Date Nights: Football and Fireworks

Not long after we purchased our holiday flat in Nice, its football team OGCN were promoted to the first division – total coincidence. They used to play at a small and rather tatty stadium in the north of the city and, for their first few seasons back in Ligue 1, we had season tickets. However, I got fed up of always being surrounded by heavy smokers and my beloved missing 50% of the home games because of business trips. We decided to cancel our season tickets but continued to support them at a number of home matches throughout the season.

When the team moved a couple of seasons ago to its swanky new stadium in the Var valley, I had hoped that there might just be a small totally smoke-free corner, but there isn’t. In theory, fans shouldn’t smoke in their seats during the match. In practice they do and why oh why do they always sit in the row just in front of me? I’ve tried complaining to the stewards, to no avail. I generally just have to move seats. Not a problem providing the match isn’t a sell-out.

It was OGC Nice’s first home game of the season against Troyes on Friday and I readily agreed to go when my beloved suggested it. There’s nothing I love more than watching live sport with him. On the face of it this should have been an easy win for the boys in black and red who had already beaten the Mighty Ajax to progress to the next round of the Champions League play-offs. They hadn’t lost to Troyes in their last 10 encounters, either home or away.

As usual, in the off-season we’d lost a number of players but had managed to hang onto the mercurial Mario Balotelli and had just acquired former-Dutch international, Wesley Sneijder, neither of whom would be playing that evening. We’d also managed to retain our manager, Lucien Favre and, for the time being, Jean-Michael Seri, our very own Iniesta. We were home debuting a number of new players, including the on-loan from Monaco, Allan Saint-Maximim, who was everyone’s man of the match.

Sadly, despite having 70% possession and numerous shots millimetres wide of the target, we went down 1-2 from a “smash & grab” raid by Troyes who deployed that old defensive trick “11 men behind the ball” – well their manager is a former goal keeper – and hit us twice on the break. Having already lost away at St Etienne, we’re now languishing in the bottom half of the table. Let’s hope we fare rather better against Naples in Wednesday’s Champion’s League match.

Heading away from the match on the bus back to the car parking, the fans were in a sombre mood although this may have been because the heavens had opened towards the end of the match and many were soaking wet!

We were out again on Saturday evening albeit to a “free” event put on by the local community. Three times during the summer months (June – Aug), the promenade is closed for a musical extravaganza and firework display. We’d missed the previous two events so decided to head down after dinner on foot. Although free parking is provided at the Hippodrome, we know from past experience that the traffic is so bad it’s actually quicker on foot.

Many of the restaurants along the front are allowed to increase the number of tables on their terraces. They typically put on special fixed price menus and generally do a roaring trade on these evenings. There are also plenty of less expensive options with a number of food trucks and loads of picnickers on the beach.

Security was reassuringly tight though we were much amused when one of the police horses left his calling card on the closed road. Quick as a flash, his rider leapt out of the saddle, pulled a shovel from his saddle bag and shovelled the dung onto the roots of the nearest tree. I’ve never seen anyone do that before but, given how many kids were enjoying running, riding, scooting or skating up and down the road, it was a sensible precaution.

Aside from the six stages featuring different DJs and musical acts there are plenty of activities to wear out the kids such as bouncy castles, huge slides and so on. To be honest we were feeling a little weary from that morning’s ride and, after walking the length of the promenade, fortified by an ice cream, we wandered back home to watch the fireworks from our balcony.  We also wanted to watch Usain Bolt run in the 4 x 100m relay. Sadly limping from the stadium wasn’t a fitting way for him to end his splendid career. But not even the biggest sporting stars are guaranteed a fairy tale ending. At best they just get to choose when and where, not how.

 

Sheree’s sporting snippets

Here’s a few things, in no particular order, that have caught my eye in recent days:-

Martial Arts

Aged 98, Keiko Fukuda is the first Japanese woman to receive a coveted red belt in Judo. The other seven holders of said belt are male. You wouldn’t want to mug this old lady, now would you? Judo obviously helps you stay youthful, in the accompanying photo she looks no more than mid-60s. So, level with us Keikisan what’s your secret?

At the other end of the age spectrum, France’s 22-year old Teddy Riner  has just won his 5th world title. One of my favourite moments from this year’s Tour de France was when Teddy dropped in for a visit and everyone had to crane their necks to look up at all 2.03m of him. Teddy, weighing in at 131kgs, about the same as Joaquim Rodriguez and Tom Boonen combined, fights in the 100kg+ category and took just 11mins 16secs to dispose of the competition, roughly less than 2 mins per man. Again, someone else you really wouldn’t want to mess with.

