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Keeping it Lille

04/09/2017

FC United of Manchester have been invited to play in an indoor football tournament in the French city of Lille in June. Below is an extract from a piece I wrote for the club website about the trip.

A famous Franco-Mancunian once observed that “nobody can deny that here, behind the windows of Manchester, there is an insane love of football, of celebration and of music”.

Well, FC United are delighted to announce that we will be channelling some of this Mancunian joi de vivre when we cross the channel to the northern French city of Lille to take part in a celebration of Manchester’s love of football, music and all things cultural on the weekend of Friday 9th to Sunday 11th June 2017.

Our first trip to France has come about as a result of an invitation by a non-profit organisation called L’Aeronef, formed in 1989 and based in Lille, who have been running a project in recent months showcasing Manchester’s artistic, musical and cultural heritage to a French audience.

Billed as a journey into the heart of Manchester’s burgeoning cultural scene it has taken the form of a series of concerts, conferences, exhibitions and film and documentary screenings all on a Mancunian theme and has included gigs by the likes of Peter Hook, A Certain Ratio and Mr Scruff. The project will draw to a close in June with a futsal tournament to which FC United have been invited to take part.

The weekend’s events will take place at the L’Aeronef concert hall, in the Euralille district of the city, a popular venue for many bands over the last two decades. L’Aéronef and FC United share similar values and a belief in a fairer society, so our French hosts have arranged for the finale of their Manchester project to feature FC United, as they consider our football club to be a wonderful example of Manchester’s reputation as a welcoming and open city, a football club that continues to engage with some of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable people in our city.

Our role as Mancunian footballing and cultural ambassadors will kick off on the evening of Friday 9th June with a short conference on the values of football including a talk by an FC United member and a question and answer session with manager Karl Marginson. In addition, two further speakers will provide a musical and cultural view of Manchester and its history. This will be followed by a vinyl night organised by the Belle Vue collaborative.

The futsal tournament will take place on Saturday 10th June culminating in a final which will kick off around 7 or 8pm. This will be a friendly tournament with players from the local community competing alongside an FC United team.

For those unsure of what futsal actually is; it’s a five-a-side game, played indoors (the term futsal is roughly translated from Spanish as “indoor football”) on a hard court smaller than a football pitch with hockey-sized goals and a smaller ball with a reduced bounce. As a small-sided game it places an emphasis on improvisation, creativity and technique and can make for a wonderfully exciting spectacle.

The final of the futsal competition will be followed by a gig by Manchester band the Space Monkeys who are, of course, no strangers to FC having played at Course You Can Malcolm before the match with SV Austria Salzburg only a few weeks ago.

There will be no futsal games on Sunday 11th June but the FC United players will probably spend some time coaching local children during the day.

L’Aeronef have very kindly offered to pay all travel, accommodation and food expenses for a party of ten guests from FC United (including eight players) to travel over to Lille for the weekend and will also make all the necessary travel and accommodation arrangements for this group. The FC United party will arrive on Friday 9th June, probably on an early flight via Charleroi airport in Belgium.

Aside from the events organised by our hosts at L’Aeronef there is much to enjoy in Lille. The city grew as an industrial centre but after a period of decline is now better known for its handsome city centre and a thriving cultural scene boosted by the presence of a large student population. The attractive old town (Vieux Lille) with its cobbled streets and grand central square and the first rate art collection of the Palais des Beaux Arts are perhaps the star attractions but there is much more to see and do including plenty of ace bars and restaurants.

Lille has great transport links not only to the rest of France but to nearby Belgium and England; the Eurostar from London St Pancras takes about an hour and 25 minutes whilst Brussels is barely half an hour away. Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris is about an hour by train and a direct coach service connects central Lille and Charleroi airport in 90 minutes.

It promises to be a cracking weekend; a blend of football, music, culture and a beer or two in the finest traditions of FC United. Let’s show a French audience what Eric was on about all those years ago. Allez les rouges!

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