Red Star 0-1 Créteil

Firstly, I would like to take this oppitunity to apologize for the extreme lateness of this blog entry. Reasons for this include working in a pub (Red Star mostly play on Friday nights), hangovers, Christmas duties and laziness. However it’s a new year so such a poor writing output will no longer be tolerated.

A brief assessment of Red Star’s first half of the season sees the team comfortably placed in mid-table mediocricy.  Since the last time I visited Stade Bauer, RS have drawn twice and won once scoring just three goals in as many games. Clearly a lack of firepower up front is costing the team a higher league position. After the  lack of even shots on goal in my first game, I’m not expecting a goal fest anytime soon.

However the one factor that could change that are tonight’s opponents, top of the league and fellow Parisians US Créteil –Lusitanos or more commonly known  simply as Créteil. Based in the south eastern Paris suburb of Créteil, the club were formed in 1936 and don’t have much to shout about in terms of success, a fourth division title in 1987 followed by the third division a year later. A quarter final place in ‘86 is their best run in the Coupe de France. Prior to this meeting Créteil sit first place, with a six point lead.

Unfortunately for tonight’s game I will not be accompanied by anyone, but considering all the times I tried to get mates down to watch York with me and failed, it’s something I’m comfortably used to. Torrential rain and strong winds had been battering Paris for much of the day, which had dampened my enthusiasm for attending however by six the weather had calmed down and was actually quite mild for mid-december in Paris.

After mis-timing my metro journey, I arrive at Stade Bauer just a few minutes prior to kick off and to my horror and delight in equal measure, there is a healthy queue at the ticket office (to actually get in the stand you have to buy a ticket, go through one checkpoint with ticket then another checkpoint to be body checked, its all rather thorough and slightly annoying, what’s wrong with a turnstile?) whilst handing over my five euros I am handed a leaflet,  my french is nowhere near good enough to understand it but i do get “ten minute silence” and “club president”, further explanation of this will be later. One slightly annoying element, which I forgot to mention in the last blog, is one of the many factors which highlights the difference in professionalism at this level of football in France and England. For example, when paying the entrance fee one receives a match-day programme which at only a few pages is perfectly reasonable in terms of information, there are player profiles, league news, visiting team profile with last meeting stats and youth team news but no squad lists! So in order to find out who will be playing there is a photocopy of both team line ups including the subs with the away team quite charmingly written in pen, stuck to the merchandise stand. It’s wonderfully old-fashioned and part-time, but it means having to consult my phone every time I need to check a player’s name!

On taking my place in the stand just as the Referee blows his whistle for kick off,  two things strike me straight away, firstly the swell in numbers  from my last visit and secondly the complete lack of noise from the home crowd. Obviously a rise in attendance is due to this being a derby against the league leaders and the quietness is the ten minute silence mentioned earlier. A third noticeable element is the away support who are housed in what I thought was the unused stand opposite the main stand. Around eighty have made the trip over the city, thirty of these are scattered around the back of the stand the other fifty are a mob of absolute lunatics at the front. With a good number of banners and flags which are very much in the style of the continents ultra fan base. Much in the same way as I was astounded at the level of vocal support from the RS fans at my first visit, these boys take it to the next level, I’m not even sure how much of the game they see due to the constant chanting, clapping and jumping around. During the first twenty minutes of the game half of them have their tops off, reminding me slightly of fat geordies at St James’ Park, added to this was their version of the classic English terrace move “lets all have a disco” which was from what I could see just basically a mosh pit. Tops off, moshing to a big drum at a football match, in December. Quite brilliantly bizarre.

After a number of shhhhss’ after ten minutes the RS fans sparked to life after the self imposed silence obviously relieved to be banging their own drum after having to solely listen to the Créteil mob. On the pitch the game had started very brightly and as with every derby no matter how big or small the challenges were flying at a tasty rate. Furthermore the actual football was a huge improvement from my last visit, RS evidently upping a gear against their higher placed neighbours. The sloppy passing, control and sluggish movement replaced by zippy, confident  attacking football. Créteil also started impressively showing exactly why they are top of the league. Unfortunately, the tasty challenges were becoming more rash and slowing the game down. So much so that Creteil were down to ten men in the opening ten minutes, Faneva Andriatsima receiving his marching orders for a straight red after a clumsy challenge. The game would go on to see another six yellow cards. If the red card had rattled the away team they didn’t show it and the two teams played out a very entertaining , open first half with chances for both teams, the referee blew his whistle for half time which then prompted a very amusing episode of handbags between RS’s big centre forward Cedric Sabin and a number of the Créteil defence.

Hopefully some of the more eagle eyed readers of my last entry will have noted that despite the title of this blog nothing was mentioned of half time refreshments. Now, I’m sure there is a perfectly good reason for this but the snack stand produced another annoyingly time consuming set-up. First step is to queue at one stand, hand over some euros and receive a ticket for whatever you have ordered (no pies or bovril on offer so I opt for what is basically a sausage sandwich) next you have to join another queue which is no where near the orderly standard of a British queue, and then hand over your ticket for your order. The whole thing took the whole of the interval and the first five minutes of the second half. Incidently the sausage sandwich was two bratwurst style sausages in a dry baguette. Very disappointing, leading me to dream of a cup of hot bovril and a chicken balti pie.

