30 September 2007

Allez les Pingouins...

I'm not the most professional of football fans. In fact the last time I went to a football match was back in 1994, when Burnley went to Wembley in the division 2 playoffs. I wore a Burnley hat (still a good choice of headgear for embarrassing my husband in winter) and stood with my brother and dad in the middle of thousands of yelling fans. It were great.

So last week's experience was a bit of a shock to the system. For a start, Libourne v Nantes (a second division match) took place in a stadium the size of a small teacup (if you can imagine a teacup with floodlights). We paid the princely sum of 2 euros to go on the terraces (actually a small slope of about 3 metres rather than a terrace, if you're nitpicking, and rather marvellously called the tribune) and stood with a whole load of French folk who looked as if they'd been dragged in off the streets.

Contrary to English custom, people in Libourne don't necessarily go to a football match decked head to toe in team kit - you might, if they're really pushing the boat out, see a team scarf. It was all rather relaxed - the terraces were full of teenagers doing their homework, small children hopping up and down with excitement at seeing the ball, and the usual chain-smoking Frenchmen of indeterminate age wearing macs of indeterminate colour. There was a strange, yet heady mix of smells - overpowering aftershave fighting the burger and baguette stall for dominance.

I can't really comment on the football. It was fairly fast, the players had nice legs, and it all looked an awful lot better than it does on the telly - quite skilful, in fact. I've still no idea what the French for "the referee's a wanker" is, but I can now shout "Libournais, Libournais" with the best of them.

Nantes were 2-0 up by halftime, and the game stalled in the second half. By 85 minutes, in drizzling rain, my dad suggested it was time to go. The game wasn't going anywhere, and our car was pointing in the wrong direction so when 3,000-odd people came out of the match, we were going to be stuck.

We got just outside the gate when the first massive cheer erupted, followed by a shrill whistle. Penalty. Followed by a massive cheer. It obviously went in.

Back at the car, another massive cheer, followed another minute later by a slightly quieter one. Surely Libourne couldn't have scored twice? And then Nantes belted in a winner?

We drove home slightly worried. For the first time in his life, my dad had been to a football match and didn't know what the score was.

We looked it up in the Sud Ouest the next day: Nantes 3, Libourne 2. Three goals in the last seven minutes. Brave Libourne had fought to the end.

I wait 13 years for a football match...

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