A Lille bit of red in Valenciennes

“You are going where?” That is the usual response I get from The Current Mrs Fuller when I float the idea of a weekend watching football somewhere. Of course I always offer that she can come with me but surprisingly she always declines. Normally I blame the trips on Danny but this one was all down to French Television. F’ing Pay TV.

11179596644_5234b2ac93_bDespite having been to well over two hundred different grounds in Europe between us (probably – we don’t actually keep a record), and well over half of the current La Liga grounds, there has been one large gap in the list. Olympique Marseille, the Great OM. But we had a cunning plan to put that right. Our annual pre-Christmas trip this year was to be to the Mediterranean to watch Olympique take on Montpellier in the battle of the Cote D’Azur. Logistics were straight forward with tickets procured in the perfect spot to see the Ultras. After all, we weren’t really going to watch the football, were we?

And then it went wrong. Horribly wrong. Those underpaid, overworked, stressed French footballers announced they were going on strike in protest about the amount of tax they had to pay. They would be barricading the golf course/luxury car show rooms and country clubs with their camouflage Lamborghini until their demands were met. Our trip looked as if it would constitute one CFA2 game (think county league but with less dogs wearing scarves), lots of beer and buckets full of Bouillabaisse. And I hate fish stew. Continue reading

On the fourth day of TBIR Christmas – The Best football tat

Football clubs are the best in the world at taking any item, sticking a badge on it and selling it at a premium, because they know that like lemmings jumping over a cliff, fans will buy anything.  Back in the day some of the big clubs dipped a toe into true commercialisation by producing curtains, wallpaper and duvet covers.  I even had a West Ham throw on my bed that potentially stopped some “action” when a young girl managed to be persuaded upstairs whilst my parents were at work one summer holiday and as a Spurs fan she said “for God yes; for my country, yes; for my Queen, yes but not bloody likely for Billy Bonds”.

So in the past year we have had our feelers out for this new category of award.  We have seen some belters that didn’t make the final cut.  The rule here was then we had to see the items for ourselves.  So without further ado I give you the top three items of football tat in 2012:-

3rd best football tat – VfL Bochum net curtains
8116079356_ff77f7319a_bImagine the scene.  You are in a bar close to your favourite team’s ground. but you cannot look out of the window because you will not be seen as a fanatical follower of your team.  So what do you do?  What about buying some small net curtains emblazoned with your club badge that both protects your privacy and shows your allegiance.  Well look no further than these beauties being modelled by none other than Kenny “Adventures in Tinpot” Legg on our recent beano to the Ruhr Valley.  Available in home “white” or away “whitish”.

2nd best football tat – The Sullivan and Gold bobbleheads
SugoWe all know that David Sullivan and David Gold have a “bit of an ego” but even by their standards the appearance of these beauties in the West Ham United Christmas catalogue takes some beating.  Why would anyone, outside of the SuGo families want these monstrosities on their desk?  What value do they add to anyone’s life?  Unless you want to take a sledgehammer to them, of course.  And the real impressive part, they cost a “mere” £12.99.

Best football tat 2012 – The Lille signing toaster
8248897452_7e445e92f7_bThe club toaster has been around for a few years now for those fans who cannot live without their cooked bread emblazoned with your club badge on.  These are really old hat but imagine my surprise when browsing the Megastore in Lille when I came across this beauty.  Not only a toaster that burns Lille LOSC on your breakfast but plays a little ditty when it’s ready..”Allez, Allez Lille OSC” goes the toaster until you flick the switch or smashed to smithereens by your partner.

The Illuminati in the City of Lights

Paris. The City of Love, home to Pepé le Pew, dancing polar bears (well, every fridge magnet I saw had them on), the birthplace of pole dancing and once home of the object of Oblix’s affections Falbala.   The most visited city in the world, where traffic jams stretch from La Défense in the west to Disneyland in the east. Where a small hotel room, no bigger than a six yard box can set you back €550 just because you can see the top of the Eiffel Tower on a clear day (which there rarely are) by hanging off the roof-top TV antenna. Paris, home of dreams, nightmares and everything in between.

