Posts Tagged ‘Manchester City FC’

I love the taste of Kampot pepper in the evening


Saturday has been a day of work for me since starting this job last September, unless part of a general series of holidays. However Saturday 18th June was the sole public holiday as the King’s mother’s birthday. Thank you King for having a mother. Thank you mother for giving birth to the King. So, no work, and, as soon as I found out, a couple of days in Kampot organised.

The resumption of the train meant I could travel down by the train so 7:00 am saw me sat in my seat waiting to leave. A little later, as a result of connecting to the wagon carrying the cars down with us and one small boy was certainly excited to see us pass his father’s car, we set off.

A couple of hours after clearing Phnom Penh, having been offered nice fresh bread by the couple opposite which helped get me through, and picking up speed, we then came to Takeo and a stop. Nice as the couple opposite had been, the leg room in the blue train had not been so great, so it was good to get up and get away from them for a bit, after feeling cooped up. As before the station was lined with people selling all sorts of food and everyone got off for a 20 minute stop.

Arrived in Kampot in time for lunch and where else but the fish market, with great views out across the river to Bokor Mountain, as well as a cool breeze through the structure designed to make the most of it, the like of the breeze had not been experienced in Phnom Penh, and good food.


After a brief siesta it was off to catch a boat. Whilst waiting for it to sail a couple of friends, who I take part in a weekly quiz with ran past, I knew they were in town with the Phnom Penh Hash House Harriers, but what a small world eh?

The cruise had been sold as a chance to see the sunset over Bokor Mountain so I looked to capture that, together with the scenery many people have become familiar with from photos of the region and then films, particularly Vietnam War films. The other thing after the boat set off was a parade of Cham fishermen off to work. The first picture captures the two with the fisherman off to work in front of the mountain:

For me that palm tree with the the different segments in a circle is just so iconic of the area.

Whilst pictures to the left, taken into the setting sun created the two like the ones above, taken to the right the dying light of the sun left enough to get pictures with the reflections of trees and buildings in the river and, against my expectations, of a flower that there had been lots of, floating down the river.

Well, finally a couple of pictures of a sunset, but no Bokor Mountain. A prize for someone who can say what extra there is in the big picture on the left. The second picture on the right (clockwise) is taken from the boat looking out and was when, after R & B and Khmer and K pop, Brown Sugar by the Rolling Stones came on. All of a sudden it felt like being on a boat travelling down the Mekong, up the Mekong or elsewhere in a Vietnam War film and I was just waiting for the whir of the helicopter blades and the opening up of the gunfire from the banks. Fortunately nether of those happened. The ultimate picture shows a reflection from a building under a pretty full moon. I left the boat and passed the fish market where the Hash House Harriers were esconced and loud singing could be heard on my way to get food and a drink.

Dinner was at the Bokor Mountain Lodge, below left, where they do a fantastic Red Snapper cooked with ginger and Kampot pepper. They also have a flag from Manchester City winning the FA Cup in 2011, the first trophy since the 1976 League Cup victory which saw us back to winning trophies, and I was told one of the partners in running the place is a City fan, so, if I go back to Kampot, that is where I would have to stay. It is always a must to eat it there when in the ‘pot’. Talking of which, afterwards I went to another must visit place, Oh Neils, where I ran into a large number of the Hash House Harriers at the end of a day running and drinking ,which started not long after they left Phnom Penh at 7:00 too. (Picture of Oh Neils was taken the morning after, it is usually very much more welcoming.)

A Sunday afternoon walk


After a day and a half’s hard work, following the break for a public holiday, the weekend arrived and a night watching City beat Bournemouth 5 – 1 with a friend and his wife, at Score Bar and a lie-in I decided to go for a walk to look at some of the city.

P1130999I started by getting a tuk-tuk to Sorya Shopping Centre (pictured left) which was the first of the new wave of shopping centres in Phnom Penh, such as City Mall and Aeon Mall which I have already written about here and here, respectively. Sorya is bigger than the first and smaller than the second and, like both, has a cinema on the top floor. There was nothing on which interested me though I did make aP1140001 couple of purchases in one of the shops before leaving and crossing the road to get a top-up for my phone.

