“For us, racing is a faith”… Immerse your self within the coronary heart of Lensois’ renewal

From our particular correspondent in Lens,

This appears to be the place to get the Lensoise vibe earlier than matches. “La Loco”, rue Jean-Letienne, sees its first clients round 11:00 am on match days. Racing scarves across the neck, after all. Generally we begin with a small espresso after which the primary pints begin flowing shortly. With a small fricadelle or an American, it goes away by itself. “It is our ritual,” explains Rémi, 26, as he sits with Sophie and Grégory whereas ready for the remainder of his group of associates. We come 4, 5 hours earlier than the sport. We drink a shot, eat, after which drink one final time earlier than the stadium. »

The bar is reverse the station, a ten minute stroll from Bollaert. Its location has lengthy made it a rallying level for locals and residents of the area. For Saturday’s recreation towards Auxerre, some even got here from Aveyron. The deal with is thought even to the supporters of the opposition. A dozen Auxerrois arrive not solely to style the well-known fries from the North, but in addition to heat up their voices. “The lens was a necessity for us,” says Séverin, who got here for the primary time together with his brother Cyril. That is the Liverpool of France, there isn’t any such enthusiasm wherever else. »

He barely had time to complete his sentence Crowns resound throughout the room. Faces gentle up. “If we sing them at halftime with Lensois?” After all, our Auxerrois calls out. It offers you chills and is a part of what you wish to come right here for. Pierre Bachelet’s track, a tribute to the mining space, is sung by the group at each recreation when the gamers return to the sector for the second quarter. It’s a part of the native heritage and id of Racing Membership de Lens, as are the blood-gold colours and the kick within the Marka stand positioned at midline degree.

“It is a totally different metropolis on match days”

– This membership is individuals, a mine – recollects former chairman Gervais Martel. It belonged to Houillère, then town of Lens took over, however the viewers all the time got here from the mines. The gradual closure of coal mines within the Pas-de-Calais basin by 1990 had left the area in financial smash, with racing being the final commonplace to be cherished. For that reason, and since he was a real soccer fan, André Delelis, mayor from 1966 to 1998, all the time fought to save lots of him. In 2012, the stadium was renamed Bollaert-Delelis as a tribute to all he had executed for RCL.

As we speak, town and the membership are extra carefully linked than ever. “I am unable to depend what number of occasions a day individuals speak to me about racing,” smiles the present mayor, Sylvain Robert. It’s a unifying theme, whatever the outcomes. We discuss it on a regular basis as a result of it’s a structuring ingredient of our territory. A fast journey to the Chez Muriel bar, a couple of steps from the stadium, is sufficient to persuade you of this. Muriel Beaurepaire, barely in his 60s, has been a supervisor for 44 years. The daughter and granddaughter of a miner, she has been racing since she may stroll. “For us, racing is a faith. And Bollaert, our temple, says. All of it is determined by the crew. When our membership works, all the pieces is ok right here. On match days, it is a totally different metropolis. We solely have this. »

Muriel Beaurepaire in his cafe a stone’s throw from Bollaert Stadium, the place (amongst different issues) hangs an image of his 1999 Coupe de la Ligue victory – N.CAMUS / 20 Minutes

Inevitably, after the final fifteen quite darkish years marked by 9 seasons in Ligue 2, the present revival of the 1998 French champion is making everybody smile. “We’re having good years. I cried so much, however they actually make us vibrate, continues Muriel. We have now a crew that appears like us, they’re good individuals and winners. Once more this Saturday, even after assembly 1000’s of miles from fireworks towards PSG on January 1 (3-1), the Lensois scored their tenth successive Bollaert success towards Auxerre because the begin of the season towards Auxerre (1-0). season. Second within the championship on the midway level with an all-time level tally at this stage (44), Franck Haise’s males carry Lens again to the map.