So why am I here? Good question as my normal cheery outlook seems to be slightly clouded by the comments above. Let me set the record straight. I’ve spent more time in Paris than any other city on this planet bar London and Copenhagen thanks to a year-long work assignment that saw me hiring and firing all manner of people. With some of the most bizarre employment laws known to man I was sent to the Cite l’amore to “cut through the red tape”, which was American speak for let’s take a chance we won’t be sued for doing “that”. Since the heady days of 2001 I’ve been a regular visitor, and perhaps Paris and I got off on the wrong foot as I’ve always had a mild dread of trying to do anything that involves negotiation, contracts or due process. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Parisians to death, but sometimes cannot understand the quirks of life in the city. The city is simply an enigma to me.

8247825255_7bc1cb100b_bIf ever one establishment summed up this enigma more than most it had to be Paris Saint-Germain football club. The premier team in one of the premier cities in the world. Alas, their standing has never been of premier quality. For a club that are actually younger than me (that makes me feel old) their dominance of the media would lead you to believe that they are the most successful team in the country. They aren’t. Historically that title could be said to belong to Saint-Étienne or more recently Olympique Lyonnaise. Olympique Marseille would have a thing or two to say about who was the biggest club in the country, and even regional sides such as Nantes, Lens and Lille would say they were more successful. But that is all about to change if you believe the hype. Continue reading

Bailing out the Eurozone – Oktoberfest Day one

Life sometimes just isn’t fair. Like the fact that I missed out on the lottery jackpot once because the winning numbers were exactly the same as I had picked in my head but couldn’t find a lottery machine nearby, or when you just go past an exit on the motorway to be hit with the traffic jam from hell around the next corner. Alanis Morrissette called it “Ironic” but to me being in a plane crash is not ironic, it is just bad luck. Oh, and Ms Morrissette, when you do “meet the man of your dreams” you could just offer him a threesome with his “beautiful wife”. Just saying.

No, for me life wasn’t fair because I had to spend 10 days travelling. From one side of Europe to the next and I would only get to see ten football matches in that period. Just ten. I can see you crying on my behalf now.

I would be taking in five countries on my travels, meeting up with numerous old friends and drinking pints(and litres) of beer ranking from €1 Pilsen’s in Prague to €8 Amstel’s in Zurich.

The reason for such gallivanting? Well it was the start of the Ocktoberfest season. Now in its third year you can read all about it here. After our successful jaunts in Holland, Germany, Hungary (well apart from the dysentery I picked up last year) and Slovakia in our previous trips, it was the turn of the Czech Republic this year. That was until fate dealt us a lucky card, an Ace in the hole. Europa League football just over the border in Slovakia. Our EFW/TBIR charter says in paragraph 3, section 2:-

“If a game in a city/stadium is being played whereby transport is freely available and journey time is less than 4 hours and there are no alternative destinations, you have to at least spend an hour finding mitigating reasons not to go”.

So that is why at 6.30am I was on board Ryanair 385 to Bratislava. Or actually, to Vienna (Bratislava). Why let hundreds of years of diplomacy get in the way of border agreements eh Ryanair?

Known as Pressburg until 1919, Bratislava today is home to hundreds of stag/hen weekends every week. As I decamped from the plane and waited for the bus into town I was handed a leaflet offering me “Pussy Galore” at a club in town, that was apparently open at 10am. I asked the spotty youth whether it was the name of a person, since the capitalisation of the words suggested otherwise, but he simply said “girls, boobs, fanny, sexy time”. He failed as a sales person trying to win me as a customer so I declined to visit, although I kept the leaflet for “research purposes”. Continue reading

An Englishman (or three) in Lille

Michael Miles takes us on a Champions league journey across the Channel.

LOSC v Inter Milan – October 2011
Lyon have, without doubt, been the most successful French team of the millennium, while Paris Saint-Germain and Marseille remain the country’s most high-profile clubs by a long chalk. And yet it’s a small provincial outfit from the unfashionable north, a club that only regained its top-flight status as recently as 2000 that is the current dominant French footballing force.

Lille – or Lille Olympique Sporting Club (LOSC) are that club, and the reason I was taking the Eurostar to watch them play Inter Milan in the Champions League. Continue reading

Vive La France…Vive Lille

Our marketing wizard, Francois Hotte runs operations from Lille and was on first hand to see the victory parade from the team after their win in the Coupe de France last night.  Over to you Francois.

After 56 years, the LOSC brings back the French Cup to Lille, “Place de Paris”, how ironic when you know that Lille beat the PSG last night at the Stade de France thanks to a superb free kick from Ludovic Obraniak. They are now en route for an exploit, with three games to go to win the French Championship, Lille is ahead of Marseille with only 4 points. A great victory not only for the city but for the whole Nord Pas De Calais region in France.

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