I went to see a rugby match last night. Carcassonne v Bourgoin-Jallieu in division 2 of the French professional leagues.
I had a few reasons, but the main one is that I played my first championship match in France at Carcassonne. 40 something years ago. It was also a division 2 match, but things have been re-structured a bit since then.
The Stade Albert Domec is one of the oldest grounds in France – it was built in 1899. It’s also one of the most picturesque. Just 100m from the entrance you cross a bridge across the river (the Aude) and on your right is La Cité (Carcassonne’s medieval fortress – a UNESCO world heritage site).
The stadium itself has changed a bit since I was last there, as you’d expect after a few decades. The cycling track has been replaced by spectator terracing. The cinder athletics track is now astroturf. They’ve built a new stand on the south side. The pelota court is still there.
The character remains however, particularly if – as I was – you are in the old Tribune Canal du Midi.
When I played there I remember being amazed by the spectators. We had to walk up a wire tunnel to get from the changing rooms to the pitch – it was there to protect us. The spectators banged on it and rattled it to try to intimidate us. The changing rooms are now in the new stand, so the fans now bang and rattle on the wire security fence instead.
The game last night was great. Carcassonne won 25-23 and it could have gone either way. The noise was amazing and atmosphere electric. I’m really glad I went.
My game there was a 6-6 draw. The referee had enraged the local fans by sending off one of their players. Us getting a draw was not in their play book either, so by the end they were going crazy.
After the game we needed a police escort to get us out of the changing rooms and stadium safely. It was one of those experiences which rushed by in 2-3 hours and then I’ll remember forever, whilst sometimes wondering if it really happened.
I enjoyed re-connecting with it.
© iain taylor 2015