away in protest. Despite this, the atmosphere was electric and after the teams walked out to Jump by Van Halen (which sounded better than you’d think) we didn’t know if we should be watching the game or the fans! My son was particular transfixed with the fat bloke stood on a purpose built platform, with his back to the pitch shouting instructions out through a megaphone.

The game itself went well, with OM recording their first win of the season with a 2-1 victory. The first goal came from a particularly impressive free kick from Cabella and Swansea loanee Gomis, who was an absolute joy to watch play.

It was a late night for both of us – French games typically kick of at 9pm, which I was thankful for it was still absolutely baking inside. Next morning, after a quick espresso and a pain au chocolate – we reported for duty at 09:30 for a stadium tour before catching a train from the Gare St Charles back to our holiday in Martiques. We did manage to get a few good photos of my son in his City shirt for hopeful inclusion in the programme once we got home – check the Leeds edition!
I did afford myself a quick glance back over the city from the fine vantage point that is on offer at the top of the steps in front of the station and said a quiet au revoir. Marseille is an amazing city whose inhabitants are a credit to it. And it’s easier to listen to the local’s lingo down here, as they speak a little slower! Everything you’ve heard is wrong and the Marseillais are friendly as Parasians are rude!

Fam

The author and his son!

by Avalanche (with a little help from his Editor ;o)

 

NB: This peace originally appeared in the Autumn 2016 edition, of Bristol City fanzine, The Bountyhunter (@BountyhunterBC)

 

Arsenal 2-0 Marseille – 26/11/13

Supporting a team from a different city or country is never going to be an easy thing, but with the social media and technology we have today I have found it easier and easier watch Marseille games from a distance and from the comfort of my sofa. Unfortunately watching them in person, hasn’t got that much easier for me. You can’t fly from Newcastle to Marseille, often the only flight into France is to Paris, trains to London are obscenely priced to then make a connection, oh, and I’m a teacher too so unless there’s a game during the holidays I couldn’t go anyway. But, every once in a while you feel like someone is smiling and looking over you as when the Champion’s League fixtures were announced, fate would have it that I was already booked on a training course in London on the day of the Arsenal game. What an opportunity! So I made my best plans to get hold of tickets in the away end.

Unfortunately the tickets that a few of us were expecting, never arrived, after a hold up at Paris airport (damn Parisians!). Richard, who had ordered the tickets desperately tried everything to make arrangements, including getting in touch with the supporters group, trying to get replacements, even speaking to Arsenal explaining the situation, but unfortunately nothing happened. So with less than 24 hours to the game we sent out some emergency tweets, asking anyone for an RT in an attempt to find some spare tickets, I was even contacting Arsenal supporting friends asking about tickets in the home end out of sheer desperation! Good friends on twitter were asking around too, but it wasn’t looking good, so I sulked off to bed in an attempt to get some sleep before the big day.

The day started at 3:30, with a quick coffee, bite to eat and then de-ice of the car before setting off to Doncaster (last train back to Newcastle leaves London at 10.00, meaning I’d have to leave the game at half time to get home, whereas last train to Doncaster is 11.30 meaning I could stay for the whole game, but does involve 2 hour drive each way). An ambient musical playlist was provided by The XX, Fleetwood Mac with a little bit of Van Halen (‘Jump’) thrown in to get me into the mood for hopefully watching OM. As I sat waiting for my train to London, I couldn’t help worry that the trip would be in vain, as I still had no ticket and would be relying on someone having a spare, so began planning what tourist sites I could later visit in London as I waited for my late return train. As the train neared London, re-tweets started flashing through and a message from Liam came through asking if I was down for the game, I explained the situation, and after hearing that he’d try and sort something, my reception was lost to London’s mighty tunnels and underground system.

Photo 26-11-2013 17 42 25

When I emerged from Earl’s Court tube stop, the phone vibrated and as I looked I saw a message from Liam: ‘Sorted’. Enough said. My course was good enough, but it was a struggle to stop my mind from wandering to the thought of being in such a fantastic ground, in with the OM ultras. After finishing up, it was time to head over to Kings Cross. I met up with Ben, a huge OM fan, and we chatted about OM, life, work and everything in between like a pair of old mates who hadn’t seen each other for years. Photo 26-11-2013 18 32 35As good as the beer was, we both had one thing to sort still, tickets. Off we headed to the Emirates. Ben went to meet Franky, top honcho amongst the Virage Sud ultras, and I headed to meet Liam and his ‘contact’. Time was getting on, and I was still a bit worried that the tickets might not materialise, so when we met Karim, and he didn’t have them I was flapping a little. As Karim’s contact showed up shortly after and distributed tickets amongst his friends, it looked even worse as Karim started to count numbers on his hands and anxiously looked in our direction. Finally, Karim’s contact handed him a couple more, and we had them! Panic over, worry ended, excitement building, beer time. We headed to the nearby pub and met up with Ben, Franky and Marek, and we all headed into the back room where the OM fans were already in full voice.

