The curtain raiser for Red Star at Stade Jean Bouin on a Saturday afternoon in late July. Today’s visitors were AJ Auxerre from the Bourgogne, south of Paris.
It was one of those games, where you want to excel, yet there is something preventing a performance appropriate for this level. Perhaps the excuse is that this was the first game of the season, moreover the first for Red Star at their new home. If so, then the first half needs to be labelled as ‘getting used to it’. Such was the sleepiness of the hosts.
AJ Auxerre, supported by a group of around 70 supporters were equally slow but had a better first half it has to be said. Time and again their forward movements got them to the penalty area where they ran out of ideas.
Midway through the first half all forward activities were halted and the game happened mostly in midfield. Forward passes went astray and the goalkeepers of either team had a quiet time. Such was the quality of the game that there were no offside decisions during the first half.
The second half was the entire opposite: there was only Red Star playing and testing the visitor’s goalkeeper. Alas, any promising action was prohibited by said keeper or got nowhere as precision was one of the main ingredients missing from the Red Star attack. However, the hosts suddenly appeared to have a striker that actually played in that position between the centre halves and offered passing options. The more Red Star planted themselves in the opposition’s half the less convincing they became there were too many dribbles that did not get past the legs of Auxerre. It is to the credit of the visitors that they narrowed down the channels for Red Star efficiently and any attack ceased. In fact, they hardly crossed the half-way line. There were free kicks but they led nowhere, not even a corner came off these.
Was it a deserved draw? Given that Red Star had more chances, better chances in the second half, the answer is no. Though they did not help themselves playing without a striker in the first half. Auxerre are a side of grafters whose work rate was very good in the first half. Not entertaining this match but there is room for improvement for sure.
The atmosphere was ambivalent. It was good and important to see the ultras behind one of the goals making noise throughout the match. Large parts of the crowd though were not familiar with this club and were silent. The location in the 16 arrondissement means a challenge for the club as their core support is largely left leaning; in an environment such as this in Paris, this looks out of place. This area of Paris is one of the most expensive and yet there are two football venues next to each other. Stade Jean Bouin sits right next door to Parc des Princes and must be considered a little jewel. The bird nest of Beijing certainly served as a role model for the exterior part. Inside it is a pure football stadium with a very nice playing surface. Of course, the stands are exchangeable, nonetheless it has its very own character, something not found very often today.
The walk to and from the ground is a mere 15 minutes, making attending home matches of Red Star this season almost compulsory.