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A vivid blue sky, sunlight arrows from it
Smothering the Stade in an unforgiving
Glare. The modest Tribune, 400 capacity,
Is barely half full. It’s a nouveau season,
The same the world over – just a little bit
More stylish here – this is la belle France.
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The teams emerge, to a desultory murmur.
Young, eager blood and gnarled veterans.
The sweeper with stubble, a slug of Pastis
And a drag on a Gauloises, pre-match. Tres
Formidable. Midfield is liquid; Platini, Giresse,
And Tigana vs.Ginola, Cantona and Viera. Not.
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Sun relentless, it’s walking pace – no heavy
Tackles, no box to box men, one touch stuff
Is de rigeur. Some kids line-up behind the goal,
All in replica shirts. ‘Les Ultras Rouge’ they call
Themselves. The old men ignore them, the pretty
Girls laugh at them. But they carry on all the same
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Yes, you can stand here, you can stroll around.
A beer, a chat with the locals Nothing too rushed.
It’s the heat, as shadows lengthen and memories
Revive of Reims, Les Verts, Racing Club and l’OM.
Still, the ref gets whistled in that continental way,
As does the star forward when he blazes over.
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Floodlights, like overgrown angle-poise lamps,
Flicker on. Passions rise – slightly – when the
Home team go 1 – 0 up. Not too much though, it’s
Not life or death when you live in a Mediterranean
Climate. Warm sea winds stir the flags -Tricolour,
Catalonia, Europa. Football in the Pyrenean foothills.