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What it was like in Marseille. Untold’s intrepid man at the match finally makes it home.

By Phil Gregory

Having been away from Untold blogging activities for some months since my debut into the world of work, my first European away day seems as good an occasion as any to get back into the swing of things. Deciding on something of a whim to make the trip after finding out tickets would come available to red members, at £40 a ticket, around £100 for return flights and the same again for five nights in a hostel, the away day trip morphed into a bit of an extended summer break. Never one to turn down the chance to brush up my French and enjoy some sun as well as the game, I booked myself up and secured some time off work.

Landing in France on Tuesday afternoon having heard numerous horror stories on how rough Marseilles can be from more experienced away Gunners than me, the Arsenal shirt was soon covered up by a hoodie in the interests of self-preservation.  It actually turned out that Arsenal’s flight was landing a couple of hours after my own, so I waited at the airport with a few other Gunners to autograph hunt. We failed miserably as the team filed onto the bus pronto upon landing, though Giroud did pose for photos with some of the Marseilles fans that were waiting with us. A little disappointing from the Arsenal contingent, I felt.

Getting a lift to my hostel with two Gunners visiting Provence from the Czech Republic called Miroslav and Veronika (thanks again!) I grabbed some food and headed to the kitchen. The other Gunners were pretty easy to spot, and soon there was a small group of us who’d arrived early and we headed off to the pub to catch the Champions League games that night.

The atmosphere at our Irish watering hole was relatively low key as most of the Arsenal fans were apparently staying at a (pricier) hotel a few kilometres away. We had a fair group together and pints were had, before some other (more inebriated) Arsenal fans arrived and started a bit of a sing song with a beleaguered  Marseilles fan, who was clutching a bottle of Brandy. Naturally being only a few, our boozed-up Arsenal friends kept it low key and started with “Marseille’s a sh*thole, I want to go home” but thankfully things stayed pretty low key and any Marseilles fans we bumped into were good natured.

As the night wore on, our group headed to a club around the corner on the part, leaving our wannabe Arsenal hooligans singing “let’s go f*cking mental” and kicking over bar stools, which they hilariously promptly picked back up after they finished singing. Don’t quit the day job lads. Drinks were had and we all ended back up at the hostel at around 4am.The next day there was a fair bit more tension around the group with match day upon us. The morning was slept through thanks to the night before and the afternoon passed quickly before we headed to the previous night’s Irish pub for pre-game beers.

The Gooner faithful was swelled by a couple of Americans (Ryan and Samantha) that we’d met at the hostel and secured them tickets for their first ever football game. At a European away, no less!

The numbers at the pub quickly swelled with the Arsenal faithful, and the atmosphere built up with plenty of songs sung. Ryan accidentally got the Giroud chant going asking (“what’s the tune again to that one? Naaaaaaaa na, na na na….” before the surrounding Arsenal fans got in on it and “Girouuuuuuuuu’d” our American Gooner. Bouyed by this success, later on he stood and yelled “what do we think of… ….TOTTENHAM” (with a fantastic three second pause before he remembered the last part). There’s nothing like a few hundred Gooners yelling “SH*T” back at you to baptise you into the Arsenal faithful, I would wager.

A few of our group lost their Arsenal credibility after accepting a bet from myself that they couldn’t get a “Super Niklas Bendtner” chant going – despite sterling, full-lunged efforts, they only earned themselves quizzical looks from the surrounding Gooners and not the pints I promised on successfully getting the most unlikely of songs going.

The lively atmosphere at the pub grew and, a couple of hours before the game a group of French fans turned up and were greeted with a lively round of “does your mother know you’re here” given they looked to range between twelve and sixteen.  Unsurprisingly however, the odd cretin among the Arsenal fans couldn’t wait to pick a fight.