Further up the street was the Central Market, somewhere I had previously only been past at night and thought was a dump. Well how wrong was I about the wonderful piece of Cambodian Art-Deco architecture, restored recently with help from the French government. Views of it from outside and inside were just great:

P1140005 P1140009 P1140012 P1140018

I’m afraid the photos do not do justice to the wonder of the building. I wandered around the building looking at the clothes, electrical items and P1140023other things for sale then left. I wanted to walk more of the city and I was headed in the direction I had travelled a few times at night. Leaving the market I entered an area that at night seemed dark and dingy but I came upon the wonderful art-deco building pictured left. My Chinese is not good enough to know what it is now. One of the reasons to walk in this direction was coming next. P1140027It was the film, “The Last Reel“, which I may have mentioned once, maybe you didn’t notice, had an important location in the centre of Phnom Penh, a former cinema which is used for parking Moto’s and, on my way to the Empire in this area I had seen a former cinema used for parking Moto’s and I wanted to get a picture of it. Research, however, showed that the cinema which inspired to was on street 19, across from Norton University where the writer was then working, rather than street 130 where this was.

Further along the street was the Empire, a bar with a soundproofed room on the first floor which acts as a cinema. After finishing work at 19:30 or 20:00 I’m not going to P1140032do much more as I need to eat and then it would be too late to do much more. So, a quick tuk-tuk ride from work and I am here, special of the  day for two or three dollars, three dollars fifty for the entrance to the film and one dollar fifty for a beer means you can get a good night out in the week, after work for less than $10. This time I was not in for a film but a pit-stop. Whilst there I chatted to the bar staff and discovered they had only been here a couple of days, that they are working as volunteers in return for a bed in the floor above the cinema and food and drink. Lunch at a Thai and Khmer restaurant a few doors down was a caramelised pork cooked with Kampot pepper on a bed of rice.

P1140037Eating done it was down to the riverside, Sisowath Quay alongside the Tonle Sap River. The river coming down from the lake of the same name which is a marvel in itself and I will experience next month the river changing direction which is part of a water festival with boat races and fireworks, and three days off work!  The Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel and residences are in the background on the right across the river. P1140043The road alongside the river was fronted with a lot of tourist bars, pizzerias and other places interspersed with the Royal Palace I pictured here and the building on the left, which in the same post I expressed a total lack of knowledge about, I now discover is only Wat Ounalom, the headquarters of Cambodian Buddhism. Opposite the Royal Palace there was a pagoda and from here on the riverside became much more busy with Cambodians sitting by it, P1140054stalls selling food, little birds and flowers, the latter to be cast upon the waters.

Just after the last picture (right) the riverside ended with a restaurant then a big hall took up the space on the bank of the river opposite the Buddhist University. So, I wandered off and found a tuk-tuk and went to my local Lucky Supermarket to get stuff for my breakfast then walk home. A good day seeing some of the sights of Phnom Penh and getting to know the city better.

Supping, but not cheering, with the enemy


I’m glad I left early to save some space for friends in the Irish Pub for last night’s game as friends and other people I was not expecting joined us, having a table and a lot of stools worked out well. The place was packed and it was hard to hear JTO singing our national anthem pretty much on her own. When it came time for the French national anthem all the, mainly young – the pub is at the edge of the University near the area where lots of students live – people sang it with gusto. It is a rousing song, which despite its name was written here in Strasbourg, and it was good to hear it sung with such passion. It was the only time that there was any singing as the French present with us did not sing for the rest of the match, just some almost Parliamentary banging on the table when something exciting or good for France happened.

When England scored first the group I was with jumped up and cheered loudly. This was of course exceeded in volume when the French team equalised. I was left wondering why Samir Nasri didn’t scored like that more often for Manchester City this last season?

I apologise for the quality of the pictures but they were taken on an iPod and it is not too good when there is little light. The top left is the view of the screen from my seat and the one behind is out onto the terrace and garden behind my seat and the last one is looking through, past another screen on the wall opposite the bar, to the bar.

