The day has come for Lionel Messi’s long-awaited debut for the Paris Saint-Germain. It will be up to the Reims the complicated mission of stopping the Argentine for the first time in Call 1. If the task sounds almost impossible, at least the team will be able to enjoy a huge exposure, something they lived with quite a bit in the past.
PSG visits the Stade de Reims, at 15:45 (GMT) this Sunday, with broadcast from ESPN Brazil. The duel valid for the fourth round of the French Championship will be monitored in real time with videos on the ESPN.com.br. And remember: starting August 31, everything from Ligue 1 will be available via ESPN on Star+.
If PSG have become dominant in France recently by winning seven of their nine titles over the past decade, Reims already had a reputation cemented by their past, particularly in the 1950s. Six-time national champions (1948–49, 1952–53 , 1954–55, 1957–58, 1959–60 and 1961–62), the club founded in 1934 was runner-up in the first edition of the European Cup (today the Champions League), in 1955–56. He would repeat the runner-up in 1958-59, always losing to Real Madrid in the decision.
In addition to the titles and finals, the Stade de Reims also left a huge legacy to French football. Under the command of iconic coach Albert Batteux, the team presented an “à la Reims” game, which used elements little explored at the time. The corner ‘à la Reims’ (short kick) and the goal kick off passing – without a kick – were ideas implemented by this team, as pointed out by Stephane Darmani, commentator for the channels ESPN.
“He won with a well-defined style of play that was very different from what was done at the time. This coach was a forerunner, and he applied a way of playing at a time when he still wasn’t so sure of tactics. And he pretty much announced what the total football of the 70s in the Netherlands was like,” said the French football expert.
The game’s success mixed ideas with the talent of names like Raymond Kopa (Golden Ball in 1958) and Just Fontaine (third place in the same edition of the awards). In fact, the two were part of the French national team third placed in the 1958 World Cup, which was also led by Batteux.
Messi will make his PSG debut this Sunday (29)
At the time, Kopa defended the Real Madrid, which occurred between his two passages through Reims. Fontaine was one of the six names at Reims among the 22 called up to play for France and ended that tournament as top scorer, with an impressive 13 goals, a number that no one could repeat in a single edition of the World Cup.
What would not be repeated until then was the success of Reims. Since the 1960s, winning the 1990–91 French League Cup was his only major achievement between cups and the national first division.
However, more than losing its prominence, the club suffered much bigger problems and went bankrupt in 1991. Its rebirth took place the following year with the name of Stade de Reims Champagne, which has a lot to do with the locality. After all, Reims is the champagne capital of the world.
“I think this brand is stronger than football (laughs) because it is worldwide and reaches a number of fanatics that is higher than the fanatics at the Stade de Reims,” said Darmani.
The club ended up in the sixth division, but managed a huge recovery in the following years and would return to the elite in 2012, after 33 years of absence. An achievement worthy of celebrating with the best champagne there is.
After three years of remaining in the elite, always in the second half of the standings, Reims was relegated in 2015-16, but would return in 2017-18, with the title of Ligue 2. The return would be triumphant, with an eighth place in 2018- 19 and fifth place in 2019-20, an edition in which the championship ended early due to the coronavirus pandemic. The performance earned the club a classification from the previous stages of the Europa League, being his first participation in a continental tournament in almost 60 years.
In the last French Championship, the team was in 14th place with 42 points, two more than the Nantes, who had to play a playoff against relegation. In fact, fighting the fall is the great mission in 2021-22 for the team that once dominated French football.
However, this Sunday, even in the supporting role, at least the Stade de Reims will be able to enjoy once again the spotlight in French football.