Thursday, October 20, 2005

Hey! Hey! Anyone who isn't jumping isn't...

Lyonnais!

(Qui ne sautais pas n'est pas Lyonnais!)

Thanks to the go-getter attitude of our friend Cedric*, we attended our first true professional European football match last night. From the depth of the Czech D league we were treated to the penthouse of Champions League football (the all-European club competition) with the home team Olympique Lyonnais facing their Greek counterparts, Olympiakos.

Here's the actual report on the match, which Lyon won 2-1 on a 88th minute goal by Sidney Govou. I didn't quite feel up for doing a running diary of the match, instead concentrating on actually enjoying my first taste of live international football. Becca and I made some notes though as the game went along and here are our collective thoughts...

  • The Greeks were small in number but packed some serious punch in terms of cheering. A multitude of chants (including one apparently to the tune of Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer"), their own drum section, etc. Not bad support for a team that hasn't won a road game in 27 CL matches.
  • Stade de Gerland (Lyon's pitch) has an alien ship space-age feel to it. From the outside we weren't sure what to expect though wanted to make sure we documented it. Right then though we realized we'd forgotten the camera. Doh!
  • Gregory Coupet, the Lyon keeper has the worst frosted surfer haircut known to man. Even gives footballers a bad name. (not the best picture of it, but trust me...)
  • The overall atmosphere was just electric. The crowds was buzzing the entire match, the ends were a constant wave of fans (think the Duke fans but about 5 fold) performing all sorts of (seemingly spontaneous) elaborately cheoreographed and synchronized chants, songs, and dances, and the actual emotion within the stadium went back and forth depending on the score and the buildup of the action.
  • Juninho is the man. Anyone who steps up to a free kick with 35,000 fans chanting his name and promptly scores on a world class kick is the man. And if you're wondering why the Brazilians go by one name, Juninho's first name? Pernambucano. Just rolls off the tongue doesn't it?
  • Great halftime moment. Cedric and I decide to walk down to the front to get a better look at the field. What's going on? Stadium workers walking around replacing divots created by the players in the first half. The sexy side of Champions League football.
  • Regarding TV, all three of us agreed that watching live gave you a much better perspective to the game as a whole. Instead of seeing a break or some spectacular play come out of nowhere on TV, watching live you can see the buildup, the players rotating around the field, etc. Definitely gives you a better feel as to who is dictating play and why sometimes it seems that the TV guys have no idea what they're talking about. It's because in some cases they're literally watching a different game.
  • As he came over to our section to take a free kick, having Juninho acknowledge the crowd chanting his name with a little smirk and a thumbs-up none of the players on the pitch could see.
  • Five flares on the evening, all successfully put out by the match stewards, who immediately went up into the crowd, took it away from the offender, and dunked it in the barrell of water they had at the base of the stands for just that purpose. Well actually, the match stewards took care of all but the Greek one, but a) no steward in his right mind was going to wade into the crowd of rabid Greeks to fetch it, and b) they had the smarts to put it out themselves fairly quickly. And here I thought the random flares was only an Italian thing...
  • Becca has a crush on Fred. Who's Fred? This is Fred. (though Becca just told me he's cuter in person and with the longer hair) So if you start seeing Becca in pictures with a Lyon jersey...
  • Becca really liked the way the ref handled the game. It was a physical match but handled it with equal parts humor and an "I saw that. You do that again and you're getting a card..." attitude. Seemed to work really well and kept the match from turning into a hack fest.
  • The lineup announcements were hilarious. The last name of each player was thundered out by the crowd both at the beginning of the match and during substitutions. As a result... Sylvain... WILTFORD!!!
  • Seeing the Olympiakos fans after they scored the scored the equalizer was unreal. I don't think I've been more impressed/frightened at a group of people's general activity ever. Half expected them to just spontaneously combust. All in all though a pretty well behaving group of away fans.
  • The crowd control at the game was quite good. They were pushing us out of there post haste after the match. Kind of disappointing since we wanted to take a final look at the field and such but given the fact that they had to get everyone out so they could let the Olympiakos fans go home it was understandable.
All in all an amazing experience. Lyon is a legitimate contender to the European crown this year (and entertaining to boot) and getting to see them live was a significant upgrade from FK Slavoj (though that was just as memorable for a number of reasons). I've been to a World Series, numerous NFL and college football games, NHL games and all sorts of other sporting events and the passion of the crowd for this match dwarfed them all. (The WS game would probably have had it beaten had it been in Boston and not St. Louis.) The best part? The crowd support was completely self generated. No crappy music, no jumbo tron telling you when to cheer. Just two seriously passionate fan bases letting their associations known.

Hopefully the Siena-Chievo Verona match in Italy in a couple of weeks is half as exciting...

Brian

PS The title is in reference to the prevailing chant from the Lyon fans. By the end of the night, we were definitely jumping along.

*We emailed Cedric originally asking if he could look into availability of tickets for the match. On the assumption that they were either a) sold out or b) way too expensive we hadn't heard anything so we figured we were out of luck. Instead a day or two later we got an email from Cedric informing us that we were all going to the match! He ended up getting us great affordable seats that we a lot closer to the action than I ever assumed we'd be.

1 comment:

Michelle said...

Hey. It looks like you guys are having a great time full of wonderful and interesting experiences. Great blog posts...thanks for sharing your trip with us. Mark likes that Spartacus shirt. -Michelle & Mark