in Le Havre, the joy of returning to the stadium

At the Océane stadium in Le Havre, during the friendly meeting between Le Havre AC and PSG, Sunday July 12. It was the first game played in Western Europe before a (small) audience in four months due to the health crisis.

The meeting between Le Havre AC (HAC) and Paris SG (PSG) at the Océan stadium in Le Havre (Seine-Maritime) on Sunday 12 July will go down in history. Proof of this is that tickets to attend were sold out in just a few minutes, despite prices deemed exorbitant by many supporters of the host team. "I was on site, right at 4 p.m. so as not to miss them", says Gilles, 30, with the Paris club's white jersey on his shoulders, who came with a friend.

No less than seventy journalists, including several representatives of international media, made the trip to cover this match. "It's crazy: we even got a phone call from a Brazilian to find out if we had a room left", laughs the receptionist at a modest hotel in the north of the city.

Pierre Wantiez, the director general of the HAC, congratulated himself a few days earlier in a daily interview The Parisian the number of requests for accreditation from the foreign press: "It's pretty revealing of the curiosity that there is around this event, well … of this match. "

The slip speaks volumes, because the friendly meeting opposing the ogre of the capital, champion of Ligue 1, to the dean of the French clubs, resident of Ligue 2 for ten years, does not have any sporting stake. The event, in this case, takes place … in the stands of the flamboyant blue enclosure of the Océane stadium, with the presence of spectators.

"It is mainly to return to the stadium. It's been a long time, there… ”

Because, paradoxically, with this match, France, which was the only country in Western Europe to put a permanent halt to the 2019-2020 season of its football championship because of the epidemic of Covid-19 is also the first “Big Five” country – France, England, Germany, Spain and Italy – to break the closed door rule in effect at stadiums.

"It's a bit ridiculous, Gilles breaths, round face and soft look. We made a hasty decision, we stopped too soon. But hey, what is done is done. "

Of course, seeing their team challenge Parisian stars, like Neymar or Mbappé, gives, according to Le Havre supporters, salt to meet. "We would have come anyway, but it's true that, facing Paris, it's even better", glides Christopher, 35, HAC subscriber for twenty years, accompanied by his daughter Savannah, 10, both wearing black masks and jerseys of "sky and navy".

Of the 25,000 seats in the Océane stadium in Le Havre, only 4,500 were sold for this Sunday evening match.

"Such a poster does not happen every day here, laughs Karim, in his twenties, emaciated face, blue jogging and visible sports socks under pool taps. But we're not going to lie to each other, huh, it's mainly to go back to the stadium. It's been a long time, there… ”

The presence of a public in the enclosure is the consequence of the lifting of the state of health emergency, acted on July 11 at midnight, on the French territory. A return of the public certainly, but limited, because the authorities do not cease to remind it: the SARS-CoV-2 virus continues to circulate in the country, where the threshold of 30,000 deaths was crossed on Friday.

Read also the interview with Jean-François Delfraissy: "We are at the mercy of a resumption of the coronavirus epidemic in France"

"There is no more danger here than elsewhere"

Of the 25,000 seats in the Océane stadium, only around 4,500 have been sold – the attendance limit of 5,000 having been reached with security, refreshment and organization staff, as well as journalists.

In the stands, as on the edge of the lawn, everyone was invited to respect the health specifications: wearing of the compulsory mask for spectators, social distancing and traffic direction to be respected. Behind the scenes, at the request of the leaders of the Ile-de-France club, the people who will rub shoulders with the same areas as the players had to undergo two screening tests (PCR) at Covid-19, by swab and by blood test.

"I have no apprehension. Everything is done so that we can have a good time without risk ”, slides Nina, 42, coming for her son Ryan, 13, delighted to see "His heart team" challenge the formation of your city. Same story with Christelle, 46, and her two teenagers Rachel, 13, and Thomas, 12: "There is no more danger here than elsewhere. The rules have been said, they are clear, it is now up to us to apply them. "

Attendance at stadiums had been pointed out at the start of the health crisis as a vector for the spread of the virus. The continuation of the Champions League match between Olympique Lyonnais and Juventus de Turin on February 26 at Stade Groupama, while the epidemic was starting to rage in Lombardy, had been controversial.

"Exactly two weeks later, there was an explosion of Covid-19 cases on the Rhône", underlined in a tribune on the site of the Federation of the doctors of France the doctor Marcel Garrigou-Grandchamp. The regional health authority (ARS) disputed this statement by stating that "The investigations carried out individually for each case of Covid-19 confirmed biologically have not brought to light any cases related to the match".

Many Italian specialists believe that the meeting between Atalanta Bergamo and FC Valencia on February 19 in Milan had accelerated the epidemic in the province of Bergamo, which has since become the most bereaved in Europe . It has become the now famous "match zero".

Read also the survey: In Bergamo, football to life to death

After four months without stage, the "Satisfaction" to find the stands has supplanted all apprehension. "Anyway, it had to be one day or another that it would resume", argues Christopher. And then, summarizes Christelle, "It's not the same, football, without its supporters".


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