Thursday, 11 December 2014

Lille OSC v Vfl Wolfsburg. 11/12/14

"When the waiter said 11, I presumed he meant the cost of the round not the strength of the bloody beer."

Lille OSC 0-3 Vfl Wolfsburg. Stade Pierre-Mauory.
Thursday 11/12/14
Christmas is becoming a more and more popular time to head off to the continent for a few days. You've got Christmas markets, mulled wine, the chance to shop for gifts for loved ones and the final round of matches in the Europa League.

And that is why, two weeks before the big man in a red suit does his rounds we were boarding the Eurostar to Lille. Regular readers will know that despite being more than happy to watch any German team, I do actually support one - Vfl Wolfsburg. This came about because of a long winded obsession with Schteve McClaren and although the man of a thousand accents may have long since departed Volkswagen Arena, the love for Die Wolfe remains.

Standard ferris wheel and giant tree
Wolfsburg found themselves back in European competition after a five year absence for this season and as luck would have it, their final group game threw up a trip just 90 minutes and only £60 from London St Pancras to Lille on the Belgian border. The 10th and final McCarthy's Football Travels trip of 2014  had practically booked itself.

Lille Christmas Market - frankly, a disappointment
Lille Christmas Market itself was something of a disappointment. It had the standard issue massive tree in a square as well as a ferris wheel but the stalls themselves left a lot to be desired - especially for those of us who go to these things in the search of beer. The only beer that could be found was mulled beer - an invention as terrible as it sounds.

Mulled beer - as disgusting as it sounds
Take a small glass of strong Leffe, heat it up to radioactive levels, shove a piece of lemon in it and you have mulled beer. A drink so disgusting that the only way to get rid of it effectively is by necking it - something far from advisable when a liquid is hotter than a fragment of the sun. Thankfully, there was plenty of the more traditional mulled wine on offer to take away the taste as well as a decent selection of food including a human head sized slice of what amounted to bread with cheese in it that went down very well with Andy the Vegetarian.

Drink driving laws differ in France
While the market may have left a lot to be desired, the city itself did not. Like most places in France, the bars didn't really kick into life until early evening due to everybody being on strike during the day but we found plenty of them to drink in. Lille's close proximity to Belgium meant that not only were decent French beers on offer but plenty of ridiculously strong Belgian ones as well.

Pay attention in GCSE French, otherwise you can end up
erroneously ordering an 11% beer in a ridiculous glass
If Nicky Morgan is reading this and is looking for suggestions to improve GCSE French, then here he is one - add a significant unit on ordering drinks. Had this have been in the syllabus a decade ago, its probable that the sort of problems that can arise from mistakenly believing that eleven is the price of the round as opposed to the strength of beer could have been avoided and my memory of the rest of the day would not be as fuzzy from that point on. Michael Gove would almost certainly take this on board...

20 beers on tap = BEER HEAVEN
What probably didn't help matters and can in no way be attributed to the language barrier was finding a bar after Beerstrengthgate that had 20 (TWENTY) different beers on tap. Attempting to have a half of each to complete the set was again something that you'd have to say a British Secretary of State for Education is unlikely to be able help with.

Stade Pierre-Mauroy was around a 20 minute metro ride from the city centre. It opened in 2012 and is built a long way out of town but with surrounding hotel complexes, restaurants and bars you can arrive there reasonably early and have plenty to do - namely, more drinking. The stadium itself looks suspiciously like the Allianz from the outside until you get closer and realise the entire exterior is in fact transparent.

Stade Pierre-Mauroy's transparent exterior
Stade Pierre-Mauroy 
Lille OSC - decent home ground
Inside it is three tiered all the way around and for our visit the roof was shut which led to a decent atmosphere and the unusual scenario of it being relatively warm inside the ground despite being freezing cold out. We'd sourced tickets in the home end and given the stories of the fun and games that Everton had while out there for a previous group game, decided to keep our heads down and not give away the fact that we were English supporting Wolfsburg fans for fear of a) violent reprisal and more potently b) having to explain why we support Die Wolfe.

Not the only English idiots supporting Wolfsburg it would seem...
It soon became apparent that the first point wasn't going to be a problem and so at half time (with the visitors leading 1-0 through Vieirinha) we found a friendly steward manning the segregation fence, explained the predicament without thankfully having to mention Schteve and were allowed to join our fellow Wolfsburg fans for the second half.

This was a good move as Wolfsburg went onto add another two goals through the seasonal figure of Jesus Christ look-a-like Ricardo Rodriguez. That despite going down to ten men thanks to a red card for Joshua Guilavogui. Lille couldn't find a way past the inspired Diego Bengalio, who even saved a penalty to preserve the clean sheet and 3-0 win to send Die Wolfe into the knockout stages and a meeting with Sporting Lisbon.

Ole ole ole!
The Wolfsburg fans were held in the ground afterwards but that wasn't a problem as the players came over to do some dancing in front of the away support to celebrate the victory - a theme that was taken up by the fans in the bars of Lille afterwards.

One of the golden rules of football trips abroad is never go to an Irish bar but we abandoned that to visit O Scotland - the French don't do irony or a sense of humour in general so this must have been a genuine mistake in terms of naming. The reason for ignoring that long held guideline? The place was packed with the strange mixture of Wolfsburg fans and delegates from a French/British conference on ecology that was taking place in the city.

Discussing football.....and ecology in O Scotland
Quite the crowd but a great one if you wanted to discuss Rodriguez's free kick, Bengalio's penalty save or the importance of Nicklas Bendtner on Wolfsburg's mightily impressive campaign to date alongside the less important issues of ecosystems and the worlds environment.

All of which we were naturally fluent in by the time that 3am rolled around and O Scotland was shutting for business. Who knew that female chamois in France age faster than those in Switzerland? It is amazing what 11% beer can help you learn.

The Wolfsburg massive
Good nights work for Die Wolfe
Stade Pierre-Mauroy empty as the Wolfsburg fans are locked in
Lille OSC: Vincent Enyeama, Simon Kjaer, Djibril Sdibe, Papa Souare, Marko Basa, Sebastien Corchia (Ronny Rodelin), Florent Balmont, Idrissa Gueye (Souahilo Meite), Ryan Mendes (Nolan Roux), Rio Mavuba, Divock Origi.

Vfl Wolfsburg: Diego Bengalio, Sebastian Jung, Naldo, Robin Knoche, Ricardo Rodriguez 2, Vieirinha 1 (Bernard Malanda Adje), Ivan Perisic, Kevin De Bruyne (Daniel Caligiuri), Luiz Gustavo, Joshua Guilavogui, Ivica Olic (Bas Dost).

Attendance: 33,559.

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