Quoi de neuf?


A couple of weeks ago I decided to return to Kalos, the fictional region in the Pokémon universe, inspired by France nonetheless, to actually complete the playthrough of Pokémon Y on my 3DS and beat the Elite Four. After a long hiatus I was finally ready for the Victory Road!
Thanks to TwitchPlaysPokémon who made me remember the joy of Pokémon games.

The region of Kalos

Thinking about it, it was amazing that it took so long to finish the game because I bought it (just) a week after the day it was released and I was super excited for another journey as a Pokémon trainer. Having played the series since it first started almost 14 years ago and missed only the first Black and White version (released in 2011), the thrill was understandable. I grew up with Pokémon. It was (and still is mind you) one of my biggest passions. But that excitement died halfway through. It died too soon. I kinda lost interest in the game when I was only at four badges, whereas to challenge the Elite Four you have to have all 8 badges from the gym leaders in each city. Not all was lost however, because I still played it from time to time while commuting on the bus or during the afternoon break, you know, that sort of thing. But that day I picked up my 3DS and went on a Pokémon marathon until I reached the finish line.

Then I found another long-lost title that would consume a crazy amount of my precious time.

I got Fire Emblem: Awakening free of charge late last year thanks to an offer from Nintendo where I had to buy a game from this list of games to receive a free digital version of a game from this other list of games or something like that.

Truth be told I was immediately sold and bought Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity (about €34 on Amazon) just to get my free Fire Emblem that would have otherwise cost me €40. A huge profit. Three points to me! Anyway, I basically received a code, redeemed it on Nintendo eShop, downloaded the game, and, guess what, left it to rot for months until a few days ago. And believe it or not right now I’m really hooked on it. The main storyline was finished in about three days (another marathon of course), but the game’s replay value is so high that I believe I won’t abandon it anytime soon. Just a final remark – I haven’t even started playing Pokémon Mystery Dungeon yet. Nope. Another day, perhaps.

The soundtrack is awesome too.

And talking about good video game music, you should check out Suikoden Tierkreis. :mrgreen:
So that’s it. And oh, the second semester has just started. Yeah. But there’s no fun in that.

Ligue 1: 6ème journée

Allianz Riviera, Nice.
22 September 2013.

A two-hour bus ride from Valbonne to Nice would never hinder me from attending this historic inauguration of Allianz Riviera, the new home to the city’s footballing passion. The stretch from Cannes to the city centre was nevertheless rather tedious because, apparently, standing in a bus for an hour is not something I enjoy. Thanks to the commendable public transit networks of which France and the Western Europe in general boast, I had no problem in reaching the stadium before the kickoff.

Just like before every home match, the 35000-strong crowd rose to their feet to sing the unofficial anthem of Nice, Nissa la bella, this time accompanied by a choir.

Then the teams came out… and the game kicked off.

During the half-time break, the matchday organising committee presented Nice as one of the host cities  for the UEFA EURO 2016

This was a random pleasant sight. Former Liverpool player Anthony Le Tallec, who I remembered arriving at Anfield over ten years ago alongside his cousin Florent Sinama-Pongolle, was being subbed in in the second half. Both forwards had been touted as the future of Liverpool, but luck was not on their side as injuries and inconsistency eventually hindered them from progressing at the big English club.

Anyway, result-wise it was a superb evening. Nice brought Allianz Riviera to life in the best possible fashion, brushing aside Valenciennes with an emphatic 4-0 victory.

After the final whistle, popular French singer Patrick Bruel walked onto the field with a guitar in his hand, and started to belt out his first of what should have been five songs planned for the occasion. Unfortunately for him and his friend, the crowd did not hide their displeasure at seeing a Parisien who, guess what, supported rivals PSG taking the centre stage at their brand new home. Patrick Bruel tried to appease the situation by inviting the Niçois to share their favourite local tunes or songs, but it was obviously a lost cause. His voice, great it might be, was drowned by the massive boos and whistles throughout the embarassing ordeal, which lasted for just about eight minutes. Or two songs.

I, personally, was not okay with it.  Did that make me less of a supporter of the team? Duh.

My first visit to Allianz Riviera was an awesome one, and as a season ticket holder, I would not miss this magnificent stadium.

Of course there was no better way to inaugurate the new stadium than to do it with a crushing victory over the opponents, in this case an unlucky, out-of-form Valenciennes FC side.

