French Classico at the Vélodrome!

Context

 

At that time, I was studying in Toulon, in the South of France. Together with friends of my promotion, we filled a car in the morning towards Marseille for the Clasico at the Velodrome! It was going to be my first time in this mythical stadium, and I had a lot of expectations in terms of atmosphere, given how praised it is, and its reputation of producing the best in France. And let me tell you I’m starting to get used to great atmospheres, so I am going to need quite a lot to be convinced!

Marseille the football trip way !

 

We arrive at around 10am in Marseille, and we decide to head straight to Notre Dame de La Garde, for a 360° view on Marseille. A really spectacular spot and a very refined building, dear to the people of Marseille. The monument has a close relationship with the Velodrome in people’s minds. We can admire the staidum fromone of the terraces of “La Bonne Mère”. Located in the heart of the city, it gives me a stunning first visual impression and offers us a foretaste of what is awaiting us this evening.
We walk down from Notre Dame to the Vieux Port for lunch, where we spend a good part of the afternoon. It’s a very lively place with bars, street artists… probably the main hub of life in the city. For people who come to Marseille for more than one day, my advice would be to go to the Calanques, a truly incredible natural park along the mediterranean coast, that I already had the opportunity to visit before my day trip. As the sun sets over Marseille and the white and sky blue shirts become more and more numerous, we head towards the stadium!

Awesome pre-match experience at the Vélodrome !

 

A Clasico evening is really not like any other. And even if lately, the balance of power is to the advantage of PSG 2.0, the Marseille supporters know they can contribute to reverse the trend and are visibly determined to do so tonight, as the stadium will be packed. We enter the stadium an hour before kick-off, to watch the players warm up on the pitch and take the temperature. The stands are already full and Kevin Trapp’s entrance on the pitch for the goalkeeper’s warm-up will immediately make me understand where I am. The poor goalkeeper is going to get the kind of whistle I’ve rarely seen! In his place, I would have probably needed the support of a crisis unit to get over it. The PSG players who entered the pitch a few minutes later received the same “welcome”. Really impressive. The brand new roof of the Velodrome that stands above our heads amplifies every whistle and every song, in perfect symbiosis with the fervor of the Marseille people. I have never heard so many decibels in a French stadium. The OM players also entered the field, cheered on by their fans despite the recent and recurring tensions with the supporters, who were disappointed not to see their club at its true level lately. The two main stands start the hostilities with various chants that were not very glorifying for the opponent of the day. The famous “Aux armes” is launched even before the kick-off. Magic moment! I am totally impressed by the atmosphere even before the beginning of the game. I’m ready to take it all in.

OM – PSG, Classico – February 2017

 

Despite a good start from the Marseille side, this Classico edition will quickly (too quickly) turn in favour of PSG and cool down a white-hot Velodrome. 0-2 at half-time, then 0-4 … the OM players are not getting there and did not manage to soak up the fervour of the public who have put their heart into it. The anecdotal reduction of the gap will have no influence on the game nor on the atmosphere which will be extinguished too quickly (to my biggest regret). PSG squad was just too strong tonight… even if they did not seem to force themselves too much this evening. Final score 1-5. Unfortunately, they completely shut down Marseille, on the pitch, and all around the city…

Is the atmosphere at the Velodrome the best in France?

 

Well, in my opinion, it definitely is! The power of the decibels sent out by the stands is incomparable to anything I’ve ever experienced in any stadium in France. Marseille is one of those cities that has a special relationship with its football club, the special kind of relationship. Is it enough to say it is the best atmosphere in Europe? I may have too many stadiums left to discover to claim so, but I can already include it in the top 20 without hesitation. Thanks Marseille.

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