Olympique Nimes 3 AJ Auxerre 0

Nimes in the Occitanie region of southern France is a wonderful and ancient city with a plethora of Roman remains including a virtually complete amphitheatre and temple (La Maison Carre), which frankly make most of the Roman remains in England look like random heaps of rubble and barely worth bothering about.
History notwithstanding, tonight we are in Nimes for the match between Olympique Nimes and AJ Auxerre, two football clubs that have in the past both played at the top level of French football, Auxerre having even won the Ligue 1 title. Today however, both are in the under-hyped Ligue 2, the second of France’s two professional leagues. Despite France’s reputation for haute cuisine, Ligue 2 is sponsored by Domino’s Pizza.
We bought our tickets36417703784_710e709552_o at the Stade des Costières stadium earlier in the day to avoid any queue, although we did have to wait a short while because the sign in the window of the guichet read ‘back in five minutes’. Tickets for the main stand cost 14 euros, whilst those for the identical stand opposite are 9 euros and a ticket behind the goal costs 4 euros. We buy 9 euro tickets in the Tribune Sud (South stand). There are acres of free car parking all around the Stade des Costières and arriving a little more than an hour before kick-off it’s easy to park up near the exit for a quick getaway after the match. Nevertheless, there are plenty of people here already, buying tickets, standing about, socialising and heading to bars for a pre-match aperitif.36850917370_8ee635af66_o
The stadium itself isn’t open yet, but we file in a minute or two after seven o’clock and the now standard frisking and bag inspection. The Stade des Costières was opened in 1990 and designed by Vittorio Gregotti and Marc Chausse; Gregotti was also architect of the Stadio Communale Luigi Ferraris in Genoa, one of the venues for the 1990 World Cup. Although the stadium does now look a little run down in places, it is nevertheless a fine building and a great place to watch football. There are two broad sweeps of grey seating on either side with roofs suspended from exposed steelwork.

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The ends are open and each corner of the ground is a white concrete block containing the accesses, buvettes and toilets and on the main-stand side, club offices. Inside these blocks the ramps and staircases read more like an art gallery than a football stadium and from the ramps there are views across the seats through sculpted openings. The stands behind the goals with their bench seats and classical-style structures at the back, which whilst looking a bit naff somehow also look alright in this context, make me think of the arène (amphitheatre) in the centre of town; I hear a far of voice of a hawker “ Otter lips, Badger spleen!”.
The sun is setting spectacularly behind the Tribune Ouest casting soft shadows on the white concrete of the Stade, the clouds that have made it a grey day are dispersing, the floodlights are on and the teams are warming up. There is a wonderful air of expectancy and relaxed sociability as the Stade fills up and people throng by the pitch and on the broad concourse behind the seats. Some men drink beer; some stuff their faces with baguettes from the buvette, whilst other have brought food from home, carefully wrapped in tin foil. Bags of a locally produced brand of ‘artisan’ potato crisp are much in evidence. 36505980753_7419e799c4_oNimes’ crocodile mascot does his rounds as people, mostly children, pose for selfies with him; I am very tempted but my wife gives me a look. With the teams’ and Ligue 2 banners on the pitch a man with a radio mike gees up the crowd as the teams enter from the corner of the ground. There are ultras both behind the goal and beside the pitch, waving flags, standing clapping and jumping about. The chant is “Allez-Nimois, Allez-Nimois”. I join in. Why the hell isn’t it like this at Ipswich? The crowd is less than half the size of that at Portman Road (6,771 tonight) but three, four, five, a hundred times more involved. There are just a handful of stewards in the stand; I don’t feel like I am here to be policed, but to enjoy the match.

 