Before the match started someone came round inviting entries for a competition to win a bottle of champagne. To do so you had to guess the score of the night’s matches. I said 1-0 to England scored in the 48th minute and 2-1 to Sweden. Needless to say I will not be taking up forecasting football results and was happy to lose the chance to win the champagne when England scored first around 30 minutes into the match.

I was pleasantly surprised at England’s positive start to the match and thrilled when they scored. The atmosphere in the pub quietened a bit after that but picked up after the French equalised and then got more tense as they got on top, having more possession, but without scoring. An enjoyable evening with some friends and, having lost the chance to win the champagne I didn’t have to stay on to see the other match.

I did think that by leaving I would lose the chance to see the match as one-third of the games are being broadcast on TF1, one-third on M6 and the remaining on the pay channel bein, the French branding for Al Jazera Sports. The France – England match being on terrestrial TF1 the other was on bein. But I had been reminded by a friend that we could watch matches free to air on German TV so I saw the game on ZFR.

Thank You


I have been surprised and blown away by the response to my last post, Strasbourg’s modern art ‘Sistine Chapel?’. On facebook a number of people liked the post and a good friend commented:

“Thanks very much for the blog. Fascinating. Another good reason for visiting Strasbourg – apart from its more obvious pair of attractions! Have a good weekend both of you.”

Then the piece received the best response on WordPress I’ve ever had. I had Snehratnasinghsomvanshi, drecomalfoy, adampbelloto, Air Squadron, Rob Slaven, and into-mind among others either like my post or sign up to be told when I next post. This is the best response I’ve ever had from a post. So thank you to all the people who took the time to feed back that they liked the post.

Because of the cold there is no match today for le Racing but they are now top of the table and, hopefully, heading for immediate promotion back to the next level. It is more than a little embarrassing that this is the first season since I’ve lived here that I haven’t been to see them.

Despite the cold there was a match today for Manchester City and, despite all the carping, nit-picking and nay saying from the commentators about how we were in a serious slump, we managed to beat Fulham 3-0 this evening. So, have a great rest of weekend and I love you world.

Sports report


As I said here I missed the last match of Le Racing Club de Strasbourg’s season on Friday. They won 2-0 and stay in third place in the National. As has been the case for the previous three seasons their future waits upon the last day of the season. Contrary to the wishes of the President of the Club, and representative of the London-based owner of it, the doors were open and fans present. There were quite amazing scenes at the end of the last match with the players joining the Ultra Boys in their ‘tribune’ in the stands. See the video here.

When I moved to Strasbourg in 2007 they had just been promoted back to the First Division. It was great watching the best teams in France for 5 Euros. Lyon, Girondins de Bordeaux, l’Olympic de Marseille, Paris St Germain etc. I didn’t know at the time but the manager who had taken them back into the top flight, Jean-Pierre Papin, was replaced by Jean-Marc Furlan and the season started well with le Racing in the top half of the table. A poor second half of the season and they were left needing a win in their last match to stay up. They lost.

The following season, despite the departure of many of the players, they started the season well and led the division at the winter pause. A less than good second half of the season left the team requiring a win on the last day of the season and another team to not win for the boys of Jean-Marc Furlan to return to the top flight. It didn’t happen. Jean-Marc Furlan was sacked and in the following season there were five different owners in six months. Fewer but a number of different managers, and the team required a win on the last day of the season to stay in the Second Division. It didn’t happen and they were relegated to the National a semi-pro league. Le Racing were allowed to stay professional for their first season and, with the departure of all bar one of the previous first team, started the season very badly and were in the relegation positions in the first month of the season and spent the first half of the season in the bottom half of the table. A strong improvement in the second half of the season, despite a ham-fisted attempt to replace the manager, after it had become clear there was a chance they could make the promotion places after all, left the team requiring a win to be promoted. They won. Le Racing also need Guingamp to lose their match next week to keep hold of the third place.