The Beautiful Game

OGCN drew 0-0 at home to Brest, a match they should surely have won. In any event, they’re now out of the drop zone. Meanwhile, my beloved boys in claret and blue drew 0-0 at home to neighbours Wolves. Villa recorded their lowest gate since December 2006, just 30,776. One of whom was England manager Fabio Capello, no doubt checking on the form of Darren Bent. He would have left disappointed. I’m finding it more and more difficult to get enthused about football. Attendance at a live match is long overdue.

Motorised Wheels

Michael Schumacher crashed in the wet, in Spa, home of the Belgian GP, and on his favourite circuit. Not, I fancy, how he wanted to celebrate his 20th anniversary in F1. He started today from the back of the field sucking everyone else’s exhaust fumes. His German compatriot took the laurels today.

Another man facing a back of the field start today, was the Doctor. Yes, Valentino Rossi, after falling in qualifying, looked to be heading for the back row but he managed to pull out a couple of reasonable laps and move up 3 places to 14th. His miserable season continues. Can anyone fix Ducati’s bikes?

Under your own steam

The World Athletics are being beamed to us from Daegu in S Korea. Either the tickets were too expensive, the Koreans don’t care for athletics or the man in charge of their distribution gave them all to sponsors. Whatever, Usain Bolt was playing to an empty stadium the other evening. He’ll have found that a bit disconcerting, but it didn’t seem to put him off his stride. I spoke too soon, the news from Daegu is of his disqualification for a false start in the 100m final, in front of a packed stadium. His countryman Yohan Blake took gold.

Hurricane Irene, currently lashing New York, has forced the postponement of the start of the UK Open where Novak Djokovic is hoping to add to his Grand Slam tally and Rafa Nadal is hoping to retain his title. In 2008, Hurricane Ike, caused the Red Bull Indiannapolis Moto2 race to be cancelled, halted the 125cc round in its tracks, while the MotoGP took place on wet tracks.

Hurricanes are given names to eliminate confusion when there are multiple systems in an area at the same time. In most cases, it retains its name throughout its life. The names are taken from alphabetical lists decided upon either by committees of the  World Meteorological Organisation or by national weather offices involved in the forecasting of the storms. Each year, the names of particularly destructive storms (if there are any) are “retired” and new names are chosen to take their place. Different countries have different local conventions; for example, in Japan, storms are referred to by number (each year), such as 台風第9号 (Typhoon #9).

The Velo

While my attention has been focused fair and square on the Vuelta, it’s not the only event taking place on two non-motorised wheels. Yesterday, I caught sight of the procession of the riders who had taken part in the inaugural Haute Route from Geneva to Nice, enjoying the final few

That’s a lot of climbing!

kilometers of their endeavours, as they headed towards the Promenade des Anglais. They looked in remarkably good spirits given that  in just 7 sweltering days they’d ridden 730kms and climbed 17,000m up 15 legendary mountains. I’d love to have taken part but my coach felt that it might just be a wee bit too ambitious: maybe next year. Congratulations and well done to all the 234 finishers.

Staying with the amateurs, this week’s Paris-Brest-Paris premier participants took just 44h 13 mins to complete the 1,231 kms, an average speed of just under the permitted maximum average of 28km/hr. Around 57% of the entrants were non French. Following verification, the official results will be published in early September.

The neo-pros have been lighting up the Tour du Poitou Charentes which was won by Radioshack’s Kiwi, Jesse Sergent who took Stage 4’s ITT. Stages were won by, among others, Sky’s neo-pros Davide Appollonio and Alex Dowsett. Movistar bound Giovanni Visconti of the impeccably, aerodynamically, plucked eyebrows won the GP Industria e Commercio Artigianato Carnaghese. Is this the race with the longest name? Over the pond, Radioshack’s Levi Leipheimer seems to have sewn up the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, being held at altitude, in Colarado.

Spectators were out in force for today’s 248.3km, circuit race,  GP de Plouay, held under a heavily overcast sky, in the heartland of French cycling. French riders were hoping to catch to the eye of team selector Laurent Jalabert and book a berth for the World Championhips in Copenhagen. We had a trade mark attack from Europcar’s Thomas Voeckler in the dying kilometers but it was all too little, too late, as Lampre’s Grega Bole had pinged off the front just before Tommy and held on to win. The first Slovenian to do so.

Meanwhile back in Spain, on the long and difficult slog up to La Covatilla, the first real summit finish of this year’s Vuelta, the Brits took charge. Sky’s Bradley Wiggins forced the pace and Garvelo’s Brummie, Dan Martin, nipped out of the leading bunch to take a well-deserved stage win. Second placed youngster, Rabobank’s Bauke Mollema lifted the red leader’s jersey from a struggling JRod, who conceded pretty much all the time he’d gained the previous day. My contact was right, Brad is in the form of his life. I await tomorrow’s time trial with interest.

CAS have announced that Contador’s hearing will take place 21-24 November. I’m assuming, rightly or wrongly, they mean November 2011.