Fellow Yellows – Racing Club de Lens

Ligue 2
RC Lens v Stade Lavallois Mayenne FC
Saturday, 1st February 2014, 2pm
Stade Bollaert-Delelis
Entrance €20, Programme Free
Distance 176 miles, Attendance 27511
With legendary tales of Spanish invaders, mines and moonlit walks past ruined churches – after several kit changes in their formative years – RC Lens colours were finally agreed in 1926. Like the nearby church at Saint-Léger, the colours of Les Sang et Or have remained ever since.
Naturally the start to our day was not so interesting, nor was it calm. Rushing around like the opening scenes of Four Weddings, my son and I furiously gathered our wits before speeding off for the Eurotunnel. Making it just in time, I then realised the only phrasebook in the car was Italian. Too late to make any changes, I promoted my son to the position of interpreter and we pressed on.
Starting our French adventure with a whistle stop trip round both grounds of another yellow team, Racing Union Calais, we followed this with breakfast at a service stop on the A26. There we established just how limited my son’s French really is.
Food procured, we got chatting with a pair of Palace fans – heading for the same game because one of them had the same initials as Racing Club Lens – though clearly none of us knew what to expect.

140201 L2 RC Lens v Laval (135)w

Based just outside the old town centre, Stade Bollert-Delelis is blessed with parking for thousands of cars, a large club shop and, many patient fans, all too happy to assist strangers in their midst.
Though rightfully proud of their Intertoto Cup successes in 2005 and 2007, the Blood & Gold are anything but one of the big French clubs. A modest life until the late 40s, has been followed by continually improving prosperity. Yo-yoing now between Ligue 1 and 2, a few of national cups preceded an incredible 1998 – where great cup runs were topped with being crowned league champions – as they have headed towards a more rewarding new century.
140201 L2 RC Lens v Laval (18)wArriving in plenty of time we located the ticket office then headed off to the nearby Louvre-Lens. This phenomenal purpose built museum – displaying artefacts from its more famous Parisian cousin – has free entry and makes for an incredibly different pre-match treat within clear sight of the stadium.
Returning, we headed for the Tribunes Xerces, the highly recommended tier above the vociferous home fans. We paid, entered and lost negotiations over the use of SLR cameras in the ground. Then before a ball was kicked in anger, choreographed chanting swept round the ground, La Marseillaise rang out, and we were off.
Whilst it could be said that Lens play in all the right colours but not necessarily in the right order, lining up against an orange team, adapting our allegiances was clearly going to be trouble-free.

140201 L2 RC Lens v Laval (111)w

Below us fans yelled encouragement but out in front, any sign of a game winning performance was neatly snuffed out by two stunning goalkeeping performances.
140201 L2 RC Lens v Laval (116)wBehind Les Sang et Or, Alphonse Areola was as solid defensively as he was in his distribution; for Laval, Lionel Cappone performed heroically, particularly in the final minutes. The first half had been a tight affair but, the second period was all one way traffic. Wave after wave of red and yellow attack swept forward and when all else failed, subs were added to change the pattern.
140201 L2 RC Lens v Laval (55)wA win would’ve lifted Lens atop the table. On occasions their moves were the work of stunning confidence; on others misplaced passes and clumsy shots made life easy for the Laval rearguard. The main threat came from Wylan Cyprien and Adamo Coulibaly who were full of passion however, key to it all was Yoann Touzghar, whose agility and running off the ball were punishing no matter who tried to thwart him. Unfortunately every attempt – including captain, Alaeddine Yahia’s late overhead kick – was stopped.
As Cappone leapt brilliantly to keep Lens at bay late on, the stalemate was inevitable, yet below us fans continued to cheer on in vain.
140201 L2 RC Lens v Laval (30)wPulling out of the car park minutes later we’d seen no goals but, it terms of atmosphere and culture, my translator and I were both very rich men. We’d united with locals, witnessed breath-taking art, stunning passes and, fans’ amusing derision of Laval’s dying swans. Each had given us equal pleasure but then, football like sculpture can easily be a thing of beauty.
shorts league
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Initially appearing in the 2013-14 Watford FC matchday programmes, consequently these reports will have a delayed publication on here.

140201 RC Lens programme

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