Posted: 3/19/2010


      Three of my favourite stadiums were featured this last week in The Champions League and The Europa League.  We had my favourite French club, FC Girondins de Bordeaux in their historic home in South West France. They are the reigning League 1 and Coupe de la Ligue champions.

      They play in the Stade Chaban Delmes, named after a former mayor, but I knew it as Parc Lescure which was used for two matches at the World Cup of 1938, including the semi-final, The Battle of Bordeaux, between Brazil and Czechoslovakia. Three players were sent off before the Brazilians won 2-1 in extra time. It was the most sendings off in a World Cup match until I was at the sorry match between Holland and Portugal in 2006.

      You take the A tram to Gare San Jean on Boulevard Leclerc many years ago. The unique multi-arched roof is still there but can't protect more then half the 34,000 fans from the weather, and a new stadium is planned my the club owners, TV Group M6. In the late '70's and early 80's Alain Giresse ran midfield and was part of the French national team that I saw in Spain at FIFA World Cup '82 ,and which won the European title in 1984. What a great player he was and their coach Aime Jacquet.  His 28 year old son Thiabault Giresse played for Toulouse and Amiens and is now at Guingamp.  The port city and stadium are on the River Gironne, and it's famous for its wine. My favourite is Pineau de Charontes. It's a fortified dessert wine with cognac added. 

     I had taken an overnight train from Paris and arriving at the end of the line in Royan,on the estuary, to visit the local club. It was early Sunday and after breakfast and a bath, my hosts took me to see the mayor at his home. He opened the door in his dressing gown, but insisted that we meet 15 minutes later at the City Hall. There, properly attired, he officially received me and presented me with a bottle of this local wine, which I took to the afternoon match at Parc Lescure.

     Other greats who played for Les Marine et Blanc included Raymond Domenech, Bernard Lacombe, Jean-Pierre Papin, Jean Tigana, Marius Tresor, Silvian Wiltord, Zinedine Zidane, Patrick Battison, Didier Deschamps, Christophe Dugarry, Dominique Drosy, Eric Cantona......

     French clubs are doing better than for a long time in Europe, and one French team will be in the Champons League semi-final after Les Girondins were paired with Lyon in the quarter-final. FC Lille were beaten in the Europa League by Liverpool at Anfield, as historic a stadium as you could ask for. Their passionate fans and the scarves and banners on The Kop swaying and singing 'You'll Never Walk Alone' are worth a goal.  Yet another port city, this one on the River Mersey.

    The third historic stadium is Craven Cottage on the River Thames, home to Fulham FC. It's difficult to imagine that a couple of years ago they were battling relegation, until their saviour arrived in the form of multi-lingual and multi talented Roy Hodgson. What a resume!!: Switzerland, Finland, UAE, Internazionale, Halmstads BK, Malmo FF. Bristol City, Blackburn Rovers, Orebro, Grasshoppers, Udinese.... Their 4-1 win at The Cottage over The Old Lady, Juventus, this week, was remarkable.

     Not only did they lose 3-1 in Turin but were down 1-0 in the second minute in the return leg to a David Trezeguet goal. They came back and scored four through Bobby Zamora, Zoltan Geru (2) and the cheeky chip from Texan, Clint Dempsey to take them into the next round.  They face Wolfsburg in the Quarter Final and this Wednesay in an F.A. Cup quarter final replay take on Tottenham Hotspur. Of course Hodgson should have been made manager of England years ago instead of Sven-Goran Eriksson.