Apparently, this rugby team is good and has managed to go to the semi-finals at least the past two years I’ve lived here. Clermont-transforms itself on the day of the semi-finals, and the town is almost unrecognizable. This past Saturday was just such a day, when the ASM were scheduled to play rivals Perpignan in the semi-finals (they had played Perpignan in the semi-finals last year and lost). There are blue and yellow banners hanging from every single building – post offices, stores, apartments, homes and even churches. Imagine my surprise when passing by downtown and seeing the beloved Auvergnat hero, Vercingétorix, holding an ASM flag. I can only imagine seeing a statue of George Washington holding up a Redskins flag.
Since the match was taking place in Paris – the city of Clermont-Ferrand, just like last year, decided to put up the big screens downtown to give everyone a chance to watch the game, which was scheduled for 9 pm. Of course rugby is nothing without beer, and so the beer tents were also set up all around downtown at Place Jaude.
While having breakfast downtown on Saturday morning, we could hardly believe the scene. At 11 am, there were already people camping out in front of the big screen. The cafés were lined with people in yellow and blue – the party had already begun.
I have to admit that my favorite was this guy. He was not about to let a broken leg and wheelchair get in his way of cheering on his beloved ASM.
We decided to avoid the chaos downtown and stay indoors on Saturday. We did watch a little bit of the game, but since I am completely rugby ignorant, we didn’t watch it through until the end. I don’t know why everyone always tells me that it is just like American football because it is not like American football. I suppose that the ball is oval, they do kick what appear to be field goals even though they are called penalties, and from what I gathered the scoring appears to be similar. I guess the overall objective of getting the ball from one end to the other is the same – but that is where the similarities end. There are no long passes, strange huddles with the opposite team, and frankly other maneuvers that I didn’t understand at all. I have to admit that if I knew and understood the rules, it could be a game that I could get into, but alas this was not the case on Saturday.
Even though we were not watching the match, it wasn’t hard to discover who had won the game. At around 10:30 the air horns started blowing, the cars started honking and people were shouting from their balconies. After so many years of painful defeats – ASM had finally won the semi-finals. The party continued, from what I could hear from our window, until the wee hours of the morning and well into Sunday when ASM arrived back from Paris. They were received in Centre Jaude to a cheering, very happy, proud and drunk crowd. While I am not a fan, I have to admit that I was happy for them finally having won. So now, this town is more obsessed than ever and the rugby fever continues! I guess there is nothing left to say, but Allez les jaunes et blues (Go the yellows and blues)!