French crowd shows same passion as Pompey’s fans

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Anticipation was growing with each mile.

We were on a one-hour drive from our French holiday villa to the city of Nice and a mouth-watering game of French Ligue 1 football loomed ever closer.

I’d already watched a couple of matches in France before – Monaco v Nantes in the Stade Louis II in Monte Carlo and Paris Saint Germain v Rennes in the Parc de Princes.

Watching the likes of Petr Cech, Patrice Evra and Gabrielle Heinze play before they moved to England was a fabulous experience.

We found ourselves wondering how many of the players in this match would soon be plying their trade in the Premier League.

OGC Nice remind me a little of Pompey. There is a Milan Mandaric connection, as he was owner of the club during the 1990s.

They too have bounced between the leagues and played in an old, open stadium holding around 17,000 fans.

But there the similarities end. Today, they play in the superb 35,000-seater Allianz Riviera stadium, which looks like the Crow’s Nest stadium that wowed us at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

But how would the atmosphere compare to Fratton Park? Do the football fans in the south of France have the same level of passion as those in the south of England?

Oh yes they do. On the second tier of the three-tiered stadium, all fans stood topless. At the front, with his back to the match, stood another topless man with a loud hailer connected to the public address system in that stand. His cries kept the crowd singing.

The game started. Bordeaux were second in the league, Nice fourth. The quality wasn’t too bad, maybe Championship more than Premier League. But Nice played all the tidy stuff and took a deserved lead.

The referee then took centre stage, awarding a penalty that no-one spotted and disallowing two Nice goals. Final score 3-1 to Bordeaux.

I definitely think our football fans have better post-match reactions though. Thankfully we’ve left ripping up seats and throwing them on to the pitch in the past.