With this week’s match I reach the landmark of my 200th ground in France, (by my count). As such it joins England, Wales, Belgium and Germany as the fifth country where this figure has been reached.
I say by my count, as these things can differ. I have been entering my matches on the futbology app, and this has me down at 201 grounds in France. The reason for the difference is that I have counted Monaco as a separate country, while the app does not. Monaco is of course recognised as a sovereign state and is a member of the United Nations, but it does not have an affiliated football association with either FIFA or UEFA and AS Monaco are hence considered as a French team.
There is a local football competition organised in Monaco, not affiliated through the French Football Federation. Curiously it uses grounds in France, with the Stade Louis II only being used for finals. This has featured on the blog before, at http://leohoenig.com/?p=664
Both the futbology app and my own country count do settle on the same number of countries visited. Its 84. The country on the app that I did not recognise was Northern Cyprus. As a country, this is not recognised by anyone apart from Turkey and the football federation for that part of the divided island is not recognised at all. I believe there have been talks about merging the two football competitions, although they have not come to anything. It is still more likely than a political settlement to unify the island itself.
Anyway, enough of the preliminaries, and onto the match itself.
France, National 3, Group L, (Paris Ile de France)
Olympique FC Les Mureaux 2-1 CS Bretigny
Admission Free, Attendance ~100 (it varied through the game)
Stade Léo Lagrange (Les Mureaux). Incidentally, the sixth Léo Lagrange stadium I have been to, all in France.
For the record, Léo Lagrange was a left-wing French politician in the 1930s who rose to become minister of sport and who championed the ideas of mass involvement in sport, saying it was more important to get more youths into the stadiums (as participants) than to win medals and championships. He also was a prominent organiser of the alternative to the Olympic games planned for Barcelona in 1936 as a protest against the fascist government in Germany. The games were cancelled due to the onset of the Spanish Civil War.
The main pitch is within a running track, with one large and well elevated stand. When I looked at the map before I travelled, I wondered if the next pitch could be used as this also has a stand, but this is in fact the Rugby pitch. There are several other pitches laid out for football, rugby, American football and a number of tennis courts as well as a sports hall in what is clearly a major facility for the area. Léo Lagrange would presumedly have approved. There was no one on the gate taking admission and I only had my covid pass checked when I asked to enter the inner sanctums to get the team list. (In fact the person who checked my pass already had a photo of the list on his phone and sent it by message).
With the visiting team, CS Bretigny starting the weekend in second place, while OFC Les Mureaux were a mid-table team, I was expecting the away team to have the better of the game, although knowing how French football can be played, I did not expect much to happen early. In fact, both sides set up a fairly attacking line up, although Bretigny seemed somewhat conservative in how they actually played with a 4-3-3 formation. The wingers not getting forward much, it was basically a 4-2-3-1 with the “number 10” (actually wearing 6) withdrawn into a defensive position. It was OFCM, playing in a 4-1-4-1 formation that were the more attacking team, creating a couple of half chances before the first major incident.
On 14 minutes, Bretigny broke clear in an attack, with the attacking player falling under a challenge ending up about ten yards from the goal line. The referee immediately flashed the red card at the defender. I was surprised as I thought the challenge was soft and was not even certain it was a penalty. Also because I thought that the referee’s no longer had to consider last man in the penalty area as a red card, the penalty restoring the goal scoring chance. It was only after a couple of minutes of argument, with the offending player finally leaving the field that it became clear that in fact the referee had deemed the foul to be five yards outside the area. The free kick was sent into the wall and cleared.
On 24 minutes, OFCM were reduced to nine men. This was a clearer offence – a studs up challenge in the middle of the field that led to the visiting full back being treated for two minutes on the field, and another three or four on the touchline before rejoining the fray.
In those few minutes, playing nine against ten, Les Mureaux took a surprising lead. A run down the left wing by their forward, Abdoulrahmane Fofana was finished well to put them ahead.
We reached the break without further score and got through almost 30 minutes of the second half with little happening, although it is difficult to work out how Bretigny failed to equalise when their player was presented with a two-yard tap in, and hit it so softly that it only trickled goalwards and was cleared.
Bretigny were having the most of possession as you would expect with a two man advantage, but they made little headway and rarely put the home defence under serious pressure. Mureaux had far fewer chances, but in the 74th minute they managed a shot which the keeper could only parry away. It went well to the left of goal from where Fofana took a shot which was deflected into the goal for 2-0
The floodlights here are on very old concrete poles, and I thought not in use, the reason for a Sunday afternoon kick off rather than the Saturday evening used by other clubs. However, they were switched on immediately after the second goal – they made little difference, except perhaps to light up the idea in the visitors’ minds that they needed to attack to get anything out of the game. They immediately pulled the score back to 2-1 with the substitute Ismail In getting the ball In
The final 15 minutes saw Bretigny lay siege to the home goal, having finally worked out that they were wasting the chance for what should have been a simple win. The home side was in no mood to concede their advantage now though. The audience had been slow to come in at the start, but reached around 100 and were now shouting encouragement to the home side for every block and save made. We finished with much jubilation in the crowd and the nearest thing a crowd of 100 can give to a standing ovation