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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From Blood Comes Gold (RC Lens)

Racing Club de Lens were formed in 1906 and were modestly successful before moving to the Stade Félix Bollaert in 1932. They had previously played on several grounds including the Parc des Glissoirs and the Stade Rauol Briquet. The latter is still in use, albeit substantially modernised, by the clubs under 19 side. It is now known as the Stade Léo-Legrange.

It wasn’t until 1924 that RC Lens adopted their now intrinsic “sang et or” (blood and gold) colours having previously played in green and black and later still all blue. There are a couple of folkloric reasons as to why the colours were adopted. One is that the then club president René Moglia was passing the ruins of the Church of St Léger when one of the clubs directors mentioned it was the last vestige of the Spanish invasion and occupation of 1648. The red and yellow colours of the Spanish flag were adopted as the new club colours. The second school of thought is the colours represent the cities long association with the coal mining industry. The gold representing the “black gold” that fuelled the local economy and the blood being that shed by the miners in the extraction process.

Even though the coal industry ceased in the area in the 1960’s the club still has a miners lamp on its crest. The closure of the mine nearly cost the club its existence as both the board and the stadium were fiscally dependant on the industry. When the mines closed the club went through a tough period which was only resolved when the Bollaert was taken over by the commune and rented to the club.

The club enjoyed a golden era in the top flight between 1953 and 1968 when they were relegated to Ligue 2. A year later the mining company’s administrator pulled the plug on the last remaining support and the club were forced to return to amateur status. Under the guidance of general manager Henri Trannin the ship is steadied and by the 1980’s the club is solvent and seeking investors. The renaissance was completed under the management of “The Druid” Daniel Leclercq in the 1997/98 season when Lens were crowned French champions for the first and only time.

In 1998 the Stade Félix Bollaert was used as a host venue for the World Cup, renovations giving a capacity of just over 41,000. The name of the stadium is a dedication to the former chairman of the Lens Mining Company who sadly died before the stadium was completed. In 2012 it was renamed the Bollaert-Delelis after the death of André Delelis, who was the Commerce Minister in the Mitterand administration. The stadium will also host games in the 2016 European Championships.

The turn of the century prove problematic for Lens and relegation is suffered in both 2008 and 2011. The Lenois have also become famous for its academy being the mother club of some notable names in the modern era like Rafael Varane (Real Madrid), Geoffrey Kondogbia (Monaco) and Premier League names Adel Taraabt, Mohammed Diame and Benoit Assou-Ekotto.

Ordering tickets in advance for Lens games proved problematic, incorrect information given by stadium staff mean that a lengthy search is needed to locate where our pre-purchased tickets are kept. For the record if you ever visit the Bollaert reserved ticked for the Delacourt and Lepagnot tribunes are held at the main ticket outlet to the left of the megastore but those for the Trannin and Xerces-Marek tribunes are held at a small kiosk hidden out of view at the top of the first flight of stairs of the Xerces-Marek tribune.

In today’s game against near neighbours SM Caen an impressive crowd in excess of 31,000 gathers at the Bollaert. Two early goals for Lens prove vital as they are reduced to ten men before half time when Pierrick Valdivia gets himself sent off. Caen get themselves back into the game in the second half without looking like they will find a goal. However, with eight minutes left Mathieu Duhamel sticks out a right foot and guides a driven cross into the Lens net. A grandstand finish is somewhat avoided when a visiting substitute manages to get himself booked twice in the closing minutes. Lens hold on to the three points and the end of the game sees the players go over to their ultras and perform some sort of strange salutation, a deathly silence followed by three loud exaltations. The club clearly has a cherished bond with its supporters and one does hope they can soon return to Ligue 1 and re-contest the fabled “Derby du Nord” with Lille OSC.

One final touching moment is the naming of the exit route outside as the Allée du Marc-Vivien Foé, who spent five years as a youngster with Lens before his tragic death at the age of 28 in 2003.


France Ligue 2 – November 2nd 2013 (14.00pm)

Racing Club de Lens (2) 2 (Cyprien 3, Chavarria 16)

Stade Malherbe Caen (0) 1 (Duhamel 82)

Attendance: 31,293 (at the Stade Félix Bollaert-Delelis)


16. Alphonse Aréola; 5. Ala Eddine Yahia; 4. Ahmed Kantari; 25. Jean-Phillipe Gbamin; 24. Ludovic Baal; 6. Jérôme Lemoigne (c); 18. Pierrick Valdivia; 23. Wylan Cyprien; 9. Adamo Coulibaly; 10. Edgar Salli; 11. Pablo Chavarria.

Subs: 1. Rudy Riou; 8. Pierre Ducasse; 14. Deme N’Diaye (for 10,80 mins); 20. Lalaina Nomenjanahany (for 9,90 mins); 27. Loic Landré (for 27,45 mins)


16. Damien Perquis; 23. Jean Calvé; 13. Jean-Jacques Pierre; 19. Felipe Saad; 12. Denis Appiah; 2. Nicolas Seube (c); 10. Fayçal Fajr; 27. Thomas Lemar; 17. Ngolo Kanté; 7. Mathieu Duhamel; 11. Bengali Koita.