The game begins; Nimes kicking off towards the Tribune Est in their red shirts with white shorts and red socks, Auxerre in white shirts with blue shorts and white socks. After only eight minutes a poor punch by the Nimes ‘keeper Marillat requires a second punch but the effort is too much and he falls to the ground clutching his knee. Both the physio and club doctor attend to him and Marillat carries on, but for less than fifteen minutes before he has to be substituted. Nimes lose a second player to injury in Valdivia who had previously been fouled by Auxerre’s Phillipoteaux, who is the first player to be cautioned by referee Monsieur Aurelien Petit. How witty of the LFP to send a referee to Nimes who shares his first name with a Roman Emperor. Nimes are attacking more than Auxerre or in greater numbers, but are creating no more or better chances. It doesn’t look much like anyone will score.
In the stand a large man in a white polo shirt, which barely conceals the presence of flabby breasts, is exhorting his fellow supporters with the use of a megaphone. At first he is ignored but he doesn’t give up and begins to sing softly, but then with increasing strength before he signals to a drummer besides him who breaks out a rhythm and people to start to jump and clap and sing and have a helluva of a time, before going quiet and the whole performance is repeated. It’s like a flash-mob version of Bjork’s “It’s oh so quiet” in which the main lyrics are “Allez-Nimois”. It’s a lot of fun.
Four minutes of added time for injuries precede half-time in which there is a shoot-out between two teams of what are probably under-tens. The goalkeepers are somewhat dwarfed by the goals and the shoot-out takes a long time because the boys have to run from the half way line; there is one girl in the two teams and her goal receives the biggest cheer. How might radical feminists view that? As positive discrimination or as patronising? Discuss. Meanwhile an advertisement hoarding encourages spectators to travel to the match on the “Trambus”, which is really just an articulated bus with fared in wheels and a dedicated bus lane, but it’s good to see the football club and local authority combining to promote public transport in spite of all the free parking spaces.
Within thirty seconds of the re-start Nimes have a corner after a good dribble, but poor shot from Thioub. From the corner the ball is partly cleared and Auxerre’s wonderfully named 36 year old Guadeloupian, Mickael Tacalfred tries to clear the ball further but collides with Nimes’ Bozok and Monsieur Aurelien Petit awards a penalty and instantly brandishes his red card in the direction of Tacalfred for dangerous play (a high boot or “coup de pied haut”). Both the award of a penalty and the sending off seem somewhat harsh. The game is delayed as the matter is discussed at length by the Auxerrois but eventually Savannier puts Nimes ahead. “B-u-u-u-u-u-t! ” shouts the announcer through the public address system before calling out the goal-scorer’s first name to which the crowd give his surname in response.
More drama ensues as Auxerre’s Arcus collides with the replacement Nimes ‘keeper Sourzac. Arcus had already been booked in the first half so quickly leaves the scene of the incident as Sourzac stays down clutching his chest, but is of course okay really and later he easily saves Auxerre’s only shot on target.
Sixty-three minutes have passed and now there is a free-kick to Nimes and a booking for Auxerre’s Yattara who had been whining all game. Nimes’ Moroccan forward Alioui does a little shuffle, as if to take a rugby-style kick, before running up and arrowing a shot over the defensive wall and into the top left hand corner of the Auxerre goal. A brilliant shot which predictably is met with a great deal of noise and excitement, all of it justified. At the front of the stand, fans pogo whilst chanting an extract from Bizet’s Carmen.
Nimes are exultant, Auxerre vanquished but it isn’t over yet. Alioui keels over to earn another free kick to Nimes in roughly the same place as he took the first. Whilst he repeats the earlier performance with a missile of a shot that Kim Jong-un might covet, Auxerre’s ‘keeper Boucher dives to save the shot, only for the Nimes captain Briançon to score from the rebound. Joy abounds amongst les Nimois.
The final fifteen minutes sees the best football of the match as both teams relax, knowing the inevitable result and not wanting to add to the tally of yellow and red cards. Nimes ultimately deserve their win, but have had a big helping hand from the referee Monsieur Aurelien Petit along the way. Nevertheless, overall it’s been a blast; I have had a lot of fun on a fine evening, in a beautiful stadium in a fine city with excellent supporters, even if the France Football correspondent later only marks the match as 8 out of 20. Allez Nimois!

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Balaruc 0 Clermontaise 2

Paris St Germain are the current holders of the Coupe de France, the French equivalent of the FA Cup, but they have an easy ride into the final as they only have to play six matches to get there, the first of which is in January. Like the FA Cup, the Coupe de France really begins in the summer and eight rounds are played before the likes of PSG deign to make an appearance. In fact there is also an overseas section that begins as early as May because clubs in the French territories such as Martinique and Guadeloupe are also eligible to enter the competition. Today is the troisième tour (third round) of the Coupe de France and Mrs Brooks and I are in the seaside spa town of Balaruc les Bains at the Stade Municipal20170910_144644.jpg to see the tie with Clermontaise, who are from the town of Clermont l’Herault, some thirty kilometres to the north west.

