One very awkward englishman, boldly goes…

My first trip to Stade Velodrome

I would first of all like to apologise for the terrible state of the photography on this post! 

So, as some kind of right of passage now I am a resident of Marseille, I thought it only right to pay homage to the mighty OM (Olympique de Marseille for those not in the know). For the last few years I have been following the fortunes of OM, and I made sure to do my research on the players, manager and results for OM before arriving in Marseille, as I knew it would be a great starting point of conversation.

For those who don’t know much about OM, here is a little recap of recent history…

  • OM are in ligue 1 (the French equivalent of the premier league)
  • They are managed by former Chelsea and French international footballer Didier Deschamps, who was in the French team when they lifted the world cup in 98
  • OM play in the Stade Velodrome which at present can hold 60 031 places – but is currently being upgraded in time for the French European championships
  • They have won the Coupe de League for the last 2 years and last won the French League 1 in 2010. They last won the Champions League in 1993
  • Their major rivals are PSG (Paris Saint Germain) and previous meeting between the teams have ended in violence and rioting by fans. The encounter is now closed to away fans in each stadium to minimise trouble. This encounter is known in France as ‘Le Classico’.
Me and 2 friends decided to buy tickets for the mid-week semi final of Coupe de League as Marseille played local rivals Nice. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to get to the stadium – just 20 mins by the metro. Certainly a lot easier than Wembley by Underground! Once we arrived we went and got some food and a beer/ Pastis on the Prado (the road that runs alongside the stadium) and soak up the atmosphere. I was immediately struck by how different it was to pre-matches in England. No heavy drinking, chanting, drunken antics or violence that I saw. As we sat down for a drink I realised how calm and civilised the experience was, with people slowly sipping and Pastis and chatting with friends, whilst dressed in the OM colours of blue and white.
Arriving at the stadium entrance the atmosphere started to pick up, as we could hear the announcement on the pitch, the classic OM songs and the rival fans whistles.

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As we arrived the teams were warming up, and we first caught sight of our favourite players, such as Valbuena, Remy and Mandanda.

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We stood down the front whilst the teams emerged.

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Didier Deschamps walks to his position on the touch-line.

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The match was fantastic. Marseille won 2-1, although key-player Valbuena was sent off for two separate yellow cards for tiny incidents – much to the displeasure of the home fans. I certainly learnt some new words and expressions that night that shouldn’t be repeated in front of the mother of my fiancé!

After the match it was back on the metro for 20 mins and home. I couldn’t believe how easy it all was. No crushing on the Metro, although admittedly the match was under-attended due to a bigger game this sunday vs Lyon. Apparently there were a few clashes between the 2 sets of fans after the match, but we were all home by then.

ALLEZ  l’OM!!!

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