By Walter Broeckx
Pre-season looks extremely short this season. All that because of the fact that at the end of next season we face another tournament from some corrupt organization in order to injure as many players as possible or get them injured in the months after. And in fact our next opponent has a big link with this tournament also known as the European Championship.
It is time for the Emirates cup and the first team we will play is Olympic Lyon.
Olympic Lyon was founded in 1899 so is a bit younger than Arsenal. It has a rather strange history when we look at it from the trophy side of things. They won a few French cups in the sixties, one in the seventies and that was it. It took them 65 years to win their first major national trophy in 1964. One could say they were a cup team.
But then since 2002 something changed. In 2002 they became champions for the first time in their history. So it took them 103 years before they could win the French title. As you can imagine this was a huge celebration in the capital of the Rhône valley.
Hey, let’s have some more of this will have been the thought around Lyon I can imagine. And they had some more of this. Lyon turned the French league in the most boring league in history. Going from never won it in 103 years then went on to win the French League 7 consecutive times after that first win. That amazing and probably never repeated win in any other country (I stand corrected if it has) ended with a last win in 2008.
It was as if they had saved all the titles and won them in one run as most clubs spread it around their history a bit. But they didn’t fall away a lot as they still were almost always in the top 3 after that run.
They play their home matches at the Stade de Gerland, named to the local place where it is situated. Not far from the river Rhône and not far from the Autoroute du Soleil (Highway to the sun) in the heart of the city. The current stadium only has a capacity of 41,184 seats. It used to have more places but that was the result of turning it in to an all seater stadium for the World cup in 1998.
Now what stopped Lyon from winning titles one could ask. And I don’t really have a clue apart from their stadium. Because in 2007 the board of Lyon decided that their old stadium was too small and that they needed a new stadium.
Ah, new stadiums cost money and ….cost results. A thing we Arsenal supporters are familiar with. Let’s build a new one they said. But that was easier said than done. But as I can testify myself the new stadium is under construction.
Last summer when I went on holiday I didn’t drive through the tunnels that take the Autoroute du Soleil in and through the heart of the city but went to the ring road to the East side of Lyon mostly because we had booked a hotel in that part to stay for the night. And just a few kilometres before we would stay the night I drove past the new stadium that they are building. A modern football stadium from the ‘Emirates type’ of stadium one could say. It sure looked impressive looking at it driving on the highway (so I didn’t really kept on looking of course).
The stadium will hold 59500 seats when it is finished and will be holding also other buildings like museums, a sports clinic and offices. According to sources I have seen there is a lot of public money going in to building the stadium. 240M euros I have read comes from public money and the rest is paid for by the club itself. The total cost will be around 450M euros so comparable to the Emirates. One could say almost half of the money is public money. That may sound strange to you but this is not uncommon in France as the government pays for a lot of good sports infrastructure. And with world cups and European championships being organised in France in the next years they have a good excuse of helping the clubs to build or rebuild their stadiums in order to be in line with the new regulations.
And Arsenal building the Emirates all on their own…. Amazing isn’t it? But even for a club like Lyon it has caused the end of their historical run of 7 French titles. The stadium should be finished around December 2015 or January 2016 and it better be as on 13 June 2016 the stadium will host a match for the European championship. It will also host a semi-final by the way. As I am again going to the South of France early September I will be able to see how the stadium looks now it ends its completion.
Last season Lyon finished in second place in the French league. 8 points behind PSG who plays in a different money league and 4 points in front of Monaco. And by finishing second they won automatic promotion for the champions league. So they will be around in the champions league when the draw is made and might be one of the teams we could meet.
Top players last season were Alexandre Lacazette who has been heavily linked with Arsenal and who was their top scorer in the last two seasons. Two seasons ago with 22 goals in 54 matches in total and last season with 31 goals in 38 matches. 27 goals of those 31 were in the French league. He only played 33 matches because of an injury in January that cost him a few matches. He was voted best player in the French league last season. So he is one of the players to watch.