Balaruc les Bains sits at the north end of a salt water lagoon, the Bassin de Thau, a kilometre or so across the water from Sète. There is a huge spa (les thermes) in Balaruc, which is something to behold. A massive, sleek, white building like an ocean going liner; from its commodious foyer, two escalators slowly ascend like conveyor belts, carrying mostly elderly, bronzed, French people, some in towelling robes, up to experience various health giving treatments.  I found it creepy, it made me think of Logan’s Run and Soylent Green.

The Stade Municipal is in total contrast to les thermes; it’s scruffy and dusty and will soon be full of young life, although like many French small town stadia it’s largely just a football pitch surrounded by a high metal fence.20170910_142429.jpg

There is one stand, a concrete platform with three rows of plastic seats bolted onto metal frames. 20170910_141746.jpgIt looks like the original roof has been replaced with new metal sheeting on another metal frame, which obscures the row of the pitch from the front row of seats. We enter the stadium through a wide opening in the back wall and find ourselves in the players tunnel; it’s an entrance that is closed soon afterwards, but it’s not quite two -thirty yet and the game doesn’t kick off until three. A wonky sign points roughly in the direction of the buvette,20170910_143307.jpg which is a portakabin style structure with a counter even more wonky than the sign. To the other side of the stand is a dark room with high-up shelves of trophies on two walls and a bar counter;

it smells of stale tobacco. A poster lying on a table shows what’s healthy to eat and what’s not and a timetable shows what time the number three bus leaves on matchdays for the Stade Mosson in Montpellier, the local home of top flight French football.

As the teams and referees warm up on the pitch we wander about seeking the best vantage point from which to watch the match; there doesnt seem to be one. The lowest part of the metal fence is quite closely meshed and there are few places where it is possible to see over it. It’s a bright, warm day, but its also extremely windy; with the wind howling off the Bassin just a couple of hundred metres behind us, we can smell the brine and taste the salt in the air. A group of elderly men have claimed a good spot on a bench in the lee of a high hedge on a small slope; one of them has brought his own folding chair. You can’t beat the experience that comes with age. Behind each goal there is a small outcrop of terracing,

which looks like archaeology; the concrete is even gently patterned like mosaic but it doesn’t really help see over the fence.

Eventually we settle on some rocks strewn about in front of the buvette 20170910_142610.jpgand the teams line up on the pitch. Balaruc wear an unattractive all-black kit with green trim, which displays no team badge or sponsor’s names. Clermontaise and Balaruc are in the same regional league (Poule A of the Languedoc-Rousillon section of the Occitanie region’s Division Honneur 2 – the seventh level of French football), but Clermontaise look much smarter and ‘professional’ in their all blue kit with badge. The McDonald’s golden arch logo is on the Clermontaise shorts; they can’t have read the poster on the table in the trophy room.

La Clermontaise kick off the match with the Mediterranean Sea at their backs, but proceedings are soon interrupted as the young looking referee Monsieur Yohan Beker is concerned that the strong wind has laid flat the corner flagsIMG_20170910_182517_939.jpg at the Mediterranean end of the ground.  A bloke in a t-shirt and trakkie bottoms is called on to sort them out and once he has done so the game carries on. Early on Clermontaise look the better team, but it might just be because they’re wearing a nicer kit.  Just before twenty past three it looks like they have scored, but I can’t tell if it was  offside or the shot was missed. There are flattened practice goals either side of the real one and from my rock it’s hard to tell which is which.

La Clermontaise’s number five is the first player to receive what will become a litany of cautions as he appears to knock out the Balaruc number nine, who stays down still, but eventually gets up seemingly none the worse for wear. But any violence on the pitch is as nothing to that developing in front of me as two small girls poke sticks at the dirt between the rocks we are sat upon and end up flicking it at one another with angry stares and increasing ferocity. It is worrying that humans are so unpleasant to one another from such a young age. Balaruc then have a rare attack, but just as the ball is crossed a massive gust of wind blows and carries it off to the far side of the ground.

The Stade Municipal is closely overlooked by four-storey blocks of flats all along one side and partly at both ends; they make quite a dramatic backdrop being so close to the pitch. At one end of the ground small gardens are visible through the boundary fence and I can see one has an interesting collection of gnomes. 37010937752_0f2b1b1e4c_oThere are a number of people, mostly men in their sixties and seventies, sat at windows and balconies looking down on the game. I envy them their home comforts, it has to be better than perching like a lizard on a rock in the sun. Dissatisfied with my view sat on the rock, I watch the remainder of the first half standing up.