With the second half underway Red Star appear to be determined to make the most of the extra man, and pile the pressure on Créteil. RS dominate possesion and carve out numerous half chances. Obviously this does leave the team quite vunerable at the back and on the fifty third minute the away side break away on the counter, a few to many touches in the final third allowing RS to regroup at the back, the ball finally falls to Oumarou Diaby who completely scuffs his shot. Incredibly the tame goal bound shot bamboozles Jean Cristophe Bouet in the home goal as he goes down for a routine pick up and lets the ball squirm under his body to put the away side 1-0 up. Cue groans all around me, it’s a cruel way to concede. After the goal RS make all three changes as they try and salvage the game, playing the last twenty minutes with three upfront including maraudering centre half and captain Samuel Allegro. RS pepper the goal for the rest of the game but fail to draw level due to an impressive display of goalkeeping from Yann Kerboriou in the Créteil goal. It’s a valiant and rousing performance from the home team and they deserved at least a point from this game.

So after 180 minutes of football I am yet to see RS score a goal, reminds me slightly of the Terry Dolan years at York. However there have been signs of some decent football, I’m convinced it won’t be long until I see RS ripple the net. Earlier I mentioned the 10 minute silence held by the home supporters at the beginning of the match. After some further research and translation courtesy of my brilliant girlfriend, the issue is a familiar one to many English football supporters. For the last couple of years there has been talk from various people at the club of a potential ground move seven miles out of Saint-Ouen. According to reports the main reason for the proposed move is an increase in parking at the new ground, yes really. Obviously the Red Star faithful are completely opposed to this and have no desire to leave their home of 103 years. The fans do concede that Bauer is in need of refurbishment and that is their preferred course of action. As with all grounds in residential areas, the sale of the ground to big fat property developers is something likely to be considered by the board, thus paying for proposed new stadium. The one man who has been keeping quiet in all this is the president Patrice Haddad, until recently. He had always declined to comment without having the backing of fans, but something obviously changed his mind recently, releasing a statement on the clubs official website backing the ground move. Cue the organised silence for this game, a defiant message that the club is nothing without the fans, and nothing should be decided without their consultation. A fascinating insight into the inner workings of Red Star 93 and the importance and power of it’s fan base, and I topic I intend to explore more in the future.

Cheers for reading,
Allez Red Star!

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Red Star 0-0 Vannes OC

Welcome back!

After all the talk and history lesson of my first entry the time has come to enthrall you all with the tale of my first taste of proper French football. Finishing work on Friday afternoon I feel a real sense of excitement that only an evening footy game can bring. I have managed to persuade a couple of mates in making the short trip up to Saint-Ouen. Ollie and Ed are long time Paris residents and supporting Bristol City and Northampton Town respectively,  the familiarity of frequently sub-standard football is something we all share and should put us in  good stead for third division french football.

When I arrive at the excellent Bugsy’s Bar (Rue Montalivet 8th Arr) I’m delighted to discover Ed and Ollie are equally excited about the match! From there it’s a twenty minute metro ride on line thirteen up to Saint-Ouen. Saint-Ouen is a pretty nondescript suburb four miles north from the city center, home to Paris’ flea market which apparently has the highest concentration of antique and second hand furniture dealers in the world. The suburb is also notable for being the birthplace of Liverpool legend Djimi ‘blame it on’ Traore.

After a short walk from the metro the first glimpse of Stade Bauer’s floodlights really set our pulses racing. When we come upon the ground itself we are confronted with a large concrete slab which slightly resembles a seventies multi storey car park. Finding our bearings we secure our match ticket for an incredible paltry sum of five euros, sixteen pounds less than Bootham Crescent I announce with incredulity.

Stade Bauer is nearly as old as the club itself opening in 1909. The official capacity is ten thousand although no where near that amount  is used, three stands surround the pitch with only the large main stand in use tonight. From our vantage point the stand running parallel to ours looks in total disrepair and obviously hasn’t been used for years. Behind the goal to our left is a large standing terrace which although in better condition also appears to see little or no use. The stand we find ourselves in houses all of tonight’s attendance, and between us we estimate the total crowd to be around a thousand (which turns out to be spot on with the official attendance being 1092) and whilst milling around the snack stand outside it is noticeable a few Vannes supporters have made the trip down from Brittany. It is at this point I try and get the beers in, beers found for another paltry sum of two euros each I return to the lads triumphantly only to be told gleefully I have bought alcohol free beer and that the stadium is an alcohol free zone, fail.

