Wednesday, June 17, 2015

FC Mulhouse - Saint Etienne II

I drive three hours almost non-stop to cross the 275 km (ca. 170 miles) from Grossaspach, Germany, to Mulhouse, France. As I left the afternoon game early, I arrive almost 30 min before kick-off. It is so quiet around the stadium that I worry that the game starts at 20:00 rather than 18:00.

I buy a ticket for €10 and go into the stadium. The clubhouse is already open and there are some 50 people at that time, almost exclusively men. I enter and get a drink, as I await kick-off. FC Mulhouse has an interesting history. It was founded in 1893 by two Englishmen as Fussball Club Mülhausen, as Mulhouse was then part of Germany.

During the 1980s and 1990s FC Mulhouse played in the French Second Division, but in 1998 they were relegated and the next year they went bankrupt. Since then they have fought their way back to the Championnat de France Amateurs (CFA), the highest amateur league, and officially the Fourth Division of French football. Since 1978 they have played in the Stade de l’Ill, an ugly stadium with two big concrete stands and an athletic track around the pitch. 

It is perfect weather for an early evening game: ca. 20 degrees Celsius (68F), nice and warm in the sun, not too cold in the shade. The game is against the second team of AS Saint Etienne, whose first team plays in the French Ligue 1 (First Division). At kick-off there are some 300-400 people, about two-thirds on the main stand and some 100 on the cheaper opposite stand. While mostly male and white, there are quite a number of ‘immigrants’ as well as four away supporters and one home supporters with a drum.

The game starts slow. In the 7th minute the visitors get a free kick that goes straight at the goalkeeper, who boxes it away in panic. Four minutes later a good Mulhouse attack is saved by the goalie. A minute later the home defense screws up, putting a Saint Etienne striker alone before goal, who lobs the ball over the keeper, but it goes wide.

I am used to a lot, but this is really, REALLY, bad football. The game is slooooow and the ‘control’ and passing are still terrible, even of the Saint Etienne players. The only notable action isa Mulhouse corner that is headed just over the goal. Half time score: 0-0.

Half time takes at least 20 minutes, during which there is absolutely nothing to do. Fortunately it is still sunny. The second half starts furious. In the 48th minute poor build-up by the visitors gives Mulhouse the ball and the cross is volleyed at goal: the goalkeeper gets his hand to it, but it goes through the crossbar into the goal: 1-0.

There is more happening now. In the 53rd minute a striker of the visitors runs at the goal from his own half and is tackled from behind. The defender hits both the ball and the player, but no foul is called. The next minute a Saint Etienne defender is screwing around, loses the ball, but the Mulhouse shot is saved by the goalkeeper. In the 61st minute the ball comes with luck to the Mulhouse striker, as most players think the referee will call a foul, and he takes the ball from 12 meter and shoots it beautifully in the upper corner: 2-0.

In the 69th minute a good counter is set up by a Mulhouse defender, who volleys in extremis just over the goal. The guests have clearly given up by now. One can only hope that the first team of AS Saint Etienne will never have to draw upon any of these players. They are terrible! In the last five minutes they waste two chances. Final score: 2-0.

Sure, it is amateur level, but this notwithstanding, this was really a very disappointing level of football, particularly of the second team of AS Saint Etienne. FC Mulhouse is a great example of faded glory, a club that has seen better days, but is still worth a visit if you are in the neighborhood.

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