The identify of coach Lensois is on the lips of all followers. He entered the first-team bench simply earlier than his return, famous with the interruption of the championship as a result of Covid in April 2020, since then he has constructed an actual curler together with his workers, piloted by off-road captain Seko Fofana. “This yr’s crew, for sure, is ideal,” says Rémi from his desk in La Loco. He represents us nicely and we take pleasure in each recreation. »

“Bollaert, when you set foot there…”

Like his two associates, this instructor knew primarily Ligue 2 for now. They got here and, like generally 30,000 different fanatics, “however not for the crew, however for the membership, the crest”. He hopes that in the present day he shall be entitled to his years of happiness, like earlier generations. “Since final season, we have been imagining Europe,” he admits. It is everybody’s dream. If we wish to be formidable, we will intention for the primary three locations. At the very least the Europa League anyway. It’s extensively playable. “Racing hasn’t recognized Europe since 2007, C1 since 2002.

On the bar, Joan stomps her ft on the concept. “I consider within the Champions League, we are going to do it,” says the 10-year-old boy who is aware of the names of all of the gamers by coronary heart, proper all the way down to the reserves. He has been coming repeatedly for 5 years together with his father Alex, who was thrown into the pot by his father at a really younger age. “It’s extremely family-friendly right here, it is actually handed down from technology to technology,” he notes. I did not inform myself my son must be a Lens fan, however he noticed me, he needed to return. And Bollaert, when you set foot there…” For sure, we will clearly see the concept.

Presentation of the teams in front of the roof of the Marek stand, the only one in France, which is located at the height of the midline.
Presentation of the groups in entrance of the roof of the Marek stand, the one one in France, which is positioned on the top of the midline. – N.CAMUS / 20 minutes

Joan remembers prefer it was yesterday that Lens-Reims, founding father of the match of his feelings for Racing, whereas the household lives in Lille. “It was wonderful, I cherished it straight away,” she lights up. His father is comfortable to find the charms of the highest Ligue 1 desk, “even when we like this membership for what it’s, not as a result of it really works nicely.” They don’t seem to be subscribers, however because of the reasonably priced costs (from 9 to 13 euros for the primary worth) they’ll afford to return ten occasions a yr. Subscriptions additionally stay cheap, round €200-300 for stands behind objectives. A remnant of the Martel period.

“Once I arrived [en 1988], there have been few individuals within the stadium and solely 2,000 subscribers. We have executed numerous work to carry individuals again, with prizes for households, supporters’ sections, works councils. Folks had been open-minded and from the second we acquired promoted to the primary division in 1991-1992, that disappeared,” relates the one who by no means misses a house recreation, even since he lastly resigned in 2017. RCL is approaching 30,000 gamers in a 38,000 seat stadium this season. It may be larger, as a result of sesame seeds are fascinating, however it’s crucial to depart open locations.

“Destroyed” metropolis vs “new breath”

On this wet and windy Saturday we nonetheless bumped into an individual who does not care about soccer. Ziad is employed within the Basly shoe workshop, on the boulevard of the identical identify, one of many purchasing streets within the heart. He admits he does not perceive the passion round racing. “There are extra essential issues in life, particularly on this disaster we’re going via,” stated the 50-year-old. A resident of Lens left within the Eighties to return in 2020. He not acknowledges town he considers “affected”. He regrets that the weekends are very quiet, even when he’s a bit energetic when there’s a match.

“The outcomes carry visibility and new life to town,” says Mayor Sylvain Robert, main the territory, which in 2019 had an unemployment fee of 28% amongst 15-64 yr olds. Really feel the passion. Midfielder Adrien Thomasson, who arrived from Strasbourg this week, was desirous to attempt it. By coming into the sport on the finish of the sport, he was in a position to measure his new atmosphere. “Seeing Bollaert full, plus a Lens shirt, could be very spectacular,” he stated after the sport. I left a bit early through the break to hear Crowns. I am unable to watch for my subsequent house recreation. »

Will probably be good, on the very starting of February. To be able to additional annoy all passers-by. The temper of town is determined by it. “If solely it had been a metropolis,” Gervais Martel sighs. Me, wherever I’m, individuals speak to me in regards to the crew, the outcomes, the European Cup. It is an entire area that lives with the membership. “And who missed that thrill from the highest of the desk.

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