Photo 26-11-2013 19 03 37As exciting as it was, to be amongst the ultras, singing away happily with their Arsenal counterparts, it was game time so we headed to the away section. After a quick bag search and pat down, we were in and headed for our ‘seats’. Security quickly told us, ‘just find anywhere mate, no one’s sitting where they should be’. He was right, no one was sitting where they should have been, and they weren’t even standing where they should’ve been, in fact when the game kicked of everyone was standing on the seat of any space they could find. I wasn’t to complain though, as I ended up only 12 rows or so from the front even closer to the flag waving, chanters, who I’d really wanted to be amongst. The Emirates as a stadium is undoubtedly impressive. Fair facilities in the away end and even padded seats. The curvature of the top of the stands reminded me a little of the Velodrome, but unfortunately, as with most modern stadiums it lacks a little character, as did the atmosphere for most of the evening.  Aside from the obvious 2 cheers from home fans, the most noise came when Arsenal made their substitutions. An occasional chant of ‘Ar-se-nal’ rang round a few times along with a semi-impressive call and response song between the Clock end and North Bank, though nowhere near the spectacle that the Virage Nord and Sud create at the Velodrome.

Photo 26-11-2013 19 42 28

So after all of the excitement what better way to start a game than to go 0-1 down within the opening minute? Typical. OM were tore apart down the left as Morel and Khalifa in particular struggled with Arsenal’s dominance and slick passing play. OM struggled to get a foothold on the game, as Arsenal passed the ball around them with ease. Even when Marseille did manage to win a tackle and retain the ball, the midfield 3 of Lemina, Romao and Imbula where too far away from the forward 3 of Jordan Ayew, Gignac and Khalifa, so hopefull through-balls and punts up the pitch where never going to help. In truth a change in formation to the usual 4-2-3-1, or even a temporarily defensive 4-5-1 would have helped to control the game a little more. It was almost inevitable that without Valbuena, Payet and Thauvin in the starting 11, OM would find it difficult against a team as good as Arsenal, particularly with the confidence that Arsenal have at the moment, but the lack lustre performance from a number of the OM players was difficult to take as a fan. The fans did manage to air their grievances a little, and made sure that Jordan Ayew understood what they thought of his typically lethargic performance as he was substituted in the 2nd half.

Keeping the game at 0-1 was mainly down to Mandanda, who had another of his incredible games, pulling of some great saves including a penalty save from Ozil in the 1st half. Nkoulou and Mendes did manage to snuff out many attacks too once the ball inevitably made its way into the centre after going past either Abdallah or Morel all too often.

Wilshere’s 2nd of the game really took the wind out of the OM sails, as with 30 minutes left and the introduction of Valbuena and Thauvin, it looked like Marseille might actually fancy getting something out of the game. Half chances were few and far between though, with an audacious lob by Gignac being cleared on the goal line the closest we managed, before two late Thauvin strikes were saved well by Szczesny.

Unfortunately the full time whistle went without even a consolation goal to cheer me up about the remaining return part of my journey. Valbuena, Romao and Mandanda noticeably came over to pay tribute to the OM fans at the end of the game, with Romao giving his shirt to one supporter at the front who had presumably lost his own as he spent the entire chilly night topless, clapping and chanting.

A mere 7 hours after the game finished I eventually climbed into bed and managed a grand 2 hours sleep before having to get up for work. It was a good sleep though, dreaming about my mini adventure, and thinking about the fantastic people I met. I hope it won’t be too long before I meet Franky, Marek, Liam and Ben again, weather that’s in London, Newcastle or hopefully even in the Velodrome, it doesn’t really matter.

My eye-balls literally feel like Ferero-Roches as I write this, and you know what, I’d do it all again tomorrow if I could.

Allez l’OM!

Andrew (@aswanny84 & @MarseilleUK)