At the Geoffroy-Guichard stadium (Saint-Etienne),
A true marked crime scene, accompanied by an enigmatic banner “Who killed ASSE? “, with three clearly established suspects: Roland Romeyer, Bernard Caïazzo and Jean-François Soucasse. Here is the escape game offered by ultras from Saint-Etienne, Tuesday evening near the Geoffroy-Guichard stadium, before a match against Laval (15th) almost vital not to sink into the National. Co-record holder of the number of French championship titles with PSG (10 from 1957 to 1981), AS Saint-Etienne is indeed at its worst, despite its short success (1-0) of the evening, in a red lantern position in Ligue 2 unworthy of its history.
More than 3 hours from kick-off, Michel and Marie-Christine took their place with their grandson Loïs in the Greens museum, which has welcomed more than 300,000 visitors since its opening in December 2013. Installed in front of a large screen , they revel in the images of the European exploit of 1976 against Dynamo kyiv (3-0 ap). The reason for their 600 km journey in a motorhome from Vitré (Ile-et-Vilaine) is almost as much in this dive into the legendary years of the band at Robert Herbin as in this 18th day of Ligue 2.
The scar of the barrage against AJ Auxerre
“I remember all the actions of these European Cup matches as if it were yesterday, notes Michel. It’s weird to see how low the club have fallen today. Red lantern in Ligue 2 now four points behind the first non-relegation player Rodez, ASSE continues its inexorable fall, in the wake of relegation from Ligue 1, after an apocalyptic return barrage against AJ Auxerre, punctuated by three points withdrawn and four games behind closed doors. An evening that said a lot about the ills of Saint-Etienne in 2022, on and off the pitch.
“We took tear gas from everywhere, and faced with the cobblestones thrown towards the CRS, we had to protect our heads with boards”, regrets Hervé Boulanger (66), who sells ASSE jerseys in the evenings. games for nearly 20 years. Stéphanois pure and hard, this one was the goalkeeper of the Greens in the youth categories, before working at Manufrance… then to attend the famous final of the European Cup of champion clubs, in 1976 in Glasgow (0 -1 against Bayern Munich). The ultimate combo. “Even before I was 10, I was scheming with my friends to get down from Montreynaud, in order to go and see the matches in the Cauldron without my parents knowing about it,” he laughs.
When a 7-year-old boy laughs at Monty’s words
Nostalgia seems to be everywhere in the air in Forez, when Hervé tries to remember the chronology of the club’s goalkeepers, between Curkovic and Castaneda, when several spectators start humming with tenderness Johnny Rep, the tube of Mickey 3D, or even on the shelves of the Greens shop, where the emblematic ex-captain Loïc Perrin developed the collection of T-shirts and caps number 24. Came from Montbrison (Loire) with his children Nino (7 years old) and Martin (4 years old), Mathieu (39 years old) has instead opted for green caps in his basket. He is almost the first surprised to brave the cold, on a Tuesday evening, to inflict an obscure match between the 15th and 20th in Ligue 2.
“I told myself that I would no longer watch our matches after our relegation last May, confides the one who discovered the Cauldron in the 1990s. But in the end, the passion remains despite all the hardships. It’s quite surprising but there is something visceral. This thing that prompted him to take his youngest son for the first time to Geoffroy-Guichard on Tuesday, when he could have suspected that there would not be the slightest shot on target during the entire first quite a pathetic time.
In the car, I had fun making the children listen to “Who’s the strongest? Of course it’s the greens” by Monty. Well, my 7 year old boy made fun of me because he is not fooled by our level. I dare not imagine an unprecedented descent in National. For the younger generations, identification with the club would be even more difficult if we are at this point at the bottom of the hole. »
“We have green blood”
Not far from there, although dejected by the current situation at ASSE, Humphrey (49) is very proud to have been accompanied by his son Thomas (20) from Vierzon (Cher, 350 km), as has been the regular case for more than a decade. “Thomas fell very small in the Cauldron, and we will never change our colors: we have green blood”, proclaims Humphrey. An overflowing passion already thwarted when the Greens flirted twice with the National in 1997 and 1998, before getting out of it on the final day (17th in L2 both times)… then going back to Ligue 1 the following season .
But at the time, the Cauldron was full, as in October 1998, when it gathered 90,000 spectators in three consecutive matches (in L2 and for the late Coupe de la Ligue). Tuesday evening, there were barely 13,000 supporters, in particular because of the boycott demanded since the post-World Cup resumption by the main groups (north and south kops), who still demand the departure of co-presidents Roland Romeyer and Bernard Caïazzo.
“We go to improbable stages and we lose”
An ambient gloom which does not prevent rather surreal scenes, including in this season with only 4 games won out of 18 in L2. “On December 30, a young woman came especially from Brest with her boyfriend: she had given him a place for the match against Caen (1-1) and the Greens museum as a birthday present, says Laurent Chastellière, the manager of the museum. These kinds of examples prove how extraordinary the passion for this club remains. I do not forget that four years ago, Lens was languishing in Ligue 2, and that in 2017, we faced Manchester United in the Europa League… ”
The Red Devils pennant is there to attest to it in the museum, but this adventure against Zlatan Ibrahimovic and his family seems so far away now. European journeys, Eric Chovier (47 years old), who ensures that “his whole life is built around ASSE”, has not missed a single one from the Galtier years. Whether at Old Trafford, but also in Azerbaijan or in August 2013 against FC Milsami, in Orhei (Moldova), after a trip… of more than 50 hours by bus!
Christophe Galtier had found my trip so incredible that from there, he systematically made me get into the team bus to allow me to attend ASSE training before each European Cup match in abroad, then he took me back to my hotel, smiles this Spanish teacher living in Puy-en-Velay (Haute-Loire). Those were amazing memories. At the time, we never thought we would ever experience such a crisis situation again, but we went from disillusion to disillusion. Our descent into hell is terrible, we go to improbable stages and we lose, we dig, we dig, while Christophe Galtier trains Messi. »
“The climate was a bit hostile”
An observation as icy as an intervention by Etienne Green or Matthieu Dreyer in front of their goal line this season. The recent urgent reinforcement of Gautier Larsonneur (ex-Brest and VA) in this position is one of the good news of the evening on the side of Saint-Etienne, as is the stunning return of Jean-Philippe Krasso (54th), decisive passer on the only goal of the match, signed Mathieu Cafaro on Tuesday (1-0, 59th). This success has hardly softened the heavy air of Forez. “The climate was a bit hostile, and even if it wasn’t a decisive match, this victory does us a lot of good,” insists Saint-Etienne captain Anthony Briançon. The fear of heights is nonetheless present among all the supporters this Wednesday morning.
“There is not just one monument in danger but a whole city, specifies Hervé Boulanger. Moreover, when we see what is happening at the town hall, we say to ourselves that all Sainté is definitely in crisis at the moment. Nevertheless, for at least one evening, on the return trip to Montbrison on Tuesday, Mathieu was able to make his son believe that Monty’s words still had meaning in 2023. And that’s beyond belief. a World Cup final in Sainté.