The Marck of Honneur (AS Marck)

Unusually the formation of Association Sportive Marck can be traced back to a time when World War II was well and truly in full swing. In June 1941 three local men, Leon Delplace, Theo Clouet and Albert Petitpont decided it was time this small town in the suburbs of Calais had its first sports club. Currently the club has three other sections besides football. The club also fields teams in cycling, athletics and bocce, a derivative of petanque.

The 2000’s were a successful period for Marck as they rose from the regional leagues to the CFA2 division (Pool A) which is the fifth tier of French football for the 2006/07 season. They were promoted to CFA1 for the 2009/10 season but slipped back down after just one season, finishing 18th in the table. The club suffered a further relegation at the end of the 2011/12 campaign but returned from the regional Division D’Honneur at the first attempt. However this season Marck sit just above the relegation places.

While the 2011/12 campaign ended in relegation the season will live long in the memories of the Marckois as they enjoyed a fantastic run in the Coupe de France. The Reds had battled their way through the four qualifying rounds that CFA2 clubs face before being drawn away to Aire-sur-la-Lys in the seventh round. A slender 1-0 win saw them draw Ligue 1 side Reims in the next round. A marvellous 2-1 victory saw the minnows into the pot for the round of 64 draw. Again they were paired against top flight opponents in the form of Olympique Nice. The brave Marckois went down two nil to their visitors in a match staged in front of 7,000 spectators at Racing Calais’ Stade de L’Epopee.

The Stade Jean-Claude Agneray, named after a local mayor, is a very modern facility sporting a most curvaceous and well made stand, the wooden beams firmly bolted into place supporting the roof. Though visually stimulating, the curves and open front mean that in inclement weather the 800 seater is rather drafty.

Today is about Marck’s second string who compete at the eighth tier in the Nord Pas de Calais Ligue Promotion D’Honneur. Sadly they currently lie equal bottom of the table having endured a torrid season to date. Today’s visitors are the first team of St.Pol-sur-Ternoise, a small town near Arras. The visitors start the game in fourth place.

Given the positions in the table it’s no surprise that it’s the visitors that seize the initiative. After battering the home goal throughout the first half they take the lead when Aurelién Thellier thumps the ball into the net with some relish. Two minutes into the second half and the visitors double their lead when Christophe Lagache outpaces the home defence and finds the net with ease. Marck then enjoy their best spell of the game and visibily grow in confidence. On 61 minutes they reduce the arrears when Jordan Betaz’s powerful shot takes a wicked deflection off Cyril Bridoux leaving the visiting goalkeeper with no chance at all. Try as they might the home side cannot force an equaliser, Julien Baude’s frustration getting the better of him as he earned a second yellow card in injury time.


Nord Pas de Calais Division Promotion D’Honneur – Sunday January 26th 2014

A.S.Marck (0) 1 (Betaz 61)

U.S. St.Pol-sur-Ternoise (1) 2 (Theillier 33, Lagache 48)

Attendance: 52 (at the Stade Jean-Claude Agneray)


1. Antoine Fermon; 2. Remi Wasilewski; 3. Gaetan Piedbois; 4. Alain Delcroix; 5. Ivan Cieslik; 6. Mickael Magniez ©; 7. Jordan Betaz; 8. Samy Amrainisaid; 9. Victor Bayart; 10. Julien Baude; 11. Dimitri Pepin.

Subs: 12.Remy Bruneval (for 6,22 mins); 13. Anthony Mercier (for 3,60 mins); 14. Jordan Bourigeaud (for 4,73 mins).


1. Christophe Dupont; 2. Sylvain Sargis; 3. Maxime Petit; 4. Sébastien Douay; 5. David Bridoux; 6. Cyril Bridoux ©; 7. Mathieu Bauchet; 8. AureliénThellier; 9. Christophe Lagache; 10. Jérémy Bouchard; 11. Ghabi Ouapieu.

Subs: 12. Edwin Robbe (for 2,86 mins); 13. Mathieu Devineaux (for 8,57 mins); 14. Nicolas Choquet (for 11,66 mins).

Yellow Cards: Magniez, Amrounisaid, Bayart, Baude (all Marck); C.Bridoux and Ouapieu (St.Pol).

Red Card: Baude (Marck)


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Allez Calais – Remembering an Epic Cup Run

While it is scarce indeed for any club outside the Premier League to reach the F.A.Cup final, it is not unknown for modest clubs to have epic runs in the French equivalent competition, the Coupe de France. Back in 1999-2000, amateur side Calais Racing Union enjoyed one of the highest profile journeys to the final in the modern era. They became the first fully amateur side in history to reach the final in the competition long history.