Subs: 5. Laurent Agouazi (for 2,71 mins); 14. Aurélien Montaroup (for 19,67 mins); 18. Mathias Autret (for 27,46 mins); 22. Alexandre Raineau; 30. Thomas Bosmel.

Red Cards: Valdivia (Lens); Agouazi (Caen).

Yellow Cards: Kantari, Lemoigne (Lens); Calvé, Koita, Agouazi (Caen)


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Three Shades of Grey (Lille OSC)

It is always nice to visit a shiny new stadium in its nascent year and this was the case with this Friday night trip to Nord Pays de Calais and the city of Lille. Well actually it’s not Lille but the neighbouring town of Villeneuve D’Ascq where this shimmering edifice, built by architect Pierre Ferret, is situated.

The history of Lille OSC and its grounds is worth a few lines in itself. The current club were formed in September 1944 from a merger of Olympique Lillois and SC Fives, hence the OSC as the current club’s suffix. Five years earlier Lillois had tried to merge with Fives but on a breakdown of discussions they merged instead with Iris Club Lillois. Therefore the current club traces its ancestry to a triumvirate of local clubs.

The newly merged club played initially at a modest stadium called the Stade Henri Jooris which was replaced in 1974 with the Stade Grimonprez-Jooris built by architect Roger Taillibert. The new stadium opened with an official inauguration match against Feyenoord in September 1975. In 2003 the City of Lille announced that the Grimonprez-Jooris would be demolished and replaced with a brand new stadium for LOSC. This necessitated a “temporary” decampment to the neighbouring town of Villeneuve D’Ascq to use their Stade Lille-Métropole will the construction work took place. Except it never started, bogged down with red tape and political constraints it was shelved and the Grimonprez-Jooris was only demolished as recently as 2010. As France were awarded the 2016 European Championships, budgetary concerns were shelved and the new stadium would be one of the host venues for the tournament.

Built a mile or so away from the old Lille-Métropole the new stadium is an imposing structure seating 50,000, wrapped with fluorescent tubing and sheltered from malevolent weather by the seeming now obligatory retractable roof. It has of course won the required UEFA 5 star grading and has also drawn critical approval from design gurus. But what is it really like? The outside is impressive, neon messages and images sparkle on the back of the north stand as the evening crackles into life. The tubular casing around the exterior promise of a light show worth remembering after the final whistle. The double win of League and French Cup in 2010-11 is amply celebrated with decorative murals.

Internally the immediate impression is the vast symmetry and the blandness of the grey seats chosen for a club fiercely proud of its red shirts and mastiff logo. These are missing from the interior and the spectator gets three tiers (the middle being the corporate boxes and seats), in three varying shades of grey, darkest uppermost. One can’t help thinking that red and liberal use of the unusual club logo would have been far more eye-catching. The new pitch is already in poor condition, rutted and patchy in places. Staging a Stade Français v Toulon rugby match shortly will surely only compound this particular issue.

The roof is not needed tonight on a cold but dry evening, the football on offer is disappointingly low on quality. This was amply highlighted by the opening goal, a visiting defender lying pole-axed and face down in his area diverting a fierce cross into his own goal. The result is put beyond doubt with a second Lille goal half way through the second period. Disappointing Rennes, in fifth place at the start of play, mount little in the way of response and seem accepting of their fate. One sad aspect of the match was a season ending cruciate ligament injury to the visitors exciting prospect Romain Alessandrini.

Upon leaving the exterior has an ethereal white glow, not from electricity coursing through the external tubing but from the interior stadium lighting reflecting outwards through the casing. It is impressive enough but a red pulsing exterior like a landing alien space ship would have set the stadium off a treat. With impressive crowds already doubling the 18,000 capacity of the old stadium, the move is one of common sense and pragmatism and LOSC now have a home to suit their undoubted ambition.

February 15th 2013 (kick off 8.30pm)

Lille OSC (1) 2 (Mavinga og 24, Payet 61) Stade Rennais (0)0

Attendance: 36,929 at the Grand Stade Métropole


16.Steeve Elana; 25.Marko Baša; 18. Franck Béria; 22. Aurélien Chedjou (c); 3.Lucas Digne; 4.Florent Balmont; 10. Marvin Martin; 5. Idrissa Gueye; 7. Dmitri Payet; 8. Saloman Kalou; 20. Ronny Rodelin.

Subs: 9.Túlio de Melo; 14. David Rozenhal (for 7, 89 mins); 15. Djibril Sidibé; 17. Benoît Pedretti; 26. Nolan Roux (for 20, 84 mins); 30 Barel Mouko; 33. Divock Origi (for 10, 90 mins).


1. Benoît Costil; 23. Hérita Ilunga; 29. Romain Danzé (c); 2. Kevin Theophile-Catherine; 3. Chris Mavinga; 5. Jean-Armel Kana-Biyik; 6. Alou Diarra; 15. Jean II Makoun; 8. Julien Féret; 19. Romain Alessandrini; 9. Mevlut Erdinç.

Subs: 4. Onyekachi Apam; 10. Sadio Diallo; 16. Abdoulaye Diallo; 18. Chieck Diarra (for 9, 74 mins); 22. Anders Konradsen (for 6, 70 mins); 24. Dimitri Foulquier; 27. Abdoulaye Doucouré (for 19, 36 mins).

Yellow Cards: Martin (LOSC), Makoun (Rennes)


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