One of those old magazines contained an article about the « jeu à la nantaise ». I instantly fell in love.
In the USA at that time, soccer was seen as a boring and fringe sport. So, as I was born with this mentality taught since my early years, considering soccer as a game for kids, it was very difficult to find publications dedicated to soccer. At the time, my brother had a French friend, who came from the suburbs of Paris and always gave me his old magazines about French soccer. One of those contained an article about the « jeu à la nantaise » (famous beautiful football style, typical of the club said to have inspired Barça’s style). I instantly fell in love. Just reading about a team playing “beautiful soccer” was so encouraging, it was the first time I could read such compliments about a soccer team. So Nantes, «FCNA» at that time, became ‘my’ team.
Then, what was difficult in a world before the Internet (the real world) is that the information about soccer, above all concerning a non-English-speaking league, were almost impossible to find except one article here or there.
It wasn’t until I went to University that the Internet became available everywhere, and then, it was way easier to follow Nantes. I remember many matches I watched on fcna.fr. I got most of my football vocabulary in French thanks to those matches. The shop couldn’t deliver beyond France until 2003, but I found an independent dealer where I could buy a shirt (with no name) which was way too expensive for the student I was. My first Nantes shirt arrived in the winter 2005, after more than ten years of support. Thanks to eBay, I found scarves, publications and pennants.
My heroes were Savinaud, Da Rocha, Cetto, Imed Mhedhebi or Emerse Faé, to name a few of them.
I remember very well the teams in the 2000’s! From the best part (the championship won in 2000-01, the trophée des champions), to the worst part (the coupe de la ligue in 2004, Micka (Landreau) and Toulalan leaving the club, the changing leaders, and finally our first relegation). It was also crazy when Barthez (the hero of 1998, my favorite player) arrived. We went back to the first division, and then again underwent a relegation! But for me, the support was strronger in this bad period. It was all about love and about the players. My best friend is a Liverpool fan, so when we needed to chat about football, he often told me his heroes were Gerrard, Carragher, Reina and Hyypia, but mine have been Savinaud, Da Rocha, Cetto, Imed Mhedhebi, or Emerse Faé, to name a few of them.
I grew up speaking French, so supporting French clubs was natural for me. I even loved two North American sports teams in Montréal, the Expos (baseball) and the Canadian hockey club, known as the “Montréal Canadiens” (ice hockey). Even in traditional American sports, I supported the French clubs. It was not until my wife, who is from Portland, Oregon, brought me to her hometown, the “Rose City” that I realized how wonderful football could be in America.
To be continued…
(Translated by Nicolas Moulins)
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