Blue Moon

I can’t let the events of the past week go without saying how thrilled I was for Manchester City to win their first trophy since 1976 and the win the FA Cup for the first time since 1969. Like I had for every game I had my 1969 replica shirt on for the match and watched the second half of the match in the Dubliners in Strasbourg. I am now looking forward to the match this afternoon and the chance of finishing third and qualifying automatically for the Champions League. I am wearing my replica third shird and I hope it brings as much luck today as the replica of the ’69 Cup Final winning shirt did for the cup run. Whilst talking about football I will just say how pleased I was about the victory on Tuesday night for my former home-town team Reading, earning them a match at Wembley in the play-offs for the Premier League. I will be cheering them on against Swansea later this month.

I don’t like cricket..

I love it. Especially after yesterday when Lancashire beat Yorkshire in the Roses match. I was following the game via the BBC and was afraid the match was going the same way as the Sussex match earlier in the season, when the game was drawn because we couldn’t get the last two batsmen out. This time we did get them out but had 15 overs to score 121, which we did with four balls to spare.

Lancashire are now leading the County Championship despite having played a game less than their closest teams. I wonder, will this be the year Lancashire win the County Championship for the first time since 1934? It would be ironic that the season when we are away from our Manchester headquarters, at Old Trafford, and playing in Liverpool would turn out to be our most successful in the County Championship. It would help confirm my view that we can not win the County Championship playing in Manchester because of the rain. I know from living in Liverpool that the clouds pass over there before heading inland to dump the rain on Manchester, before going over the Pennines. I’m sure there is a study to be done about the failure of fantastic Lancashire teams, like those of the 50’s, 70’s and 80’s to win a County Championship whilst winning nearly everything else going, and the number of matches drawn because of the weather.

What I know about Sierra Leone II


Some time back I posted up a story about the work Manchester City supporters and Craig Bellamy have done in Sierra Leone.  At the beginning of this month the main person in Sierra Leone, Armani, was in Manchester.  Here is a diary of his time in the UK, and here is a video from the Club’s website giving more information about his trip to the UK:

City in Sierra Leone VIII: Bus update.

What I know about Sierra Leone


Is that for a long time there was a war going on where child soldiers and teenagers fired up on drugs murdered and mutilated in the most appalling way.  That the then British government sent a small force to intervene and that peace and democracy has returned to this abjectly poor country.  I am proud that a Government I voted for and supported intervened to stop the madness that was happening.

Before he became a Manchester City player my view of Craig Bellamy was not good.(wiki)  I thought he was an ignorant thug.  How much snoberry was involved in that view I’ve not thought too much about.  On the inestimable Norm blog he does a profile of another blogger every week where he publishes the answers the blogger has given to a set of questions the Normster has provided.  One of the questions is:

“Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you’ve ever changed your mind?”

Whilst it is hardly a major moral, political or intellectual issue one thing I have changed my mind about is Craig Bellamy.  One reason could have been that, as most supporters will say about a player for their team, “he’s our thug so it’s OK.”, but its not that.  Exposure for a long amount of time allowed me to see that he was actually a big hearted player who just wanted to do his best.  If he gets involved in trouble its because he’s committed to his team.  I didn’t manage to convince a fellow City fan, I sometimes watch the matches with here in Strasbourg, about this.  Then I saw a video on the fantastic MCFC website about the foundation he had set up in Sierra Leone to encourage school attendance and to improve football in the country.  Here’s the website for the Craig Bellamy foundation.

I can do nothing but admire the humanity of a man who went to a country and saw the problems in one of the Worlds poorest countries and saw a way they could help, and then they did help in a real and practical way, some of it with their own money.

You can see the video of Craig Bellamy talking about his foundation on the MCFC website here.  I’m just sorry eiher my ignorance or their control freakery doesn’t allow me to post the video here.

So I thought that was it for City and Sierra Leone.  How wrong I was.  Did you know the country has the largest supporters club outside the UK?  Nor did I.

A City supporter retired from the Police and he went to Sierra Leone to train the Police force there.  After work he went to a bar on the beach and was approached by someone selling sunglasses and other trinkets.  The City fan refused to buy anything as the local person was wearing a United supporters badge.  The local said that if the City fan returned with a City shirt the local would be a City fan.  You can see more about it here.  The fan returned with a City shirt and it lead to the creation of the Sierra Leone MCFC supporterDo they not look the parts club.  It also led to the creation of a youth and other football teams as you can see here.  The Freetown MCFC supporters were not able to make their away matches because of the lack of transport so the former police officer City fan returned to the UK and started fundraising to get them a minibus so they could go to away matches.  The club and other supporters groups got involved and you can see more about it here.