Just about half an hour has passed since the game began and La Clermontaise are awarded a free kick a little more than twenty metres from goal. The ball is lofted to the near post where the visiting number nine cleverly twists and heads it into the net. La Clermontaise have taken the lead and, better kit or not they deserve to have done so because they look a tad classier than the home team. That touch of extra class is further illustrated as Balaruc respond with a series of petulant fouls. Firstly their number seven hurls himself into a misjudged tackle resulting in a melee of virtually every one on the pitch. At first Monsieur Beker steps in to separate the aggrieved parties, but then he steps back to seemingly allow the teams to sort the matter out for themselves. I have seen a few such incidents in French amateur games and whilst there is usually much fierce debate among the players there is never any real violence; once everyone has had their say Monsieur Beker returns to caution the number seven, award a free kick to La Clermontaise and play on.

Annoyingly the rough approach from Balaruc seems to work and they now have the initiative as the attacking team. A corner is punched away by the orange clad Clermontaise keeper, but the return is instant from the edge of the box as the Balaruc number eleven volleys the ball solidly against the crossbar. The half ends with more brutality as the Clermontaise number six shoves the Balaruc number six and also receives a caution from Monsieur Beker.

The search for a better viewing point resumes at half time with added vigour because the strong wind and warm sun really are taking their toll on our soft, southern English sensibilities. Eventually we find a place at the back of the main stand, leaning on the rear wall against a steel stanchion.37010978392_d5a2d9a778_o It proves to be a good choice and our enjoyment of the second half is much increased by our new location, which is shaded, out of the wind and high enough to see over the fence, with the added bonus of atmosphere as the stand is full; spectating nirvana.

The new half begins with Balaruc  on the attack again and their number nine shoots over the crossbar before his opposite number fouls the Balaruc number five, who bawls and stays down on the ground twitching, but eventually gets up and hops away; he was only stunned. Balaruc soon earn a corner, which is quite skillfully worked across the penalty area and fed back to their number nine who curls a shot into the top corner of one of the practice goals squashed up behind the real goal.

Quite a few people seem to have changed their spectating position for the second half and like giant birds on a telephone wire, a row of young lads have perched themselves on the high pink wall behind the Clermontaise keeper and are hanging over the crossbar of one of the practice goals. Other lads sit on a bench, their motorcycle helmets stacked together in front of them like deformed, painted skulls in an ossuary. Some of the people watching from the windows of the flats are no longer there.

It’s a quarter past four and Balaruc’s number four is shown the yellow card for plunging feet first through Clermontaise’s number eleven. A wit in the stand entertains his fellow spectators with what sound like caustic comments about the refereeing; people laugh anyway, which only encourages him. Balaruc might be said to be enjoying most of the possession, but it’s not doing them any good; they are also now ‘enjoying’ most of the bookings too as their eleven hurls himself at his opposite number, who stays down on the ground, as does Balaruc’ s number nine who has fallen down in a separate incident that Monsieur Beker sensibly ignored. Balaruc’s nine looks frustrated and tetchy. At half past four there is a drinks break.

Players are now being substituted freely, keeping the grey-haired, kindly faced and besuited  délègue principal37182734275_6954af6a9c_o Monsieur Gerard Blanchet busy in front of us. Clermontaise’s number twelve confirms his presence by boldly attempting a shot from a thirty metre free kick; of course he misses, but not embarrassingly so. The Balaruc bookings continue and five blatantly kicks the Clermontaise twelve as he dribbles past him and three knocks over his opposite number as they run side by side. All afternoon tbere is a pleasing symmetry with many of the fouls and bookings as players with the same shirt number go for each other.

There are only five minutes left now and whilst Balaruc have been nimble and passed the ball well, they have also been overly physical and not succeeded in making many goal scoring chances at all. Clermontaise have not had much of the ball, but it doesn’t seem to have worried them unduly and I think to myself that they might now just score again and finish the game off. A  Balaruc goal kick ends up with the Clermontaise number twelve some thirty plus metres from goal; he runs past a couple of opponents and to the edge of the penalty area; another stride, a check on where the goal is and he strikes the ball across the goalkeeper into the far side of the net.

La Clermontaise go through to the quatrième tour of the Coupe de France. Allez les bleus!

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Gallia Club Uchaud 1 FAC Carcassonne 0

I am on holiday and travelling with my wife down through France to Marseillan Plage in the Hérault département.  Careful research has turned up the good news that we can take in a football match en route. The match is a league game between Uchaud and Carcassonne in the Languedoc – Roussillon section of the Occitanie region’s Division Honneur; the sixth level of French football.

