Posted: 9/30/2008
Title: UZES


      The morning after Nimes Olympique found themselves next to bottom of Ligue 2 I took the No. I bus to the stadium and had a chat with General Manager Philippe Goursat and also Technical Director Bernard Bossier. Bernard has the distinction of playing once for France, in a 2-0 loss to Portugal in 1975, but only for one minute. We met in the club lounge bar and then I went outside with local beat reporter Thierry Alberg of Midi-Libre to watch the team train. Other former stars include Eric Cantona and Laurent Blanc.

     LES CROCODILES have 5 points and are only one above bottom club Guingamp. Next Monday, live on Eurosport, they have to travel to Strasbourg who lead the league with 19 points. They have decent support for Ligue 2 including their rowdy fans on the East Curve, Les Gladiators.  AC Monaco along the coast had only 6,000 for a Ligue 1 match later in the weekend.  I was off to watch a CFA 2 match (4th Division and split into 8 regions) early evening at UZES, where local club L'E.S.Uzes-Pont-du-Gard were at home to one of the most famous clubs in the world, O.M -Olympique Marseille B.

    I caught a bus from Le Gare Routier at the back of Gare de Nimes train station for the one hour drive passed olive farms, usually with a couple of welcoming tall cypress trees at the entrance, reminiscent of the opening scene fom 'Gladiator'.  Just outside Uzes is the 'Musee de BonBons', dedicated to Haribo makers of gummy bears, liquorice treats and other candy and a mecca for kids since 1996.

      It was a five minute walk to the Stade Louis Pautex and I arrived 20 minutes late, since buses are few and far between at les weekends in Le Gard region. However, it was a great match, full of skillful attacking play and intelligent defending. Of course OM have some very talented young players not yet ready for prime time, many of North African descent.  The referee was tall and very skinny in his bright orange shirt, and with a balding swept back forehead, he looked like a Tunisian professor. I chatted with a couple of OM reserves who were watching. There wasn't an official programme so it was difficult to know who was playing.

      The pretty little stadium had a small main tribune packed with about 500-600 fans and there were another 200 or so more scattered around the ground, which had a high 2 meter metal fence surrounding the pitch. In one corner 4 local lads had managed to climb the stone wall to take a peek for free but the presence of 4 gendarmes wearing the same sky blue tops as Marseille, made them climb down.

       Behind both goals were those tall plantane trees that you see everywhere. I shook hands with the President M. Serge Remon afterwards and remarked how they should have won the match with so many chances. His No 9, Forafo Romain missed an open goal and then a missed penalty in the last five minutes but it was Marseilles who went home happy on their two hour bus trip with all three points after No 11 scored the winner from the penalty spot in added time.

       Uzes is a well visited small town with a lots of medieval buildings and the first Duchy of France since 1632. The centre is dominated by the 12th Century ducal castle Le Duche of the de Cressol family, motto:  'ferro non auro' -'steel(the sword) not gold', and they still live there. There are no buses late at night but luckily Ralf, owner of my friendly little Nimes Hotel Concorde and and his wife Sophie and baby Valentin were visiting family nearby and offered to meet me after the match. We met in the the arcaded Place au Herbes, the market square, one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. Shaded plantane trees and a picturesque fountain, and a number of restaurants. It has a busy Saturday market, with special rare local white truffles, and after I had finiished my picnic of bread, cheese, ham and peach juice I joined them at a table for a bottle of local red wine and a free ride back to Nimes.