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Opinion

That Chelsea fan got me thinking…

2 months ago
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My nearest big team where I live in France is FC Girondins de Bordeaux.

I’ve never been to watch them but then I’m in good company with everyone else in our village. They can’t see beyond the oval ball and La Rochelle are the pride of Nouvelle Aquitaine.

Despite the lack of interest from the sticks, Les Girondins are regarded as a big club in France, having won Ligue Un six times (the last time in 2008/09), the Coupe de France four times (2012/13 being their most recent triumph) and the Coupe de la League three times (culminating in a league and cup double in 2008/09).

For most Newcastle United fans, the main connection to Bordeaux that they would make is probably the much maligned Yoan Gouffran. Playing as a striker or winger, he scored the winning goal that sealed the league title for Bordeaux in the 2008/09 season and also scored one of the Bordeaux goals to help win the League Cup final that same season.

That was probably the high point of his career, to be honest. He continued to be a decent player and well thought of in France but didn’t enjoy that same level of success. Then, in the January window of the 2012/13 season Newcastle United “swooped” and he was signed for £500,000. He was unveiled as a Newcastle player on 23 January 2013.

All very interesting, you may be thinking (or not!), but why write about this now? Well, the relevance goes back to a rather dramatic – and for Bordeaux rather traumatic – end of the 2022/23 season.

Les Girondins were relegated to Ligue 2 at the end of the 2021/22 season. From April 2021 they had admitted that they were struggling financially, due partly to the effects of Covid restrictions but also loss of sponsorship when Mediatron, the TV rights holder, went bankrupt and missed payments. The club was then placed in administration when King Street (their American owners) stated they would no longer support the club financially. Despite acquiring a new owner – Gerard Lopez, who also owns Portuguese club Boavista – they finished bottom of the league and were relegated – but worse was to come!

Due to the financial irregularities the club were guilty of, the Direction Nationale du Contrôle de Gestion (the French body which oversees all matters relating to association football clubs) further relegated the club to the Championnat National – the third tier of French football. Six weeks later though, the club won its appeal against the relegation and were reinstated to Ligue 2 on July 27 2022.

The task now was to get back to Ligue 1 at the first attempt and it looked very much a possibility as they headed into the final game of the season. At home to Rodez, who needed three points to go above Annecy and avoid relegation. Bordeaux needed to do better than Metz in order to secure second place and a return to the top table.

Things started to go wrong, though, when Rodez scored on 22 minutes. As their players celebrated next to the goal, a disgruntled Bordeaux fan ran on to the pitch and pushed two Rodez players in the back. They fell to the ground and one, Lucas Buadés, immediately clutched his head and proceeded to writhe about in apparent agony.

The fan was leapt upon by a posse of stewards and dragged off to an oubliette somewhere in the cellars of the Matmut Atlantique. Buadés was eventually carried off on a stretcher with the referee declaring it a concussion injury. He then abandoned the match.

Now, I wasn’t there and the video footage isn’t fantastically clear, but I am very surprised at the alleged extent of that injury having watched the incident numerous times. It reminds me somewhat of a time when I gently rear ended a car just outside Blackburn. A middle aged couple (Burnley supporters of course!) disgorged themselves from the vehicle and proceeded to rub their necks vigorously and tell me how they could feel the onset of whiplash injuries already.

I think the Rodez lad may have had the same trainer as the two Dingles!

The league’s disciplinary committee then ruled that the game, which Bordeaux had to win to keep their promotion hopes alive, would not be replayed and awarded the three points to Rodez. It also deducted a point from Bordeaux for the next season and ordered the closure of the south stand at Bordeaux stadium for two games.

The fan, a 40 year old restauranteur, was eventually fined €2,000 and given a two year stadium ban. He also had to pay Buadés €500 and, weirdly, both clubs €1! The judge found that there was no premeditation or real intent to cause harm so he rejected the prosecution call for a two to three month suspended jail sentence.

This brings us nicely to Tuesday night’s game and the moronic Chelsea fan who decided to run on to the pitch and buzz Martin Dubravka after Chelsea fluked their equaliser.

What a contrast. Instead of slumping to the deck feigning at least broken ribs, Dubs simply stared in disbelief at the fool. Probably wondering how he dared leave the house dressed like that. He obviously needs to spend some time in Burnley (Dubs, that is).

Rather than piling on the guy and dragging him away to the hanging judge, the steward carefully ushered the home fan to the stands and sent him safely on his way back to his seat with his mates. Unbelievable.

I’m not saying the two incidents are equivalent, or that the Chelsea fan pitch invader affected our result, but I do like to think that in some strange sort of Stargate Atlantis-style alternate reality (ask your kids) a parallel Martin Dubravka hit the deck clutching his ribs and screaming in agony. The Chelsea fan was buried in a deluge of outraged stewards and dragged away to the Old Bailey and, after the referee abandoned the game, the Premier League declared Newcastle United the winners by default. Our extra-dimensional fans now preparing for a trip to Smoggyland for the semi-final.

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