The bus would not only provide transport to away matches for the team but would also be put to use during the week to provide a couple of members of the supporters club with an income working as bus drivers around Freetown.  Watch further videos about the saga of getting the bus there here, here, here and here.  The bus has now arrived and was even used by the Sierra Leone Football Federation to take the South African team to the stadium for a recent match.  Further information about them can be found on their blog about it here.

It is humbling what a difference two people, together with a number of others, have managed to make in a poor country.  If you can please donate to help either initiative via the website links given. (Hat Tip to MCFC Sierra Leone for the last picture.)

Big Mal RIP


Legendary: Manchester City management Joe Mercer (right) and Malcolm Allison I was sorry to read yesterday of the death of probably the greatest football coach ever produced in England, Malcolm Allison, who, in partnership with Joe Mercer (pictured together here) took Manchester City from towards the bottom of the old Second Division to Division One Champions, FA Cup winners, League Cup winners and European Cup Winners Cup winners in just six years.

As with other successful partnerships. eg Tony & Gordon, they were better working together than when one forced the other out and tried to do it on their own. After Joe Mercer left Malcolm didn’t achieve anything and then returned to Manchester City in 1979 only to leave again after having lost some longstanding successful players and spent a lot of money on players who achieved nothing precipitating the decline of the club which saw them sink to the old Third Division in the 90’s.

As a coach Malcolm was second to none, introducing thirty years ago a fitness, training and diet regime still thought leading edge today.  It has been good to read reminiscences from former City players outlining how he was always on the side of the players and helped them give more than 100%.  Here is the tribute from the MCFC site, a review here, and the fans tributes here.

Hand of Frog


I watched the first France vs Ireland game, played in Dublin, whilst in a hotel room in Stuttgart making a gentle progress home from San Marino.  I thought the French clearly deserved to win and should have done so by more than 1-0.  So, I watched the game this week expecting to see France make progress to the finals of the World Cup in South Africa.  I was worried at the time by the complacency that seemed to come through the media and from what was reported of the views of the players.  People I work with were a mixture of complacency and fear that something would go wrong.  Ireland were a different team in Paris, they didn’t let the French play like the French had done in Dublin and then when Robbie Keane got the goal a very different game was taking place.  This time the Irish had the chances to win but didn’t score them, and then there was the handled goal by Thierry Henry. French people I work with have all been pleased that their team have gone through but are embarrassed and ashamed at the way it happened.  I haven’t spoken to any Irish people here so I don’t know if they feel as Eric Cantona says he would have in the same position!  I see Henry has now admitted what happened and said the game should be replayed but I think his reputation remains damaged and it makes no difference as it will not be replayed.  Anyway, perhaps I’ll get a first hand view on Irish feelings now about the matter from the manager of the Irish pub I’m off to, to see the early match, Manchester City vs Liverpool in my new Manchester City shirt.  Big news in Strasbourg at the moment is the celebration of the 65th Anniversary of the liberation of the city in 19944, of which more later.

The most famous man from Alsace in the English speaking World


I missed one of the few home games of le Racing since I’ve been back in Strasbourg but I’m pleased that they won 2-0 against Istres, a team who beat le Racing 6-1 at the beginning of the season, so progress and a move 05112009062away from the bottom three and relegation positions.  I hope to see Manchester City versus Burnley this afternoon, either on our satellite service or, as seems more likely, at a local Irish Bar.  Anyway, starting this post with the current football situation allows me to write about perhaps the best known Alsacian in the English speaking World, 05112009066Arsene Wenger.  The pictures are of ‘La Croix D’Or’ (Literally the Cross of Gold but a better English equivalent being the Golden Cross) in Duttlenheim a village a few miles South-West of Strasbourg on the road to Molsheim.  Arsene Wenger has talked about his time growing up in the village, most recently to the League Managers Association:

“There is no better psychological education than growing up in a pub… I learned about tactics and selection from the people talking about football in the pub – who plays on the left wing and who should be in the team.”