Matchday 2: OGC Nice 4-0 Valenciennes, 5th.

Ligue 1: 4ème journée

Stade du Ray, Nice.
1 September 2013.

La Der du Ray

An emotional day for the Niçois. For 85 years the legendary Stade du Ray had been at the heart of the society, witnessing the ups and downs of the popular local football team OGC Nice. Today, inevitably, would be the last hurrah before we turn our attention to the modern Allianz Riviera. The people’s appreciation of this beloved stadium was demonstrated by thousands of Niçois who gathered at Place Masséna, forming a sea of Red and Black, and then, in the searing heat of summer, marched northward to the Ray almost 6km away. Today’s game against Montpellier HSC would conclude the long, emotional story of the Ray.

After being knocked out of the Europa League a few days prior, les Aiglons could not afford to disappoint the crowd again, especially not on this historic occasion. And they didn’t. In fact, they were impressive. Twice on top, Nice somehow failed to capitalise on the shortcomings of the visiting team, and having dominated for large parts of the game, ending it with two goals apiece was rather disappointing. Even more so when the first goal was due to a costly defensive error. Having said that, they did play well, and as a supporter it was something satisfying enough. The most important event of the day however only commenced once the final whistle was blown. The celebration of the closing of Stade du Ray. The club legends, including those who played in the 60’s, returned for a final goodbye.

As the Sun set, the fans were finally given the right to enter the sacred pitch. And thus, thousands made their way from the stand onto the green field, marking the end of a chapter of OGC Nice.

I’m neither French nor Niçois.
Heck, I can’t even speak French fluently, let alone Niçois.
I barely know this old, beloved stadium and the football club attached to it, yet I’ve come to really cherish both of them, and consequently the city of Nice.
For over twelve years I’ve supported Manchester United, watching them kicking a ball on a screen thousands of miles away from Old Trafford.
Now I’ve found a new team, much less popular than the Red Devils, but undoubtedly closer to home.
And for that reason OGC Nice mean more to me than its English counterpart.

“Amongst all unimportant things, football is by far the most important.”

Matchday 4: OGC Nice 2-2 Montpellier HSC, 12th.

More pictures of La der du Ray HERE

Le village du Ray

Nice, France.
31 August 2013.

Got up early in the morning to attend an appointment in the city centre. Definitely not the best way to start the weekend. On a side note, I know that friendliness is generally deemed as compulsory for any professional advisor, but mine really knows how to treat a client in the best possible way. Très très sympa on dirait.

As planned, I then proceeded to Place Masséna to take a look at the activities being held there, celebrating Stade du Ray, and to visit the new official store of OGC Nice which was opening its doors to the public for the very first time.


Then back to my lovely room. Recorded Einaudi’s I Giorni today out of boredom. Moving out to Sophia this Monday. New semester starts the day after.

C’est fini!

Nice, France.
29 August 2013.

Today was a big day. For us, a group of 24 Malaysian students enrolling at IUTs in Nice and Sophia Antipolis, it was our last day at Alliance Française after four fantastic months meeting various kinds of people and making new friends, be it temporary or not, and of course, attending intensive French classes 20 hours a week. A small fête had been planned, just a simple occasion to say a few goodbyes and “pour se dire au revoir”. It would, quite inevitably, be a sentimental day.

For me, though, there was something else also of great importance. It was the return leg of UEFA Europa League Play-off, with local team OGC Nice hosting their Cyprian opponents Apollon Limassol at Stade du Ray and needing to overturn a two-goal deficit. This was their first involvement in any European competition in 37 years, and for this reason a mighty disillusionment was awaiting every Niçois if they failed to qualify for the group stage. This tie was even more special  as we approached La Der’ du Ray, literally the last of Ray, to celebrate the last match ever to be played at the stadium this weekend as the curtain was being drawn on the people’s favourite home ground. After this, all home games will be played at the modern, newly-built and environmentally-friendly Allianz Riviera.

Alliance Française

Four months at this small but quality French school will be something that I’ll never forget. A very treasured memory.

