I know this is a hockey blog, but I won’t talk about hockey today, because I don’t really care right now. Today, it’s all about football. The first sport I was interested in as a child. The first sport I seriously watched on tv. The first sport I attended in person in a stadium with my dad. Of course, with football immediately came the first team I became a fan of. The FC Nantes. The first team I witnessed winning championships and cups. The first team that regularly broke my heart too.
FC Nantes 1994-95. The team that made me love football forever.
Hockey won me over a few years ago, and I now often find myself a little more interested in the nhl than in football. Especially since the FCN has betrayed its fans and its history for the last 8 seasons. But I just can’t feel completely indifferent to this club. Yesterday, it lost yet another crucial game, and the team is now certain to be relegated, for the second time in 3 seasons (after having spent 44 consecutive seasons without being relegated, a record in France). This hurts badly. Relegation is a pain that has no equivalent in the nhl.
In the nhl, when your team sucks, at least you know it will get good draft picks, and you know it could get really exciting in a few years. Of course, there’s always the lingering fear that the team could move, if the owners are really really awful. But this is pretty impossible for the historical franchises. No one can seriously imagine the Leafs, the Habs or the Bruins will disappear, even if they suck for a few seasons in a row. In football, if your team really sucks, it can totally disappear from the elite scene for a decade. With relegation comes huge budget cuts. All your best players are immediately traded, because you can’t afford them anymore. The big sponsors leave. The tv revenues drop. A demotion also often means turmoil with an alienated fanbase, and the most passionate fans calling for change in the ownership or at least the direction of the team. And when I say calling for, I mean in a public and very vocal way. Like hostile chants and signs at every game (home and away), demonstrations, campaigns in the local media to discourage people to renew their seasons tickets, and unfortunately sometimes, violent actions too. That’s a lot of uncertainty, in a competitive environment like football. Under those circumstances, it’s pretty tough to get promoted again.
This is a really sad day for the FC Nantes. And the saddest thing is that the club deserves it. The owner, Waldemar Kita, has made terrible decisions since he took over two seasons ago. He seems largely more preoccupied by his ego than by the well being of the club. His policy of systematically erasing references to the traditions and the identity of the club have sickened the fanbase. This policy also deepened an identity crisis that had begun a few seasons before. The 8 last seasons have been awful for the fans of this once proud club. And with this new relegation, it certainly doesn’t look like we’re headed in right direction.
To me, the worst part is that I don’t recognize my team anymore. I don’t care for most of the players, I hate the owner, I don’t particularly like the coach, and I hate the way they play. This is probably what hurts the most. This club was once famous for its exciting offensive and fast-paced style of play, nicknamed “le jeu à la nantaise”. Those days are long gone. Had I not followed them for so long, this team would be dead to me.
I declare 3 days of mourning on this blog.