My Team & I: Lille

By Andrew Gibney

Twitter: @FrenchFtWeekly


Why Lille?

I’ve always had an interest in all the European leagues but I will be honest until 2005 I’d never heard of Lille. I still remember watching Lille v Manchester United with some friends, obviously wanting the non-English team to win but knowing nothing about them.

It wasn’t until a few weeks later one of my housemates parents had gone on a trip to France, advised me they were going to a match, so I asked them to bring me back a scarf. On their return I was presented a scarf with the word “LOSC” spread across one side and “Allez Lille” on the other.

This sparked my interest; I fired up Pro Evolution Soccer on my PS2 and played a few games. Then on a very geeky level a friend from the Evo-Web forum present everyone an updated option file with Ligue 1 fully updated. I spent my student days playing as Lille and after about five or six seasons in the game I knew every player’s name, squad number and preffered foot. Possibly as much as you could know about a team without actually watching them play.

Around that time the ability to stream games online had started and I managed to catch parts of a game near the end of the season. Lille were playing Bordeaux, Peter Odemwingie and Mathieu Bodmer scored quick goals and Lille went on to win 3-2. They had caught my attention.

Two weeks later while staying at the then girlfriends parents we were sitting playing Scrabble at about 2am, I flicked quickly through the channels and stumbled onto Channel 4 and watched Lille surprise the Champions Lyon 4-0, Odemwingie scored two and I was hooked.

The ability to watch games online improved and so did the frequency of when I could watch them. I was taken by manager Claude Puel’s style, his team worked very hard to close down and win the ball back and then hit teams on the counter-attack with free flowing football, Abdul Kader Keita and Odemwingie were the catalysts for this style. It was very exciting to watch.

Then in 2008 Setanta Sports came on the scene and showed live Ligue 1 matches on a Saturday or Sunday night so the opportunity to watch the games on a proper television became an exciting part of my week, by then I was not only a Lille fan but I loved the whole league.

As Lille were now my team I had to go and see them play, so I went about booking a trip to France on St Patrick’s Day 2007 Lille were at home to Le Mans. The 16th of March quickly arrived, I had my train tickets booked from Leeds to London then on to Lille. The hotel was booked and I was meeting someone in Lille who had sorted out tickets. Around 20:30 on the Friday night, I was minutes from going to bed for the big day ahead. A message popped up on MSN (pre twitter/facebook days) asking if the fire in London had affected my trip. Unaware of any fire, I was quickly on the internet only to find out that a factory in London had caught fire, not far from the Eurostar line. All Eurostar trains were cancelled for 24 hours. Trip cancelled. I was absolutely gutted, four months of planning and excitement down the drain. Of course being a student I went out on St Paddy’s day and drank my spending money. Lille got beat 3-1.

Through various reasons a return trip wasn’t planned until 2011. I think it was the day I stopped work for Christmas, we had received our Christmas wages I got home around 3pm and thought “FUCK IT” 30 mins later, tickets for Lille v Lyon on the 26th on February were booked along with the trains to London and Lille.

A week before I was leaving to get married I was finally on my way to the Stade Lille Metropole, the athletics track turned football stadium looked fantastic, there is something wonderful about night-time games with the floodlights on.

If there was any doubt about my affection towards the club from Northern France that trip just made me love them even more. The city was great, the team, the atmosphere, I just absorbed it all. Now that they are the league champions the name of Lille is recognised more than it was back in 2005 and I can see them becoming a bigger force in French football over the next 5-10 years, but I’m proud to say I was still a fan when the last bunch of stars were all sold and they finished 13th. And I’ll still be there if it happens again.

Favourite Player?

It can only be one man….Peter Odemwingie, I don’t think without him I would be a Lille fan today. He was just a great player to watch. He only scored 14 goals in the first season I saw him play but it felt like more. Great in the air and with the ball at his feet, an extra burst of pace that West Brom fans don’t really get to see. He seemed a genuinely nice guy and he was the focal point of the Lille attack.

When he left for Lokomotiv Moscow it was a bit upsetting, the team I had become obsessed with were being ripped apart by transfers, Odemwingie was a massive part of that,  I was gutted that I never got to see him in a Lille shirt in person.

