Thursday, July 30, 2009

Take me out to the (foot)ball game

In honor of Marseille's winning 1-0 against St. Etienne last night, an old one from the Miranda file (excerpts):

i have not seem much of marseille but the
stadium, which sits in the middle of
a sort of postmodern wasteland, looking like an enormous cement spaceship.

marseille fans are not like american sports fans.
sure, like everyone else, they take it hard if the team doesn’t win,
but in their case, if the OM loses for too long, they fire the coaches and
take to the streets.

as you approach the stadium, you pass from the ring of comestibles vendors to the ring of ticket
scalpers. “does anyone need an extra ticket?” they chant, dolefully.
once you’re past them, you come to the realm of people looking for tickets.
they say, “does anyone have an extra ticket?” wistfully.
you would think that eventually one group would meet up with the other
but i think that it is some level in the dantean hell, and they are forever separated, kept apart
by vigilant hawkers of unauthorized olympique de marseille paraphernalia.

the stadium itself holds 65,000 people
and is usually nearly full.
nestled in the bottom of it, the field itself, and the players, look almost insignificant.
on the north end and the south end of the stadium are the virages, or bleachers.
they are controlled by two separate factions, the fanatics and the ultras, respectively.

the virage du nord (fanatics) is more homey and slapdash looking
most of their flags are drawn and colored in by hand;
the main theme is written at the top of the virage:
and the color scheme is pure Marseille: pale blue, white, and yellow
but they’ve got a lot else going on––there’s a big banner that says
“Trichosomie” (Downs Syndrome)
and another that says “TOLERANCE” which is rather funny
coming from a group of people who spend hours of their lives
shouting rude things about the sexual histories of the opposing team members as well as their mothers and wives.

the virage du sud (ultras) is much slicker and meaner.
the top of their virage says
then a picture of Che Guevara
the color scheme there is orange and blue.
and they have a drum corps with orange drums.

both sides set off flares when the OM marks a goal
but neither group has a single mascot.
i have tried to detect some themes:
the sudistes have gone with a grim-looking man whose flesh is decomposing
off of his face while he clutches his throat
and proclaims his (undying, i presume) allegiance to the OM.
they also favor large confederate flags––an interesting choice
for a fan base which is largely of arab and african origin––
which they wave vigorously throughout the match.

the virage du nord has a lot of banners that say
but i am not sure whether this is a continuation of the civil war theme
or just some strange alliance to new york, since they also have banners that say
either way, the nord’s main mascot seems to be an extremely angry looking octopus
clutching, among other things, an enormous petard (joint), a beer, a banner, and a football in its tentacles as it writhes menacingly over planet earth.

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