As we take our places at the back of the stand, one of the first things I notice is the diversity of the crowd. There are lots of young kids running around, some with parents some on their own, kids entry is free and its good sight to see plenty of young ones coming down to support their local team. There are numerous old boys in flat caps and club scarves with hundreds of years between them on the beaten and weathered terraces. There are small pockets of teenagers chain smoking at the back trying their best to look as cool and disinterested in the football as possible. Lastly down at the front of the stand is a group combined of the previous, numbering around a hundred, these lot make an incredible amount of noise and not just in bursts every few minutes, for 90 minutes they don’t stop. Assisted by the obligatory annoying drum and bizarrely one guy seemingly just blowing random noises from a recorder, I have never been at a football match with such unprecedented support for the home team.

The barmy home fans bring me nicely on to the actual football, which if the football witnessed here was on display at a professional game in England, abuse and vitriol would be served up by the fans rather than the unequivocal support shown here. Now before I get slated by any real Red Star fans that might be reading this, I do understand not every match can be a goal fest thriller and every supporter has to endure dour nil nills (honestly, eight years watching conference football I have had my share) but this was extremely dour. The first half produced one shot on goal for each team and zero aesthetically pleasing football. Praise though should go to the Red Star back four who looked solid and kept Vannes’ lively lone striker Mohamed at bay, captain Samuel Allegro marshaling his defence effectively. Added to this and the one real stand out player was the Red Star right back Pierre Gibaud who looked equally confident defending and going forward, assured in possession and clearly read the game well. Gibaud impressed us, so much so that Ollie revealed his intentions of emailing Bristol City with the lads credentials. Half time was a welcome brake, expectations high for the second forty five.

There were obviously some hairdryers deployed in the Red Star dressing room at half time because Red Star started the second half far more brightly and with a lot more urgency. With Red Star pressing higher up the pitch, Vannes struggled to get a hold of the game. The main problem for Red Star was the deployment of a lone striker of their own, the number nine Cedric Sabin lumbered around the oppositions half and when he did manage to get himself in a position to receive the ball his touch and pace constantly let him down. If anyone was lucky enough to see Leo Fortune-West in the latter stages of his career then I think you’ll get the picture. As the half went on Red Stars dominance began to fade and only a succession of corners came close to bothering the Vannes keeper. The last twenty minutes were a total non event other than a wildly erratic overhead kick from a Red Star player that sailed majestically over the bar.

The full time whistle prompted no boos or jeers put plenty of enthusiastic applause and chanting from the home fans which the three of  us extremely admired. We decided to chalk this one off, if the Red Star Army are constantly this positive, it can’t always be this bad! In the bar opposite the ground plastered with fading Red Star team photos we decide that despite the awful football, the atmosphere more than made up for it, we’re coming back! Allez Red Star!

Cheers!!!

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An Introduction…

Bonjour!

Welcome to my debutant entry into the world wide blogosphere! This first blog is just a little introduction to let you know what you can find here in the future, and a teeny weeny bit about myself.

After fifteen years supporting my beloved York City, in May 2012 I witnessed a truly wonderful day at Wembley Stadium, The Minstermen returning to the football league after a long and hard 9 years in Englands fifth tier. During the subsequent hours of celebration, whilst talking excitedly about furture trips to football landmarks such as Valley Parade, Roots Hall and Underhill, my mind gathered itself and reminded me of my impending move to Paris in September.

The dissapointment oozed from me, the realisation I would miss the majority of our first season back in League 2, and that away trip to Dagenham and Redbridge. Anyway, three days later and a very sore head I pulled my self together. York could do without me for one year and I would find a replacement. So this was my idea, go and watch some footy in Paris, write about it and hope somebody reads it!

Now, I will not bore you with a history of Parisien football. I’m sure you are all aware of the new cash rich Paris Saint-Germain, I wouldn’t really know much about them seeing as I usually watch my football at places like Edgeley Park rather than Stamford Bridge.

Instead I will be concentrating on places a little more modest, but  with more history and character than one of PSG’s eighty euro replica shirts. The two clubs I will be focusing on are Paris FC and more importantly Red Star 93.

Both clubs currently play in the Championat National which is the third tier of French Football. Although equivalant to League 1 in England, the average attendances of both club is more akin to Conference standard.

FC have a relatively modern history dating back to only 1969. They merged with Stade St Germain but soon split with the newly christened Paris Saint-Germain, whose own history is obviously well documented. FC however were dealt a far harsh hand, last playing in the top flight in 1979.

Red Star, have a long and colourful history. Formed way back in 1897 by none other than future FIFA President Jules Rimet. One of the founding members of Ligue 1, their early years also contain five Coupe de France titles. Based in the working class and now mutli-cultural Saint-Ouen northern suburb of Paris, Red Star now also find themselves languashing in the third tier.

So that’s the history lesson over for now, I will enthrall you with more in later entries. In future blog entries, whilst obviously commenting on the games I go to watch, I won’t bore you with long match reports. I want to make a comment on the atmosphere of these places, the fans and the way the lower league french football culture compares to England.

All thats left to say is I hope you come back for my second and proper entry after my visit this friday to the Stade Bauer to watch Red Star take on Vannes OC!

Allez Red Star!!

Cheers, Paul.

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