Along the way I met people of different nationalities whom I’m glad to have met. While the overseas trips that I had done with my family were a great eye-opener, it was nothing compared to living in a foreign country and making new friends of diverse origins. First of all there was this interesting French professor, Sten Roi, who taught us for two months. Unimaginably hilarious, he was also a great teacher and a really cool guy. And he showed no interest whatsoever in football, yet as a true Niçois he did acknowledge and maybe even appreciate my support for OGC Nice.

First group photo with Sten (in black) taken in June.

For the other couple of months, we, the Malaysian students, were regrouped together (into two groups) and enrolled in a preparation class in the afternoon for TCF, an obligatory examination required to enter into local universities. This time we got a twenty-something ( 😆 ) Florence as our professor, and it didn’t take us long to like her. If you’re nice, friendly, and sometimes funny, how could people hate you right? I still remember how genuinely surprised (in a pleasing way) I was when simply by noticing my fingers she managed to figure out that I played guitar, the first ever person to have done that since I started playing it two years ago. Too bad she is not even remotely interested in OGC Nice (and football in general) despite the fact that she too, like Sten, is a Niçoise. 😆  Not forgetting the wonderful workforce of AF, including the always cheerful and merry Garance. I extend to you guys a huge thanks. From the bottom of my heart. Really.

So to mark this special day (29 August), I had decided to recite a few simple guitar pieces to the whole class, essentially thanks to the personal request made by Florence, although jokingly, on our first day with her. Due to time constraint, however, I could only play three pieces: Francis Cabrel’s Je l’aime a mourir, Ludovico Einaudi‘s I Giorni and the Beatles’ Yesterday, all fingerstyle. I’d say it was a disaster as errors were aplenty, but the others thought otherwise. I don’t know. Comme vous voulez. Before parting, obviously, we took the imperative group photos as souvenirs.

OGC Nice

First and foremost: see THIS, s’il vous plait.

Before bidding the final goodbye to AF, I chatted with one of the staff members, Jean-Philippe, who was really impressed by my enthusiasm for les Rouge et Noir. It felt weird, he told me, seeing a Malaysian who was very passionate about such a relatively obscure, local football club. None of the foreigners he had ever met at AF were like me. He was visibly proud, being a true Niçois (also French! :lol:) and all.

Next stop: Stade du Ray.

The night in Cyprus a week ago was catastrophic, and in two hours it might be the only thing that would matter. The damage had been done. Without any doubt now was the perfect time to fix it.

As I found my seat, my attention was drawn to a small group of fans unveiling a new banner that read: Vous nous avez fait rêver. Maintenant on veut voyager. “You made us dream. Now we want to travel.”. I could almost hear them saying “We can still do this.” through that banner. Optimism was key. While the stadium was being filled by the supporters, the visiting fans in blue were enjoying themselves. Loud and estatic, the Cypriots had every right to be. They were initially the underdogs. That day, however, the odds were more balanced.

At 20h00, the game kicked off. Four minutes later, Super Dario found the net, sending the home crowd into ruptures. It was a moment of sheer delirium. For once we really thought we were going to make it, and overturning a two-goal deficit seemed simple enough. Les Aiglons pushed and pushed for the all-important second goal to equalise the score in aggregate and at least force the contest into extra-time. Apollon did well in time-wasting, but we dominated the match and were by far the better side.

But everything was eventually in vain, as it proved to be the only goal of the game. As the game dragged into additional time, the spirit and fervor manifested by the supporters started to dissipate. It was time to face the bitter reality. We were just not good enough. The damage, as I said, had been done a week earlier for it was in Nicosia where everything went wrong. This short European journey left nothing more than une valise pleine de regrets. Full of regrets and broken dreams. For most of the Niçois, they waited 37 years for essentially nothing. For me, it was my first and only European night, and it was frustrating.

On my way back, near Place Masséna situated more than 3km away from the stadium, a bus braked and stopped while turning in front of me. Inside it was seated an old man by the window. He saw me wearing the team’s home kit, and he shook his head, giving me an utterly grief-stricken look that I found extremely depressing. That did hit me hard. Imagine how long he had waited for such an opportunity to play in a prestigious European competition to come by, and how ultimately cruel the end was.

We have to move on. Montpellier are visiting us this Sunday. Make it a memorable day for le Ray.

UEFA Europa League Play-off 2nd Leg.
OGC Nice 1-0 Apollon Limassol (Aggregate: 1-2), Nice eliminated from the competition.

More pics HERE.