On the way to the ground the rival supporters clubs started chanting at each other. The insult was one word long and involved inserting something painful into a bodily cavity. My neighbour and I agreed that French, which was usually a long winded language, was really quite good at obscenities. The same insult in English would have taken a minimum of four words.
Inside the stadium, the rival supporters clubs at opposite ends of the stadium began chanting aggressively at each other. They unfurled banners and flags. Atop the eastern stand, the home of the ultras, a banner read ‘Marseille eats its childrens, RIP Adrien.’
New banners were unfurled which, written in English, appeared to be cryptic threats to the Arsenal supporters: ‘Do you know what this means?’ ‘And this?’ I began to fear for my own safety again, although I later read that the banners were merely an incomprehensible reference to the fact that Marseille had won the champions league whereas Arsenal had not.
The game started. Arsenal attacked, Marseille defended. My neighbour asked me where I’d parked my car.
‘In the private car park like you suggested.’
‘Good – there’s a chance it’ll still be there at the end of the game.’
‘It’s not a Porsche, so a good chance.’
He explained that the at the last OM game there had been a rather beautiful Porsche in a similar underground car park. He’d stood with his friends and admired the sheen on its bodywork, and the bravery of its owner. When they returned at the end of the game, the Porsche was still there but all its tyres were missing.
‘What about the security cameras?’
‘The thieves here are quicker than Formula 1 pit crews and they wear bigger balaclavas.’
During the rest of the game Arsenal scored. Twice. The OM fans briefly stopped taunting each other and instead concentrated on the dubious sexual practices of the Arsenal goalkeeper. The attention worked. After a while OM won a penalty and the abused goalkeeper dived harmlessly the wrong way. By then it was too late for the home side.
As we filed away from the ground I wondered whether the unusual concentration of undertakers shops in the area was just an unfortunate coincidence. Despite all the talk of deaths and murder, there had been no violence. The riot police had spent the evening watching the game rather than firing rubber bullets. Back at the garage, our cars, probably because of their insignificant value, remained untouched. I clicked the locks shut on the door, pulled onto the road and gazed out to sea. The boats bobbed gently, their masts occasionally spearing the full moon overhead.
It really was a beautiful light. A painter’s light.
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