There is a wonderful extract, published five years ago in the Guardian, from the biography of Arsene Wenger by Jasper Rees, “Wenger: The making of a legend” talking about growing up in the village and playing football in Alsace to be found here:

On Fridays they serve rosbif

The young Arsene Wenger, a native of Alsace, was discovered by Max Hild one spring in the late 1960s. “He was 18,” says Hild, “and playing for his village. I was coach for the neighbouring team. Our espoirs were playing against Duttlenheim. It was a Wednesday evening. I can’t remember the score but we won.” The neighbouring team was AS Mutzig, a club with a reputation under Hild’s stewardship for playing the best amateur football in Alsace. The espoirs were the kids, the ones who still have hope.

It was so long ago that England were world champions. Arsenal, with a team containing Pat Rice, Bob Wilson and George Graham, would not win the double for another couple of seasons. Rice would later be Arsene Wenger’s assistant, Wilson his goalkeeping coach. Graham would be his predecessor, and his antithesis. “That was the first time I noticed him,” says Hild. “He was a midfielder. He played very well. He made such an impression that I got in touch with him and the next year he came to play for Mutzig in the third division.”

Hild is a small trim boyish man of 70 who meets me at the station in Strasbourg. It is a freezing Saturday morning in February and the city, the designated capital and centre of Europe, is quiet.

We get in Max Hild’s car and head for Duttlenheim. We turn off the motorway and are soon ambling along a main drag flanked by a mixture of solid modern houses and charming older structures. A settlement has been here since Roman times, and the name Duttlenheim has been around since at least 992. It feels as if some of its buildings have too. There are yards with neatly-piled firewood and museum-piece agricultural instruments. In one courtyard is an old wooden farm building, and a couple of tractors. Next door to it is a house – neat, modern and impeccably bourgeois – with a steep sloping roof and a large conifer on the front lawn. The plate on the letterbox says “A Wenger”. “A” in this instance stands for Alphonse.

Further down on the same block, just by the crossroads, is a restaurant. A bistro, they call it here. La Croix d’Or, it says above the door. Arsene Wenger’s father Alphonse ran an automobile spare-parts business in Strasbourg, but he and his wife Louise also owned and ran La Croix d’Or. It must once have been a residential house and at some point transmogrified into a watering-hole. On a blackboard outside the dishes of the day are listed. On Fridays they serve rosbif.

It was in this building that the future manager of Arsenal grew up, along with his older sister and brother. Within its four walls Wenger imbibed one of the central tenets of his footballing philosophy: that it is an offence to be drunk in charge of a football, or even to let alcohol touch your lips as a player. Perhaps imbibed is the wrong word.

“When he was little he was in La Croix d’Or all the time,” says Hild, who at the end of a long career as an amateur in the lower divisions had his first drink of beer at 36. “He saw a lot of people drinking, and the after-effects.”

In 1996, when Wenger was revealed as the new manager of Arsenal, he inherited a captain in the early stages of recovery from addiction to alcohol. Never in a rush to volunteer much about himself, it took Wenger two years to open up to Tony Adams and pool his memories of the alcohol abuse which, for better or worse, helped to plump the family coffers. “It’s further down the road that he actually had compassion for it,” recalls Adams. “Later on, down the line he shared things with me. He talked about being brought up in a Strasbourg pub and observing the way alcohol changed people, the effect the drink had on people.”

At Saturday lunchtime it is empty. The place looks pretty much as the Wengers left it more than 20 years ago. So says the current owner from under his thick grey moustache. Later in the afternoon it will fill with the smell of cigarettes and choucroute and beer and the chatter of Duttlenheimers whose families have known and intermarried with one another in this small community for centuries. You can’t imagine an environment more alien to the clean, antiseptic worlds which Wenger would later try to create at each of the clubs where he was made coach: smoke-free, alcohol-free, fat-free. And yet it was the siège of FC Duttlenheim – the HQ, the head office – where the talk was all of football, where the game leaked into the marrow of the young Wenger and stayed there.