The Marseilles bunch were just kids, probably pretty naive ones to come to the Arsenal pub but when a forty-something year old man needs restraining to stop him throttling a French teenager, you know they’ve got a screw loose. I can only hope “Rambo” (as his shirt had him) doesn’t have a wife and kids because they’d have been embarrassed to see him acting like a boozed-up Neanderthal that night. Apparently a serial offender for this sort of thing, once our resident pillock had got that out of his system the French lads had some good banter with the Arsenal fans and it was good to see that the vast majority of Arsenal fans are capable of having three pints without thinking we’re back in eighties.

From there, the French police spoiled our fun and imposed a booze ban, which I’m doubting the local pubs in a country with 11% unemployment were delighted about. I’m sure the French police felt it was necessary, but with no booze available at the stadium and an atmosphere that was in no danger of boiling over (the odd idiot aside) this felt a little heavy-handed. Regardless, in a country that sells beer in takeaways and vending machines it was all a little pointless for the more enterprising Arsenal fans.Indeed the whole French approach to match security seemed to be “better safe than sorry” with a totally overbearing police presence once we got near the ground.

There were no problems on the tube there (we even got directions from some Marseilles fans) but it got a little more testy near the ground. Naming no names, one of our group thought it was wise to start chanting in the middle of a square packed with boozed-up Marseilles fans just outside the ground – one bottle to the head for a member of our party later and the sing song didn’t seem too smart in hindsight. Thankfully the lad was a OK despite a fair sized bump and cut on his temple and was in good spirits at the game later on.

Getting into the ground I’d wager there’s less security at Fort Knox than we saw at the Velodrome. Constant security verification, frisked multiple times and tickets inspected more times than I can remember, we eventually got shepherded into a pretty grim warehouse type structure where we were escorted into the ground in what must’ve been the most pointless gesture ever (we were flanked by police in riot gear on either side of the forty yards we were shepherded down, we could’ve done with an escort when the bottles were flying though!)

Anyway, after the array of security checks the fun was well and truly sucked out of the game and the atmosphere in the Arsenal stand was drab to say the least. In the first half there were a few mavericks trying to get some songs going but with limited fare on the pitch and the over the top security presence, there was less in the way of atmosphere than home games I’ve been to. Things improved in the second half, with Arsenal’s greater threat being recognised by the fans and Theo’s opening goal doing the world of good to the atmosphere. Ramsey secured the points later on and was rewarded with his song being sung for the remainder of the game, with all the calf-exhausting dancing and jubilation that entails!

The rest of the trip was pretty low-key, with most Gooners heading back to London on Thursday though a few of us remained to enjoy the French sunshine. Jet skiing on the Med was (nearly) as good fun as watching the Arsenal pick up three points and in true British form, my one day on the beach ended up leaving me with a red tinge, despite copious amounts suncream.

I won’t dwell too much on the game as that’s already been covered but winning away in what is a very tough group is a great start. With two home games to come we can be quietly optimistic of putting ourselves in a great position in the group and taking some pressure off before the other away ties. Given the quality of opponent however, dropping points at home is not an improbable outcome, so giddiness at our recent winning run should always be tempered by a dose of pragmatism. Needless to say, getting off the plane on Sunday evening to find news of our win against Stoke – with Ramsey scoring no less – and United getting utterly pasted by City was enough to banish any post-holiday blues.

15 comments to What it was like in Marseille. Untold’s intrepid man at the match finally makes it home.

  • colario

    I found this boring. Type of content you find in 99% of football blogs. I come to Untold Arsenal to escape this type of blog.

    “We went to the pub we sang songs we boozed we larfed, we went to the match, we won, we sang in the streets and all the way home drinking our happiness of if the match was lost abusing the Ref and drowning our woes.”

    Boring, boring,boring.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Never having been to an Arsenal game with all the pre-match and post-match activities seems like a lot of fun .Sad to hear that there are ‘fans ‘ who pay to go abroad and misbehave
    and give the club a bad name .
    Thanks for this, Phil – will look forward to future posts .

  • nicky

    I liked this post as being different to the usual stuff, analysing what went wrong and what went right in the game.
    The trip sounded like a lot of fun. Dortmund is the next away match. I think I’ll take the wife.

