Here is the second part of my ‘I am in France and going to places where they show football travel extravaganza’ and in this edition it’s all about Bordeaux and Toulouse. Expect facial hair, Simone Zaza looking like a tit and the reaction of the locals as France keep on rolling on to the Semi-Finals…
The Germans invade Bordeaux for Italy Quarter-Final
Another day, another fan park and this time we were in Bordeaux for Germany vs Italy, as the Germans finally shook the monkey off their back that is Italy and competition football.
Bordeaux Fan Park is simply massive but come game day left a little to be desired, through absolutely no fault of its own.
When you saw the fan parks in the group stages, filled to the rafters of fans and neutrals a like, it seemed inevitable that large concentrations of Italians and Germans would be swarming around in tribal groups chanting. Whether away day culture in these countries is slightly different (something I find unlikely), or the fan park was just so big (apparently it holds 60,000), it just seemed a bit spacious, a bit clam. It always was going to be lacking the atmosphere of Nice but I certainly wasn’t expecting to comfortably be able to do star jumps come kick off.
Bordeaux is an incredible town and come game day copious little squares were taken over by the visiting cohort. German fans descended on Bordeaux in vast swathes. Apparently, German fans also love a Podolski shirt, which really threw the cat amongst the pigeons in a world of Thomas Muller and Toni Kroos, its Lukas Podolski bringing home the bacon for the German FA.
Germans fans chant near the fan park 5 hours before kick off
In a far cry from scenes in Nice, the police were well aware that this was a game that didn’t carry the cultural burden of trouble. Bar not being able to buy bottles of Jack Daniels and Bombay Sapphire (other spirits are available) between 8pm and 8am for the duration of the tournament, the streets were lined with moustached Germans, beer and Podolski shirts all having a very merry time.
What is strange is hearing/seeing German fans singing ‘Will Grigg is on Fire’ and ‘Please Don’t Take Me Home’ – the Will Grigg chant in particular was strange considering his distinct lack of Euro 2016 minutes and him playing for Wigan, a team I doubt as a massive following amongst the German masses. Perhaps this is where Wigan should go on a pre-season tour now because by all accounts Will Grigg is now a sponsorship cash cow.
German fans with the standard ‘fountain in the square’ photo
As a game, it was draining. Watching it there, up on the big screen, it was a tactical game of footballing chess as Joachim Low decided to do a Conte and play a 3-5-2. It was cagey, play was stifled and once Italy equalised, penalties were written in the Bordeaux stars.
As a quick side note, the worst penalty of day goes to Simone Zaza. Brought on to score a penalty, he basically made himself like a complete and utter dick as he ran up like an aggressive line-dancer and blast the ball into the stands. Anyone can miss a penalty but there surely is some karma at play when you try to be that clever with a jig that makes you look like a tit.
Germany I will be seeing you Marseille!
Toulouse and France vs. Iceland
For one night only, we venture to Toulouse before heading off to Lyon for the fan park spectacle of Bale vs. Ronaldo, hoping that the French don’t take after the name of the city (this is me shoehorning some joke about France not wanting ‘Toulouse’… I will let the tumbleweed out for that shocking attempt).
Allez les Bleus!
As a city, Toulouse is a place I wouldn’t return too in any hurry. 18 hours in one place hardly means you are an expert and particularly when you are there on a Sunday (I mean it was like a ghost town) and with a France game on that evening but 18 hours was enough for me. One positive though is that France turned on the style in Paris as Didier Deschamps emphatically showed Roy that Iceland was a winnable game.
We decided to head on over to the fan park and for the first time was confronted with queues to get in. Toulouse Fan Park holds 30,000 and it was full. People waited on the streets, hearing the cheers as first Giroud then Pogba put France into the Semi-Finals before even 25 minutes had been played. With France dominance so impressive, the tie seemed over and a change of scenery was in order.
What struck me most about Toulouse is that whilst the fan park was busy, unlike watching a French game in Nice, French goals weren’t met with hysteria as locals chatted amongst themselves. Cheers and flags were obviously seen and heard but in Nice a French goal was met by a consequent soaking of flying beer, in Toulouse it was all the more a little sedate.
Grioud is back there singing the anthem somewhere
As the rest of tricolore trifecta in Payet and Griezmann added their name to France’s ever-expanding score sheet, celebrations were once more weirdly muted. By this point we were in an English pub, being those ‘Brit’s abroad’ and craving for some home cidery comforts (I don’t actually drink lager, which is a nightmare in Europe. It’s been all vino for moi out here and a pint of Stowford Press was sorely needed!).
Even in a more enclosed space, celebrations was at best reserved. No pints were thrown, no chairs knocked over in exuberance and disbelief at the score line, or securing a semi final at a tournament who are hosting. It seemed that this result was either so expected that celebrations will be saved for Marseille and Germany or dare I say it, people might not have really cared, or at least the people we were with.
Either, or, Toulouse hit a potential low of this little football jaunt around the South of France. With a couple of days in Lyon and a shed load of excitedly expectant Welsh descending on the town, we are getting to the pointy end of this summer’s footballing showpiece.
Can Wales get to the final? Is this France’s year? Will Ronaldo be actually any good in this tournament? It’s too Lyon and Marseille I go looking for the answers to the questions no one is asking….
Rich, The Sweeper Football Blog