16 May 2011

end of rugby season blues



Given the image above, taken at a recent Stade Français versus Agen game at the Charlety stadium in Paris, another suitable title for this article could well be "The blues of a Stade Français supporter".

Indeed, I have 2 good reasons to have those good old rugby blues at the moment. The team I have supported for a number of years, because I live in Paris and walked to the old Jean Bouin stadium to see games, has seemingly lost, we hope temporarily, that mysterious ingredient that one could name its "soul and spirit", as well as quite a slice of its rugby skills. It is also, seemingly, losing players faster than it is acquiring new ones. This is largely due to financial difficulties which I hope will be temporary.

The national French Premeier League, called Top 14, is drawing to its final stages with just the semi-finals and the final to be played. Stade Français was nowhere near qualifying for this phase, and in fact finished at a miserable 11th position out of 14, its lowest since it regained the top division (and won the championship) in 1998. It has since been French champion another 4 times.  Well, the wheel turns, and you cannot win all the time, but the performances of Stade Français Paris have usually been quite dispiriting to watch this year.

The team has however managed to limp into the final of the Amlin Challange, a kind of second division European cup, where it will play the London team of Harlequins, which ironically was the team I supported when I lived in London years ago. The game will be played next Friday evening in Wales, and, to be honest, I would not put any money on Stade Français to win this game, especially as the Quins went and beat Munster in Ireland in the semi-final.

So I have those end-of-season rugby blues, double dose. Yet I will watch and cheer my team in front of a TV screen in some bar or pub in Bordeaux where I have to be this coming weekend. I will also try to wach the other games to come, both the Heineken Cup (the prime European cup, whose final will be between Leinster and Northampton), as well as the three final stage games of the French championship. I just love watching this game, as much as I enjoyed playing it.

People ask me why I don't change allegiance and support the Metro Racing team (the other top Paris rugby team). Well, although I have a lot of respect for that team and enjoy seeing them play, I do have some loyalty and I will remain a Stade Français supporter, despite the current hard times. I mean do you just give up and stop playing because you are losing a game? And, when the new Jean Bouin will finally get built, I can again walk to see my games of rugby.