Last season I went to watch Wigan v West Brom and was delighted to finally see him play in the flesh, his movement and ability to hold the ball up were superb. It pleasing to see him succeed in the Premier League as I always thought he was a quality player, and who knows he might reappear in Lille one day.

Favourite Game?

Apart from the 1-1 draw this season against Lyon that I went to see there is only one other choice.

Lille 4 RC Lens 0

A beautiful sunny day in Lille, the first home game of the season. After a winning start away at Rennes it was a tough game so early in the season. If you don’t know – Lens are Lille’s bitter rivals, Lille is meant to be the richer cousin to the working class people of Lens so the divide is pretty fierce on match days.

Lille played some wonderful football that day, Odemwingie got the first of his eventual hat-trick early in the first half and the home side never looked back. Kader Keita supplied two perfect crosses in the second half for the Nigerian striker to wrap the game up. Mathieu Bodmer had made it 2-0 in the first half.

Great game to watch from a Lille fans perspective, nothing like destroying your rivals in the beautiful French sunshine.

Favourite Strip?

Only one winner here…my own personal favourite.

Worst Thing About Being A Lille Fan?

More something that is my own fault, but I wish I could go and see them more often. Although I’m only 220 miles from Lille as the crow flies, unfortunately I’m not a crow and I have to get the Eurostar which if you try and book close to the date costs about triple the price as it does three months in advance.

I suppose the other thing is the same as anyone who is a fan of any other French side, Ligue 1 is a selling league, the players come to the league play well and move on. It happened with Odemwingie, Keita and Bastos and it will happen with Gervinho, Hazard and many more.

Funniest Moment?

Back in Febraury when Andy Hudson and I were walking from the Metro to the Stade Lille Metropole a couple of French guys in front of us heard our accents and turned around.


AH:“Yeah” Me:”Scottish”

“Why are you here?”

Me: “To watch Lille v Lyon…”


Me:”J’adore Lille, they are my team.”


I then explained I’ve followed them for a few years, he then disappeared with a very confused look on his face.

The French seemed to be very confused that anyone from the UK would travel away from the glitz and glam of the English Premier League to visit Ligue 1.

Favourite Moment?

Over all the great things that have happened: Watching Lille in the Champions League beating Milan in the San Siro, beating Lyon and Lens a few times, going to the Metropole to watch the team in person. There is obviously one moment from this season that goes above them all. It’s not winning the Ligue 1 title.

Picture the scene, Stade de France, 90 minutes gone between Lille and PSG in the Coupe de France final. Ludovic Obraniak stands over a free-kick wide on the right, must be Lille’s last chance to threaten Gregory Coupet’s goal. The ball is swung in high and with dip and swerve.

Coupet half jumps to catch it, his arms lower…it’s gone…. GOAL, it’s in the net. Coupet had mis-judged the flight of the ball and it had found the top corner. Lille took the lead and minutes later were lifting the Coupe de France, their first trophy since 1955. Although I had not been around for the 56 trophy-less years, the relief and jubilation could be felt from the crowd and I found myself jumping around my room, holding onto the TV as it swayed on the drawers I had used as a temporary base.

There was no doubting my allegiences,  I was over the moon…maybe also slightly drunk but delighted none the less. The league followed making it a superb double for Les Dogues and scenes of partying and celebrations in Lille city centre have made me extremely jealous but still very proud.

3 Responses to “My Team & I: Lille”

  1. Good read mate! Always interesting to hear why people support teams slightly out of the norm. Not even a brief mention for Hazard in the favourite player stakes?!

  2. You have no affinity with the club or city. Your alligiances are based on a fucking computer game.

  3. Cheers Ian. Yeah I’ve never watched them play, just play Pro Evo all day and pretend to support them. Yeah that’s how I started watching them not exactly what I’ve been doing for the last 6 years.

    Don’t worry Ian I’ll raise a beer for you when I’m at the Lille v Sochaux game on Saturday wearing the shirt and singing the hymn.

    All the best 🙂

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