It is now about half past one and we have stopped at an ‘aire’ on the A9 motorway just a few miles from Nimes; with a half hour stop for lunch we will still make it to the Stade Municipal in Uchaud with time to take in the ambience before kick off at 3pm. As we lay out our lunch on a concrete picnic table, a lady about our own age asks if she can share the table with us; being nice people, and in the interests of the entente cordiale, we agree and she joins us with her daughter, who is mentally handicapped. Through a winning combination of our useless French and her slightly less useless English we converse. She is a lovely, friendly ladywith a kind, smiling face and with her daughter Gladys ( a name that sounds much better in French; Gladeece not Gladiss) is on her way from their home in Grenoble for a week’s holiday at Grau du Roi, at a centre that provides holidays for handicapped people and their carers. Gladys, a pretty, joyful young woman, who today wears a large pink flower in her dark hair, is now twenty-nine years old and her mother has brought her up and looked after her on her own all that time. From Monday to Wednesday Gladys now lives in a home, but for the remainder of the week with her mum.  Having eaten lunch, we say goodbye wishing each other bons vacances; we feel a mixture of sadness and humility but also great happiness to have met Gladys and her mum as we set off back onto the motorway towards Nimes and then Uchaud.

Uchaud is a very small town about 8 miles south west of Nimes on the D113, which was the main road between Nimes and Montpellier before the A7 motorway was built. The D113 follows the route of the old Roma road, the Via Domitia. Uchaud is typical of such French towns, appearing to be just two rows of mostly slightly scruffy two and three-storey buildings either side of the road, although in truth it does spread out a little beyond.  According to Wikipedia, in 2014 Uchaud had a population of 4,230.

Just past the very centre of the town we turn off to the left down the Rue Jean Moulin which takes us over the motorway; to the right we see a set of floodlights and then we turn right down the Chemin des Poissoniers. Easing our Citroen C3 between a pair of concrete posts scarred by generations of other Citroens, Renaults, Peugeots and probably Simcas that were less expertly driven, we enter the unsurfaced car park of the Stade Municipal and come to rest beneath the welcome shade of a plane tree. It’s about twenty-five to three.

The Stade Municipal is not much more than a football pitch bounded by a high chain-linked fence. There is a changing room block and buvette (refreshment stall or buffet) at one end of the ground  and a tiny, open, metal ‘grandstand’ which has a capacity of about a dozen people. Otherwise there are just a couple of large rocks and two benches on which to sit and watch the match. The floodlights we saw belong to the neighbouring rugby club. On the opposite side of the ground by the half-way line are the dugouts, including a one-man dugout for the délègue principal, who oversees the whole staging of the match; today’s délègue principal is Monsieur Alain Mistral. He is the only person wearing a suit, although he has taken his jacket off because of the heat. Along this side of the ground runs a low grassy bank with a few young trees on top; a row of rhododendrons punctuate the side of the ground where the benches, rocks and grandstand are, although sadly by now most of their deep red blooms have died off. Such decorative plants are sadly lacking at most English football grounds.

It is free to watch games at this level in France and the players are amateurs playing for the love of the game, so there is no turnstile and we just pass through a metal gate and head for the buvette. The teams are already on the pitch and we ask two gentlemen of retirement age which is which. Uchaud are in all green whilst Carcassonne wear red and blue stripes with blue shorts in the style of Barcelona or, seeing as this is France, Stade Malherbe de Caen. Perhaps confused by my ‘Allez les Bleus’ t-shirt, the gentlemen ask who we are supporting; it seems rude not to support the home team, but I explain that back in England my team is Ipswich (‘les bleus’ of my t-shirt), and my wife adds that she follows Portsmouth; the Frenchmen are Marseilles fans. At the buvette we buy two filter coffees (one euro each); there’s none of your instant rubbish here. We walk about a bit and explore before eventually settling down on one of the rocks in time for kick off, which is slightly delayed because one of the assistant referees seems to be having a bit of trouble inspecting the goal net at the buvette end of the ground. But eventually we hear an electronic beep which signifies that the referee  (Monsieur Boris Gil) has synchronised his watch with his assistants (Monsieurs Laurent Mazauric and Anthony Chaptal) and the game begins.

