This week our guest blogger Andrew Gibney, founder and editor of French Football Weekly and massive Lille fan, tells us about his trip to Lille’s first home match against Nancy at their brand new stadium, Grand Stade Lille Metropole:
Friday, 17 August will be forever remembered by Les Dogues for years to come, as we welcomed our team into the 50,000 capacity, state-of-the-art, long overdue, Grand Stade Lille Metropole.
To give a brief history: When the Stade Grimonprez-Jooris, home of LOSC Lille Metropole for 29 years closed its doors in 2004, the plan was to upgrade the stadium on the same site, but the preservation of a 17th century Citadel, a stone’s throw from the stadium put paid to that plan. So LOSC moved into the 18,000-seater Stadium Nord (later known as the Stade Lille Metropole), a temporary fix that was to last 8 years. Many administrative and funding issues later, work finally commenced on the new stadium in the summer of 2010.
At the end of last season the Lille fans gathered one last time in the Stade Lille Metropole to say their goodbyes, to the stadium. The 4-1 win over Nancy was the perfect send off. It had served its purpose and now it was time to bring on the new.
As a LOSC fan living in England, planning is crucial to watching a match, and I wasn’t about to miss this big day, so, I eagerly awaited the sale of tickets online. Unfortunately due to funds I had to make do with a seat in the upper-tier but thankfully new stadiums are generally designed to have no bad seats.
Arriving into Lille, four hours prior to kick-off, the smile on my face must have been clear for everyone to see. A quick change at the hotel into my new Umbro Lille home top and I was off to meet some friends for a few pre-match drinks. To my embarrassment, my friend Manuel took much joy in introducing me to all the LOSC fans walking past as his “Scottish friend that has come all the way from England to watch LOSC”. The 10 minute journey on the metro seemed like seconds and we all disembarked at the “4 Cantons” station and strolled in the glorious sunlight towards Lille’s new home.
I had been in Lille last September, seen some of the building work and had avidly followed the progress of the stadium on forums. But, as the trees parted and I caught my first view of the stadium, it took my breath away. We were home.
Walking over the newly built bridge I saw the Grand Stade in all its glory. Thousands of fans taking pictures, wanting their little piece of history, it was very befitting of the word “Grand” and this was just the outside.
Inside, it was everything we had hoped for and more. Perched in the corner of the south stand, it was the perfect place to take in a game of football and take hundreds of pictures.
15 minutes before kick-off the festivities started with fans holding up the pieces of red and white card that had been placed on the seats. The sea of white turned to a sea of red and then a huge flag covering the length of the pitch was unveiled with the clubs new emblem and the message “Bienvenue dans votre Grand Stade” – Welcome to your Grand Stade!
Finally Lille’s first game in the new stadium was underway and the fans were in full voice. Behind the goal you’ll always find the “Dogues Virage Est” otherwise known as the DVE. As Lille’s main supporters group they always keep the chants and songs going and are always get behind their team.
Nancy did their best to spoil the party, they defended brilliantly as a unit and even rudely scored the first goal in the new stadium through Djamel Bakar midway through the first half! But Lille bounced back through a lovely header from new signing Salomon Kalou. It was his first goal for Lille and the first Lille player to score in the Grand Stade. Kalou will now have an immortal place in Lille folklore.
The game ended 1-1. It was probably a deserved point for both sides with the enormity of the occasion possibly getting in the way of Lille’s performance. With the grand opening now out of the way Les Dogues can look forward to building a new future in what is just an amazing new stadium.
Back home in Sheffield, England my thoughts drift to next month when I return to the Grand Stade Lille Metropole, my new home away from home. Whatever I watch from here on will be fantastic but to be there for the opening of a new chapter in Lille’s history is something that I will never forget.
Thanks Andrew for sharing this experience with us. If you enjoyed reading this post, you can find more of Andrew’s writing at French Football Weekly. If you want to write a guest post for our blog please drop us a mail with some ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.