These days tickets to see Red Star at the time-honoured Stade Bauer are hard to come by. The team sit comfortably on top of the league with a five-point cushion over second-placed Niort Chamois. The game vs Nîmes was a sending-off for one the oldest stands in European football still in use: it dates back to the early 20th century and was built in the mould of Archibald Leitch who was responsible for designing the Johnny Haynes stand at Craven Cottage, home of Fulham and Ibrox Park in Glasgow – to name but two examples of his work.
A New Ground – A New Bauer?
Traditionalists may cry foul and surely they will have a point since many other monuments of times gone are kept alive at great costs, yet a football stand is easy to be dispensed with. The club, Red Star, are keen to get their new stadium after decades of continuous debate, which, at one point, saw them contemplating a move away from the Stade Bauer to the docklands of Saint-Ouen, which would have been an insult to their fans and possibly would have meant a hollowing out of the club. Given the takeover of the club by Group 777 this scenario was likely but thankfully it did not materialise. If fans are not content with Group 777 they have at least a little reason to be cheerful as the club remains where it has been at home for more than 100 years.
The “end” of Stade Bauer, as we know it, signals the arrival of the 21st century in Saint-Ouen – 25 years after the Stade de France marked the same for Saint-Denis, the capital city of the Seine-Saint-Denis Department. The legacy as it was planned for this poor area was that the World Cup 1998 would bring prosperity – but that never materialised; instead, Stade de France and its immediate surroundings stand stick out like a sore thumb. It is yet indicative of the economic situation of the city of Saint-Ouen and the department, the neuf-trois, as well as the club for them to have to wait until an investor, Group 777 (not welcome!) takes over a controlling stake in the club and realises the dream for the fans: a new stadium at the traditional place.
A game of football
In the face of this situation and at that point in the club’s history, the game of football became less important. Of course, points were to be won and Red Star duly took them, yet the emphasis of this evening from the stands was anywhere but not on the pitch.
The visitors from Nîmes are locked in a relegation battle in Division Three. Their record from the last five games read: played five, lost three, drawn two. A cup win against Roannais Foot 42 provided them with a little morale boost but the ensuing league match was lost.
What a different look the hosts were! They were in a rush, scoring twice very early to make clear where the spoils were going. The first was scored by Damien Durand with less than two minutes gone and Achille Anani doubled the lead after only ten minutes.
Following that the game was over; Red Star continued to press and dominate but failed to add more goals to their accounts. Nîmes had their moments in which they were able to relieve themselves from the constant pressure but their efforts were hampered by their inability to produce an opening of the Red Star defence.
The second half was a repetition of the first. Red Star enjoyed the majority of the ball but failed to make anything accountable from it. This became somewhat of an embarrassment for them as they besieged the goal of Nîmes goalkeeper Dias who in return made some brilliant saves and deserves some special recognition for his performance on this evening. Any team with a little attacking nous would have taken advantage of Red Star’s defensive fragilities and scored at least one goal – however, this is only speculation and not part of the debate here. A third goal was ruled out for offside – it also marked the end of the match. The players made their way to the stands and celebrated another win and of course the end of the old stand. It remains questionable whether they are fully aware of the watershed moment at their current employers.
The evening was all about celebrating the stadium and its old and battered tribune and marking the end of an era. Many former players made the way to Stade Bauer to reminisce about the ground and their own experiences as players of the club.
The new era of the club is already in full view as opposite the old stand, the new stand already rises and offers a glimpse of what is to come: a concrete structure allowing a good view of the pitch but offering little in terms of uniqueness. The old building housing the dressing rooms and the offices has gone and will be replaced by a new stand as will be the tribune “Rino della Negra”.
At the end of the day, Red Star are Red Star: putting on a no-show for the old stand, making sure everybody left on time.
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