On the bar is a copy of Alsace Foot, a weekly newspaper that gives some idea of the local passion for the game. There are 80,000 registered players in Alsace, out of a population of only 1.5 million.

“Alsace has always been football country,” says Hild. “It’s been the number-one sport since I was a boy.” The front page of Alsace Foot is usually devoted to Racing Club de Strasbourg, the big city outfit, but further in the font size gets smaller and the games more local. The results of the Ligue d’Alsace, in which FC Duttlenheim plays, are noted in the back half. Village football was truly a humble launchpad for the journey that followed – to running the prince’s team in Monaco, Toyota’s team in Japan, and on to the most traditional old club in the country that gave football to the world. No wonder, as the russet-cheeked barman says, while drying a glass, “Arsene really is a hero of Duttlenheim.”

Hild’s car turns right at the solitary traffic-light and treads gently through the village. We pass the ugly 19th-century bulk of St Louis (Catholic, of course), pass the mairie, and more barns and bungalows until we turn right down a track that leads to a small football pitch. It is hemmed in by the road on this side and the backs of houses on the other. Wedged in between the houses and the touchline is an open-sided stand of the kind you might erect to give horses shelter in a windy field. There is no seating, no rudimentary terrace. You could cram perhaps a hundred spectators in there, but you’d have to put the tall ones at the back.

It was on this ground that Wenger learned how to play football. There wasn’t a lot else to do in Duttlenheim in the 50s and 60s. But after school, at weekends, in the holidays, there was football, or watching football. The FA Cup final was the first foreign football he clapped eyes on, on the one television set in the village – in the school – in the late 50s. He would have seen Tottenham win one half of their double in 1961.

The children would count the cars which occasionally passed through the village. “One of you took the Citroens, the other took the Renaults,” remembers Claude Wenger, who may or may not be a relative. (“Perhaps our grandparents were cousins,” he says vaguely.) Everyone knew one another. “Back then no one went away on holiday. We were together the whole time.”

Because the Wengers ran a restaurant, they couldn’t always keep an eye on their children. It was a village where everyone took care of the young. Wenger later compared it to a kibbutz. But it was a Catholic kibbutz. The young Wenger put his faith at the service of the team. He’d be in church reciting from his prayer book when the team were playing on Sunday. He would pray for them to win.

When he wasn’t praying, he was rounding up boys to play in the game. In such a small village, it wasn’t easy getting 11 together in one age group. Wenger would spend the whole week assembling a team. Otherwise they’d have to play one short, or two. Perhaps it was in the early 60s that he began his love affair with pace and power, as you needed these to combat numerically superior teams. Arsenal often thrive when one of their number has been sent off; and struggle, by contrast, when they are playing against 10.

Not that, at the age of 12, he could muster much in the way of pace or power. Hild says the player he later spotted was “quite quick”. Claude Wenger says he was “quite slow”. Most people seem to agree with Claude Wenger. He was also short enough to have earned a humiliating nickname. When he arrived at Arsenal they called him Clouseau because there was something haphazard and clumsy about him (plus he spoke English with a hilarious French accent). Then they called him Windows because he wore glasses. But as a young teenager they called him petit: titch.

“Even at 12 he was a very calm, very lucid player,” says Jean-Noël Huck, who played for Mutzig. The same age as Wenger, he came up against him throughout their teens. “He was always the technician, the strategist of the team. He was already getting his ideas across, but calmly.” Wenger was going through a growth spurt when he got into the FC Duttlenheim first team at 16. When he shot up, he still didn’t use his head much, or at least not in the air. Training was once a week, on Wednesday evenings. There was no coach as such to instil tactics and skills, but someone who oversaw the session. On the pitch, even as the youngest player in the team, Wenger was in charge. “He was virtually, more or less, le patron,” says Claude Wenger. “Arsene wasn’t the captain and yet he was. It was, ‘You do this, you do that, you do this, you do that.’ He was the leader.”

Perhaps when I am working near Duttlenheim again I might take pictures of the Church, School and pitches mentioned in the piece above and post them here.

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