Formed in 1902, the “sang et ors” (Blood and Golds) were in the fourth tier CFA 1 in 1999 and were managed by a Spaniard, Ladislas Lozano. He had fled Spain with his family to escape the horrors of the Franco regime and though a talented player himself his nationality prevented any great club or international career in his adopted homeland. At the time of the great cup run, he was a foreman for the council looking after the areas sporting facilities. At the time the football club played at the tiny Stade Julien Denis, home for 80 years at the time and now used by their reserves. The club did not move to their magnificent Stade de L’Epopee until 2008.

Calais in 2000 was a depressed place, 17% unemployment and nearly half the town’s population of 75,000 people earning under £5,000 a year. The cup run bought the often bypassed port town to national attention, France was gripped by “Calaismania”.

They has defeated the likes of Saint-Nicolas-les-Arras (3-1), Marly-les-Valenciennes (2-1) and Bethune (1-0) before being paired with Second Division side Lille. The match against their huge near neighbours surprisingly took place as the tiny Julien Denis and the home side pulled off the shock defeating Lille 7-6 on penalties after a 1-1 draw. The draw fell kindly for the northerners in the next round, a home tie against fifth tier Langnon-Castets. The home side ran out comfortable 3-0 victors. This put the amateurs in the eighth-finals and a pairing against Second Division Cannes. The home tie was moved to Bolougne’s Stade de la Liberation and resulted in another penalty shoot out success, 4-1 after a 1-1 stalemate. Into the quarters Calais were paired at home to Division 1 giants RC Strasbourg, surely the end of the road for the minnows. Staged at Lens, incredibly the dock boys won 2-1 against their mighty visitors. Lens was again the venue for the semi-final and 40,000 Calaisens decended on the Stade Bollaert for the game against Ligue 1 heavyweights Girondins Bordeaux, a nation held its breath surely lightning wouldn’t strike twice. Boasting internationals Christophe Dugarry, Johan Micoud, Lillian Laslandes, Sylvan Legwinski and Ulrich Rame surely it was a game too far. It wasn’t. Goalless at full time the minnows won 3-1 in extra time with goals from Jandau, Millien and Lestavel.

The semi-final triumph sent the town into pandemonium, the players enjoyed a £10,000 a man winning bonus from a local benefactor and partied hard in a middle of the night reception at the town hall. Streets were packed at 3am for the victory parade and a 4.30am the town hall hosted a duck and foie gras dinner for the triumphant club. The celebration took its toll on Lozano, collapsing to the ground and spending three days in hospital. When he came round the then President of France, Jacques Chirac, rang him to send best wishes and say “Can we meet in the Stade de France”.

The ticket allocation for the final didn’t sit well with the club or commune. Their allocation of 19,300 was less than half their supporter numbers for the semi final. The club appealed to other clubs to buy their allocations, but were quoted outrageous prices. Those lucky enough to secure a ticket were helped out by the commune subsidising travel to Paris for the final. £17.50 return secured a place on clapped out trains pressed into service for the journey to the capital.

The final took place on May 7th at the Stade de France in front of a huge crowd of 78,586. Nantes Atalantique of Ligue 1 were overwhelming favourites despite the redoubtable battling qualities of the CFA amateurs. A tense first half saw Nantes dominate possession yet squander several chances to secure an advantage. Unbelievably in the 34th minute, it happened, Racing broke downfield and won a corner. The ball then ended up in international goalkeeper, Michael Landreau’s net courtesy of Jerome Dutitre. The rank outsiders held on until half time heading to the dressing rooms with a one goal lead. Four minutes into the second half, Nantes’ Antoine Sibierski levelled the game at 1-1. Just as the game looked like it would head to extra time, the Ligue 1 side were awarded a penalty in injury time. Sibierski beat Cedric Schille with his spot kick to break a nation’s collective heart. Sportingly Landreau, the Nantes captain allowed his counterpart, Reginald Becque, to lift the cup with him as an acknowledgement to a courageous adventure. Thus little Calais Racing joined a club of three sides, alongside Ouakam of Senegal and Nigeria’s Leventis United, from outside a countries third tier to reach the final of their nation’s major domestic club competition.

(First published in the ”Miles Across The World” column in Southend United’s matchday programme v Bristol Rovers 13/04/13)