Archive for September, 2013

PostHeaderIcon 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.

PostHeaderIcon Pic: IUT

An early morning at IUT Nice Sophia-Antipolis, Biot.
12 September 2013.

The mornings are getting colder.

PostHeaderIcon Pic: Paris #2

La basilique du Sacré-Cœur, Paris.
9 August 2013.

Raindrops keep falling on my head.

PostHeaderIcon 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