Carcassonne kick off defending the town and motorway end of the ground and kicking in the general direction of the Camargue and Mediterranean Sea. I am quickly struck by the total absence of any tattooed forearms on any of the twenty-two players, something that is completely unthinkable in England. There are plenty of the ubiquitous beards, but not one tattoo, although the Uchaud number eleven, who bears a passing resemblance to the former Bastia and Lille full-back Julien Palmieri, does wear a bandage on his left forearm.  Could it be a tattoo that went horribly wrong? Does he have a tattoo but covers it up because no one else has one? Do tattoos remain the preserve of convicts in southern France?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The pace of the game is quick, which is surprising given that it is a warm afternoon with a temperature of a good 25 or 26 degrees, but nevertheless it takes more then five minutes for the first shot on goal, from Uchaud, and then another ten minutes before the next OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAone, from Carcassonne; both shots are from angles, across the face of goal. Uchaud have an uncharacteristically solid, English looking centre half at number four, whilst as well as having a Julien Palmieri lookalike at number eleven, their number six bears a disturbing resemblance to former French international and alleged sex-tape starlet Matthieu Valbuena.

The match is quite absorbing even though there are very few attempts on goal, but we still find time to notice that the badge on the shirt of the assistant referee appears to be OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAattached with velcro; his shirt, shorts and socks all look brand new as if this is their first outing; he’s like an outsized boy on his first day at school. Carcassonne look the slightly more accomplished team and have more forays forward, but Uchaud are well organised and in Palmieri (who the rest of the team call Kevin), Valbuena and their captain they have three players who stand out for their skill and good positional sense; their goalkeeper contributes too with his constant calls of “parlez vous” (talk) and “garde” (keep it) as well as the odd catch from a cross. Carcassonne finish the half with a flourish winning the game’s first corner and then seeing their number three place a free-kick carefully over the angle of post and crossbar, before their dreadlocked number eleven runs in behind the Uchaud defence only to hit a low shot beyond the far post.

Half – time, or mi – temps as the French would have it brings a return to the buvette for a bottle of water (one euro) and a wander to the far side of the ground to view the second half from a different perspective. There are plenty of people stretched out on the grassy bank and it brings to mind a football spectating version of Georges Seurat’s painting “Un dimanche après – midi à l’Ile de la Grande Jatte” (a Sunday afternoon at the island of Grand Jatte). There are no advertising hoardings, no programme and no team sheets to amuse us today so we have to talk. Of course, being a conversation with my wife I dont recall anything she says to me, although we do wonder how many people are here watching the game and decide there are at least 120, not including the people who have parked their cars right next to the fence and are watching from behind the wheel.

As the second half begins we too sit down on the grassy bank, but despite the warmth of the day the grass feels a bit damp and it seems likely that the bank has benefited from some ‘fall-out’ from the watering of the pitch, which is in pretty good condition given that the summers in these parts are on the hotter side of scorching. We don’t move however before the Uchaud goalkeeper misses a punch and has to rely on one of his full-backs to clear the ball for a corner. Carcassonne’s number two then has a yellow card waved at him by Monsiour Gil for roughly tackling Uchaud’s number ten and captain.

Now watching the game from behind the goal, the second half is slower than the first and not quite as good as some of the players start to rely a little more on breaking the game up, some by appealing for fouls, others by committing them. With twenty minutes to go there is a very quick drinks break, soon followed by Uchaud’s first corner, which is won by their young substitute wearing the number thirteen shirt. Heading into the final ten minutes Carcassone’s number seven is booked and not that suprisingly because he has been consistently overplaying the “who, me ref?” role for some time, whilst also provoking a series of complaints from the Uchaud players and coaches.

Despite Carcassonne’s less than always sporting approach, my wife and I agree that they look a little more likely to score because they seem just a little bit sharper. Seconds later the Uchaud number thirteen turns and lofts a diagonal cross to the corner of the Carcassonne penalty area where Uchaud’s number two controls and shoots across the alice – band wearing goalkeeper towards the far post. The Carcassonne number six runs back and attempts to clear his opponent’s shot off the line, but both he and the ball merely combine to bulge the net as Uchaud take the lead to the cheers and applause of the crowd. Carcassonne do not now seriously look like scoring an equaliser and only succeed in using up a bit more of the ink in Monsiour Gil’s biro or the lead in his pencil, as their number nine becomes the third player to be cautioned.

With the final whistle, there is a very small ripple of applause, which quickly dissipates and the crowd depart whilst we safely negotiate the perilous posts at the entrance to the the car park and are once again on our way south. It’s been an entertaining afternoon in the sun, in surroundings reminiscent of step six of the English non league, but with football of a slightly better standard and better coffee.

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