Allez l’OM

Basile Le Borgne (October 2006)

In one of our new occasional articles from young AAGP members, Basile Le Borgne looks at the background of one of France’s most famous football clubs – which just happens also to be his team – Olympique de Marseille.

What is OM ? The initials stand for Olympique de Marseille but it is not just a football club but a way of life for an enormous number of the multiracial inhabitants of Marseille. It is the best supported football club in France, with tens of thousands of loyal and passionate fans who chant “Allez l’OM!” with feeling and wear the blue and white strip to school, the office, in fact all the time! The club’s motto is Droit Au But (right to the goal) and it is frequently stuck on car windscreens, printed on pens, bags and tee-shirts.

The fans are dying for a repeat of the glory days of about 13 years ago when Marseille dominated the French championship and became the only French team to win the European Champions Clubs Cup. But it is more than the fans - the whole town lives around the club’s successes and failures, the metro runs later on match nights and Didier Drogba even gave his shirt to Notre Dame de la Garde.

OM was formed in 1899 and was a very successful football team between the wars. In the late 1930s, the club moved to the Velodrome but it wasn’t until 1965 a new look was brought in with a new President who transferred top stars in.

In 1985, Bernard Tapie took over. From1988 to 92 Jean Pierre Papin (JPP) was the top league scorer in France while playing at OM. Other big name players at this time were Fabien Barthez, Marcel Desailly and Didier Deschamps and for a short time Eric Cantona – 4 titles in a row and Basile Boli became a hero! The Vieux Port lit up with the celebrations. Then came the bad years with a huge bribery scandal in 1994 which saw Bernard Tapie in prison and the team stripped of their 1993 title and status and were relegated.

Their last big win was UEFA Champion League winners in 92/93. From 1929-93 OM has won the French league 10 times and also won the French Cup 10 times from 1924 to 1989.

Greatly due to Ireland’s Tony Cascarino’s goals, the club made a comeback: a new owner, in 1996, Robert Louis-Dreyfus and players Laurent Blanc and Frank Leboeuf all helped. The Velodrome was revamped for the 1998 FIFA World Cup increasing seating to 60,000 and in 1999 OM made it to the UEFA Cup Final!

In 2005 and 2006 OM won the Intertoto Cup earning another go at the UEFA Cup. The present Chairman is Pape Diouf and key players are Franck Ribéry, Samir Nasri and newly arrived from Liverpool Djibril Cissé. There was another scandal in 2006 when Robert Louis-Dreyfus was severely punished for strange accounting! At the time of writing OM is top of the premiere league – “Allez l’OM!”

Other famous names attached to OM are Chritsophe Dugarry, Bixente Lizarazu, Claude Makélélé, Robert Pires and not to forget Britain’s Chris Waddle. Surprisingly enough the Marseille born Zidane has never played for OM; yet …

All played in the 1998 French World Cup Team

This season’s shirts that sell at 65€ each - great ad. for their sponsors neuf telecom and Adidas (which are controlled and managed by Robert Louis-Dreyfus!)

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