Metz-Le Havre: friends for life?

Metz-Le Havre: friends for life?


It is a small gesture which, despite everything, cannot go unnoticed. On October 24, Le Havre received Metz at the Océane stadium. The courageous garnet supporters to have surveyed the 550 kilometers separating the banks of the Moselle from the Seine estuary had the pleasure, on arriving in front of the visitor counter of the Norman enclosure, of not having to pay the penny to buy their seats. These had indeed been offered to them by the Barbarians, the main group of supporters of the HAC. A simple act of solidarity, in a context of high inflation and rising prices at the pump? Far from there. “I think it’s been a very long time since the Messins have paid in Le Havre and that the people of Le Havre have not paid in Metz”, reveals Johan Vattier, the president of the Barbarians. And for good reason: the two clubs have been friends for years.

Post-war privileges and table reservations

This friendship takes root in the immediate post-war period. Before the start of the 1945-1946 season, FC Metz was in a catastrophic situation due to the scars left by the conflict. Its infrastructure is destroyed, its lawn is flooded and its players are no longer there. Taking the measure of the problem, the French football federation grants several privileges to the club at the cross of Lorraine, in particular its automatic admission to D1 and the assurance that it cannot be relegated at the end of the exercise. . This preferential treatment, which also applies to Strasbourg, therefore allows the regulars of Saint-Symphorien not to worry too much, even if their team quickly finds itself at the bottom of the classification. In the company of Le Havre which, despite the considerable damage caused by the bombings of 1944, is not immune to possible relegation. This is where Raymond Herlory, the Messin president, comes in. “He insisted that the derogation from which his club benefited should also be applied to ours, narrates Olivia Detivelle, historic supporter of Le Havre. In a way, you had to support yourself in misfortune. » Consequently, neither FC Metz (17e) or HAC (16e) do not accompany Sochaux (18e and last) in D2. It is the university Olympic Lyon, yet fifteenth, which falls into the cart.

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Le Havre-Metz, in the 1980s, smelled like the soft underbelly of the D1.

Pierre Théobald, author of a book on Carlo Molinari

On closer inspection, Le Havre and Metz do not only share the suffering endured during the Second World War. These are two medium-sized towns, marked by a strong working-class tradition (maritime for one, steel industry for the other) and of which the local football team is, in a way, the standard-bearer. For a long time, the two clubs were also led by presidents with a similar profile: Carlo Molinari on the Lorraine side (1967-2009) and Jean-Pierre Hureau on the Normandy side (1979-2000). “There was a strong friendship between the two of them, continues Olivia Detivelle. They were of the same generation and exchanged a lot. I guess they must have had the same vision of football and how a club should be run. “For them, knowing which table they were going to reserve after the game was almost more important than the game itself, abounds Pierre Théobald, author of the book Carlo Molinari, The grenade (Daily Editions, 2016). Molinari always took pleasure in maintaining complicity with leaders who resembled him. He also got along very well with Louis Nicollin (president of Montpellier from 1974 to 2017, editor’s note).» Without forgetting that at this time, the two formations are of a similar level and are quietly installed in the elite. «Le Havre-Metz, in the 1980s, smelled like the soft belly of the D1, remembers Theobald. The objective was to finish eleventh or twelfth and thus continue at the highest level.»

@StadeOceane A match #HACFCM which starts under good auspices with this casual discussion on football with 2 great gentlemen of the #foot Le Havre Jean Pierre Hureau and Messin Carlos Molinari. A pure moment of happiness. But well tonight is victory for @HAC_Foot

— Agnes Firmin Le Bodo (@agnesfirmin) March 4, 2019

Barbecues, football tournaments and passing time

It was precisely during this period, in the middle of the 80s, that the Messino-Le Havre friendship takes shape in the stands. It all started on August 15, 1986, if we trust the amazing memory of Olivia Detivelle. “We went up to Metz by coach, retraces the woman who, for 21 years, held the presidency of Kop Ciel et Marine. There was no visitor parking yet, so we managed to get places where they were the cheapest. We found ourselves next to the Kop of Metz, the ancestor of Génération Grenat. These supporters had a somewhat hot reputation, but everything went really well and we got on well. » This is followed by parties and barbecues as soon as one moves to the other, and even joint participation in an intersupporter football tournament, organized in Seine-Maritime and which is also joined by fans of Lens, Laval, Mulhouse or Portsmouth. . “We were always welcomed like kings when we went to Le Havre, remembers with nostalgia David, an active member of Génération Grenat for years. This trip was always a great moment of sharing, of celebration. And it was enough to spend an evening with the people of Le Havre for us to become friends. » At the end of the last day of the 1998-1999 season, the HAC, despite having been beaten by their best friend from Moselle, narrowly escaped at the expense of Lorient. At the final whistle, supporters from both sides invade the field, celebrating together the pleasure of meeting again the following year.

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A friendship is maintained. Otherwise, it fades.

Johann Vattier, president of the Barbarians

Season after season, Normans and Lorrainers therefore have great pleasure in visiting each other, even if their sporting downgrading forces them to meet more and more often in Ligue 2. “We are two clubs of losers, so we support each other in losinglaughs David. Nevertheless, it seems that over time, this beautiful friendship has ended up unraveling. «All this reminds me of the past, admits Johan Vattier. This twinning was very strong in the 1990s and 2000s, but it has been lost in the last ten years. » La raison ? «There hasn’t really been any generational transmission from the elders, continues the leader of the Barbarians. A friendship is maintained. Otherwise, it fades. » An observation shared by the regular of the west stand of Saint-Symphorien: “It ran out of steam when Génération Grenat began to lose in attendance (the group went dormant in April 2022 and is no longer active in the stands, editor’s note). The main players in the friendship have been less and less active, or have even left the stadium. As for the new generation, we did not necessarily transmit this relationship with the people of Le Havre to them. » In the absence of real friendship, there remains “deep respect on both sides”says Johann, as well as “friendship between people rather than between groups”, says David. The latter will be present in the stands, this Monday evening (8:45 p.m.), hoping that the partners of Georges Mikautadze manage to bring down the incredible series of invincibility of the Le Havre leader. It will take that to believe even more in a return to Ligue 1. “If our two clubs could go up, it would be not bad”, Olivia smiles. This would make at least two Ligue 1 matches during which the visitor parking spaces would be open.

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Metz Le Havre prediction: Analysis, odds and forecast for the Ligue 2 match

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