Coupe de France 32emes : FC Still 1930 v ESTAC Troyes
You have to feel a bit sorry for Troyes. There they are, hovering in the bottom-half clump in Ligue 1 that sees three points separating 13th from 19th, on a general downward slide after a good start, not playing particularly well or being particularly interesting, knocked out of the Coupe de la Ligue by Amiens, and now cast as the inevitable bad guys about to stomp all over the dreams of an eighth-tier club like Gulliver stumbling around a garden.
Because this is one of those games that the Coupe de France can throw up that will have everybody – possibly even some Troyes fans – rooting for the underdog. FC Still 1930 started their cup campaign in the first round back in mid-August to be, with AC Houilles, the lowest-ranked teams to make it beyond the winter break, possibly ever.
The club from Alsace started with comprehensive wins over two district teams, Dinsheim (11-0) and Artholsheim (6-0), before facing fifth-tier AS Erstein in the third round. A goal down, they equalised with 15 minutes to go with a penalty from captain Alexandre Maisonneuve, and a 90th minute winner from Adriano. Next, a tight 1-0 win over sixth-tier Obernal, Kadima the scorer, and a 3-0 win over district side Hoenheim Reunis.
“That was our semi-final,” said Maisonneuve, “our final was the sixth round, the last of the regional rounds”. They got through that after a tricky match against district side Fegersheim, goalless at full time, but winning with goals from Jérémy Heiligenstein and Jean-Baptiste Huck, to set up a meeting with sixth-tier Saint-Avoid, which they also won 2-0, goals from trainee teacher Maxime Philipps and Maisonneuve himself.
The eighth round, therefore, and the chance to make it to the 32emes, away at Lorraine Rombas, also of the eighth tier. Maisonneuve opened the scoring with an early penalty, and despite the home side going down to ten men shortly afterwards, they equalised just before half-time. In extra time, the winner, from club veteran and estate agent Steve Derhan, and the magic was on.
In a situation like this, you often wonder – what would be better for a petit poucet reaching this stage of the cup? A draw against another amateur side that would give them at least a fighting chance, albeit with the risk that even a(nother) National opponent would be a big ask? Or a match-up with one of the big boys, a grand choc, a full stadium, TV cameras, press interest, and a chance, however slim, to make history?
Maisonneuve, interviewed in Dernieres Nouvelles d’Alsace after the victory over Rombas, said:
« C’est mon meilleur souvenir de footballeur. Je n’ai jamais ressenti une émotion aussi forte. À la fin du match, je me suis effondré, j’ai pleuré de toutes mes larmes. Puis quand j’ai vu le bonheur sur tous les visages autour de moi, je me suis dit que c’était exceptionnel ce que l’on a réalisé. »
“It is my best memory as a footballer. I have never felt such emotion. At the end of the match, I was in pieces, I cried all the tears I had. Then when I saw the happiness on all the faces around me, I said to myself, it is a wonderful thing that we have done”
FC Still wouldn’t have it any other way.