Good morning my dear readers. Today, I won’t be speaking
about the shinning (and blasting) sun on Paris, or the Gonzalo Higuain/Luis Suarez
and Bernard stories which are buzzing around on Twitter.
Today, I choose to
speak about a moment of history in football, a moment where my two beloved
teams have played against each other. February 14, 1989 (see: the love),
Arsenal hosted the National French Team for a friendly.
Firstly, I must admit
I didn’t know that game was played ‘till last week. Glad to my great pal
@Block_5_Gooner who talked about it and offered me the link (give him a follow,
definitely worth it). Then, I seek on my football memories to remind this
particular time, but hardly find one. At the beginning of 89, I was 12, the
game wasn’t broadcasted live on French TV, and I certainly wouldn’t be allowed
to stay in front of the TV on the evening watching a game.
I would be lying if I
were to pretend that I was an Arsenal fan in 89. My basic notion of English
football was World Cup 86, and Liverpool (ok, don’t shoot me, I was a KID!). My
only true team, at this time, was Les Bleus, and I remember the despair that I
felt when they failed to qualify for the 90’s World Cup in Italy, after a loss
My passion for
British Football and Arsenal will come years after, during Euro competition in
92. David Platt and Alan Smith impressed me the most and the vivid memory of
Platt’s eclectic football (hugely helped by Ian Wright against Paris Saint-Germain
in Cups Winner’s Cup semi final) will guide me to the Gunners in 95-96 season.
But it’s another
story, for another time.
What is the story
behind history? Why the hell those poor froggies came to endure thunder
and lightning (read : Adams’s hammer and Smith’s shots) in Highbury? In fact,
the French Boss, legend Michel Platini, needed to prepare his players against a
British style team before playing the Scottish in a qualification game. The French
Football Federation asked Liverpool FC, arguing the Scousers were the best team
in England (well, they were, but not for long, ask Michael Thomas).
Unfortunately for France, Liverpool denied the offer…but Arsenal never let
someone in despair (except Tottenham Hotpur fans at the end of the season for
the last 20 years maybe), and answered positively to the French request. And
here is how, like a strange sign of fate, years before I cross the road of
Arsenal, my two teams have met in front of the Clock End.
Forgive me for quickly
mentioning the Arsenal side, assuming the lads are very well known. I would
just say this 88-89 Arsenal FC was great (and how can’t it be). The back-four
was there, with Tony Adams and Nigel Winterburn. The magic was there with David
Rocastle and Thomas. The stunning goals were there, with Alan Smith. And plenty
more. Yes, they looked like champions (or close to be).
Far from me to find
excuses to Les Bleus, but to be honest, this French side was in a difficult
time, searching a new breath after a shameless failure in 88 euro qualification
campaign. A large part of great players were gone two years ago: Giresse,
Bossis, Rocheteau, and, last but not least, Michel Platini. The glorious
playmaker, embodiment of French beautiful style of play during 80’s decade, had
left a deep hole on and of the pitch. His influence was so big that French
Federation called him less than two years after his departure to take the
manager role, at the amazing age of 33. A dream for a lot of French fans
(including me), but a failure in the end; four years after his nomination,
after a awful performance during 92 Euro competition, Platini resigned and gave
the lead to Gerard Houllier.
But on this cold (I
assume) London night of February, Platini was there, managing the French team,
with the following players:
Bats (GK) – Thomas Bonalair, William Prunier Franck Sauzée Laurent Blanc Jean
Philippe Durand, Franck Silvestre Sylvain Kastendeuch Christian Lopez
Stephane Paille Jean Pierre Papin. Subs : Philippe Vercruysse, Daniel Bravo, Marcel
Papin, one of the best goalscorers in French Football history. Joël Bats was a
great goalkeeper, no doubt, but left alone by his defensive line during this
nigh. For those who are questionning the “Silvestre” name, you’re not so far
from truth. Franck is the older cousin of Mikaël, the former Arsenal player.
One of my favourite players was Stephane Paille, a finest and amazing playmaker
with a bright future. The following season, in 89-90, he will leave Sochaux to
Montpellier, making a very productive duo with Eric Cantona during one season.
By the way, don’t try to find “Eric the King”, he was under a long-term ban
after described the former French Manager Henri Michel as a “scumbag”.
When history plays tricks
on you, it can sometimes be weird, funny or emotional. I must admit that discovering
this particular game 24 years after was a mix of all this emotion.
I would end this blog
by a dedication to my friend Dave, by saying that if the French players had a
painful night against Arsenal, they still get the glory having shared a handshake
with David Rocastle. At least, it was definitely worth the ride to London