Although a Newcastle supporter, I have a real soft spot for Racing Club de Strasbourg. Telling the full story of RCS’s 2004-05 season would require more words than I have here.
To summarise: I was one of the many British Erasmus students in Strasbourg that year. We fell in love with the team, who started the season dreadfully in Ligue 1, sacked their coach, improved a bit, before eventually finishing mid-table having beaten Marseille, Bordeaux and PSG at home.
The true apogee of the season was the League Cup run; unconvincing wins over inferior opposition eventually culminating in an appearance at St Denis against Caen, a team who had earlier in the season been thrashed 5-0 by RCS.
The day started well; early train to Paris, RER to St Denis, alcohol acquired for sitting out in the sun (hey, stop judging. We’re British). The short walk to the stadium saw us blend in to the mass of thousands of other supporters (of whom you might well have asked where they were when Stras were losing 0-2 to Nantes).
A great atmosphere inside the stadium; banners, tickertape…Allez les bleus! At half time it was 1-1 and not much to choose between the teams. With extra-time looming, pedestrian centre-half Jean-Christophe Devaux steps up to take a free-kick. A neat lay-off by Mickael Pagis and JC laces it into the roof of the net from 25 yards out. The “Ultra Boys” go insane, as do we. 14 or so minutes later and the final whistle sounds.
What makes that moment – that day – so poignant is the decline of the club since. A few of us travelled to the Pyrenees at Easter (a story in itself) to watch a tepid 1-1 draw against Luzenac in Le National, a result which, to all intents and purposes, ended RCS’s promotion push back into Ligue 2.
This failure has resulted in administration and the club is now playing in a regional group of CFA2, an amateur league (the 5th tier of French football), competing with Auxerre’s junior team. Alsace deserves better.