Coupe de France 16emes : AS Biesheim v Grenoble
It is a Coupe de France tradition that the lowest-ranked club remaining in the competition is designated the Petit Poucet, with all the attention – and the special match shirts – that involves.
Although one of three fifth-tier sides remaining at this stage of the competition, it is ASC Biesheim who will get to wear those shirts this time around. Whether because of their tiny commune (2,500 inhabitants) or their lowly position in their National 3 group – they currently sit fourth-bottom, albeit with games in hand on some opponents – the club is grateful for the attention and excited at reaching this stage of the competition for the first time. President Marc Nagor: “We’re in the process of writing the history of Alsatian football. We’d never previously gone further than Round 8 before, so getting to the Round of 64 was already historic – reaching the Round of 32 is doubly so!”
Nagor is trying hard to keep his feet on the ground. But failing. “I’ve been in football 20 years and am currently experiencing the moments that I got involved for in the first place. OK, you need to keep perspective – it is still just a football match – but this is a real human adventure that we are experiencing. A real story of men – shared between a president, a coach, players and also the club volunteers.”
Biesheim earned their place at this stage, seeing off third-tier Lyon-Duchère 1-0 after extra time, before visiting fourth-tier Fleury 91 – unbeaten in 18 months – and coming away with a 1-0 win, thanks to David Efondja’s winner.
Of their opponents, Nagor says: “We would have liked a Ligue 1 team, but Grenoble is also very good and it will be a great occasion, so I’m happy.” Grenoble have of course been in the doldrums in recent years, with their one-year 2008-09 Ligue 1 stay followed by liquidation and freefall through the leagues. They’re on their way back up, however, winning their CFA group last year to join the National and now challenging for promotion back to Ligue 2. They are coming off the back of a disappointing home loss to Boulogne (only their third defeat of the season), but their previous result – a 2-0 win at leaders Rodez – shows that they are comfortable travellers too – as further evidenced by their last Coupe outing – a 2-1 win at Ligue 2 GFC Ajaccio.
Grenoble has found itself in the news this week as ex-player Gustavo Poyet makes a return to French football. They will be hoping to make headlines off their own back this week. Biesheim will be working hard to make it about them.