Welcome to my blog detailing my groundhopping exploits. My aim is to visit all football grounds in England (Premier league to the 8th tier) Scotland (SPL to 3rd Division) and the Welsh premier league I may also add grounds from other sports or countries. I hope you enjoy reading.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Arras FA - Stade Michel Brabant

Match - Arras FA 1-0 Wasquehal
Competition - Championnat de France Amateurs 2 Group A
Admission - 6
Attendance - Unknown
Scarf - €5
Food - Ham & Cheese toastie
Ground No. 117
Ground Rating 6/10

Last weekend me, my brother and my Dad travelled to Arras, France for a golfing weekend to celebrate my brothers upcoming wedding. Just as we are about to leave my parents house around 7am on Saturday Morning to make our way to Folkstone to catch the Channel Tunnel my brother says "do we need a passport", so with a quick detour to pick up his passport we were on our way.

As we had nothing planned for the Saturday night when we arrived in Arras I had looked to see if there was any football being played in the local area. Firstly I checked Ligue 1 and 2 but unfortunately the most local teams, Lille in Ligue 1 were away and RC Lens in Ligue 2 were at home but for some reason Ligue 2 football is generally played on Friday nights. I then checked to see if Arras had there own team and found that they did, and even better they had a home game on the Saturday evening kicking off at 18.00 local time.

Arras FA play in the Championnat de France Amateurs 2 Group A, this is the 5th tier of French football. Arras FA were currently sitting 4th in the table with the visitors a few places below.

We arrived in our Arras hotel around 13.00 local time and after having lunch at a cafe in town and a few beers back at the hotel we took the 10min walk to the Stade Michel Brabant.

When we arrived at the ground we bought our tickets from the ticket office just outside the main gate into the ground. On entering I headed to the bar/shop to see if I could get hold of an Arras FA scarf, which I managed after a small amount of pointing and gesturing, my french is awful.

The ground is mainly made up of uncovered terracing that is all raised significantly above pitch level, which gives a decent view of the action. The one stand is located along the near touchline adjacent to the entrance to the ground. This stand like the terracing is raised above pitch level and houses the changing rooms and dugouts. In the far corner of the ground is an electronic scoreboard.

The game itself started slowly with neither team really having any clear cut chances, although the home side maybe could have had a penalty, but was one of those that could have gone either way. The attacker would probably have had more of a chance of winning the decision if he hadn't made the most of the minimal contact from the visitors keeper.
The first half ended with the game goalless and left us hoping for a bit more from the second half.

At half time we headed to the snack bar for something to eat, asking what there was we were told we could have either a ham/cheese toasted sandwich or a ham/cheese baguette. So not the pie or burger that I'm used to but the toasted sandwich was decent enough, better than that pasty I had at Ilford a couple weeks back.

The second half was a bit more lively than the first with more chances created by both sides. The deadlock was finally broken on the hour when Arras won a penalty which was converted easily by the attacker who sent the keeper the wrong way.

One thing that I noticed while watching the game that disappointed me was the amount of diving and playacting that took place. Now I know we think we have a problem in England, but honestly that's nothing compared to what I witnessed watching this game. Players would literally throw themselves a foot in air then roll 6 times all while screaming as though they had been shot, I had never seen anything like it, even Suarez would be embarrassed.

The game ended up finishing 1-0 to the home side although Wasquehal should have equalised in injury time when there forward put a free header over the bar from 5 yards out.

After watching the game I reckon that the quality of football at this level closely matches that of the Ryman/Southern/Northern premier league rather than the conference national that is step 5 in England, and although the football wasn't great I still enjoyed my first experience of football outside of the UK, and would recommend visiting Arras FA for a game if your ever close by.

Now that really is my season over I will be back in August.

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