  • I’d love to do Dortmund away but it’s four days before my race and it won’t be the same if I’m off the drink (as I was for this trip, in fact). Enjoy it!

  • Ian Jenkinson

    Fair play Phil, i was wondering what it would be like in Marseille from an away football fans point of view.

    My neice, who is engaged to a young French man who supports Marseille had told me that it was a very rough place, She had been brought to a game once. There were some decidedly dodgy characters there apparently.

    It sounds like a place you need to have your wits about you. But you all enjoyed yourselves by the sound of it and got back in one piece.

    I have just booked flights and accomodation for the Dortmund game. That will be only my second European away day and i can’t blooming wait!!

  • Dominic Sanchez Cabello

    Nice article mate – very nicely written – sounded like a laugh!

  • Colario – here’s an idea. when an article is boring, why not stop reading?

  • nicky

    @Phil,
    Your 4.09 is worrying. What is this ridiculous race which is taking precedence over vital reporting for UA. Do you realise that even at this moment, two days after the Autumnal Equinox, people throughout the globe are reading about your experiences in Marseille.
    My great uncle Eli who flew to Dortmund in 1943 but didn’t stop, says that you must get your priorities right.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Ian,
    If all goes well I should go to Dortmund also. We will drive by car as it is only some 2 hours away from where I live.
    Maybe we could try to meet.

  • Ian Jenkinson

    Walter,

    That sounds like a great plan to me. We can enjoy a pre match beverage! We must make sure to exchange numbers before we head to Dortmund so we can be in contact over there. Another reason to look forward to the game now 🙂

  • elkieno

    Ohh man, it sucks being so far away, all I have to worry about is getting to sleep early, so I can wake up at 4:30am to watch it – it is so hard to do i tell ya!
    I tell myself all day, I will do this.
    Feed baby,
    Play for 20min,
    Bath/Shower
    Milk, short TV show (Uki – its great)
    Book and Bed for her,
    dinner,
    bed for me.
    But it never works out, I end up on the net looking for per-match info etc or on Untold!
    One day I will take myself along to see the great Arsenal play, one day…
    (btw – these articles are great and us exiled Gooners lap it up)…

  • colario

    @ Tony. Well yes I could have ‘stopped reading’ but then if I didn’t read the all of it I might miss something that was interesting.
    Also do you form an opinion but not take in to account all that you are reading or all the evidence? I think not.
    To quote CJ: ‘You didn’t get where you are today without reading all of the blog’. 🙂

  • WalterBroeckx

    Ian,
    I will contact you by mail if you don’t mind then 😉 Always nice to meet new faces when going to a game

  • colario

    For Tony.

    a ”PS” to my above post. I found Untold Arsenal on a list of Arsenal blogs provided by Just Arsenal. I read the blog and decided that Untold Arsenal was far and away the best blog -website on Arsenal. I rarely read other blogs on the Just Arsenal list when I do I am usually disappointed. For they are all much the same. Many are the type of write up as this one.

    I dont watch ”action films” because when you have seen one you have seen them all. Blogs about going to a match are similar in kind. Read one – read them all. Not what I expect from Untold.

    I have said before how much I appreciate all you do here and elsewhere for the cause.

    Until Arsene came along I believed the best manager in England since the war was Bill Shankly. Then came Arsene to Arsenal and he has done for Arsenal far more then we or Shankly could ever have dreamed of for Arsenal.

    Long may Arsene stay.

  • OMGArsenal

    Nice pub crawling story Phil but being with you guys would scare the hell out of me as I don’t drink alcohol and try to avoid drunk fans of either team.
    Walter, and others planning on going to Dortmund…if you haven’t been there before, it is an excellent city and the fans are civilized and very friendly, unless Arsenal beat them, then they are fatalistic Germans, having gotten use to that feeling since the start of the 20th century. The German beer is wonderful apparently but the wurst in a bun is special! I so envy you Europeans…being so close to the action!!!!