Following Saturday’s fabulous victory against a major promotion competitor, we’re almost there. Clearly there’s still work to be done, but at least promotion is in our own hands. Seven games left and a two point lead to defend. Success and we’re in the promised land. The CFA. I am of course talking about Lyon Duchere, my adopted French team. Lines of communication have been established and details of the team’s progress can now be tracked, hopefully in person before the end of the season.
(For anyone remiss enough to have missed previous posts, my partner is French and lives in Lyon. I was all set to bask in the reflected glory of adopting Olympique Lyon – France’s leading team, which wins the league each year as consolation for failing to get past the quarters or semis of the Champions League. But as a Charlton supporter it’s impossible to make life easy for myself and I came across Lyon’s second team, Lyon Duchere, which plies its trade in the equivalent of a regional fourth division. Their ground is close to where Suzanne lives, they were founded by the people of Albert Camus, they were denied promotion years ago by the authorities and went bankrupt, have been in the news in recent seasons for plucky cup performances, and one of their former coaches had a name very close to Richard Rufus. What choice did I have?)
The French football league is structured as follows (I am led to believe, although as is usually the case much may be lost in translation): there is Ligue 1 (ie top flight, the Premiership), Ligue 2 (the Championship), then CFA (Championnat de France Amateurs). CFA has four regional leagues (Groupes A-D). Then there are eight regional divisions under the umbrella of CFA2 (Groupes A-H). It seems there is also something called DH, which is below CFA regional. That is where, I guess, French equivalents of Millwall reside. (I’m getting all Ronnie Corbett again, I wonder what a French equivalent of Millwall would be? Maybe their supporters would eat downmarket fois gras and prefer Johnnie Haliday to Charles Aznavour. Another post, another time.) On further investigation it seems DH is a youth team structure, but I prefer to think of it as a sub-league, for the above reasons.
La Duch (which I am told is appropriate, rather than La Douche, which has a rather different meaning) plays in CFA2 Groupe C. There are 16 teams in CFA2 Groupe C, making it a season of 30 games. At the end of the season the top team will be promoted automatically to CFA proper, along with (I think) the four best of the eight second-placed teams. So as far as I can make out 12 teams from the eight CFA2 Groupes will be promoted into the four CFA proper Groupes. Still following?
However, this is France and of course there must be more rules and exceptions. It seems that, according to my source, “promoted clubs and those likely to be promoted must obligatorily satisfy the criteria necessary to their admission in CFA and assure them engagement by registered letter, within two day with comtper of the last day of the CFA2”. (See what I have to put up with?) Also, “only a team reserve of a club which will move the following season in league 1 can profit from this promotion” and the four best second-placed teams will be decided by “the number of points obtained in the meetings outward journey and return which opposed in each group the best second with the five other clubs (except equipes reserves not being able to reach) best classified, including the reaching, is taken into account”.
OK, a touch unfair. But my poor attempts at French provide Suzanne and her family with hours of amusement, so what’s good for the goose ... (is anything in France actually good for the goose?) Anyway, it’s a bit complicated, especially as the reserve teams of top-flight clubs often play in the CFA. Lyon Duchere’s main rivals for promotion are Marseille B (ie Marseille’s second-string). The division also includes Clermont Foot B, Gueugnon B, and Dijon B, so don’t get too excited by news of Lyon Duchere versus Marseille.
Enough of this waffle, how are La Duch doing? Very well it seems. On Saturday they trounced third-placed Echirolles 5-0 at home. Unfortunately Marseille B scraped a 1-0 home win to keep the gap for LD to two points. After 23 games Lyon Duchere have 64 points ... oh merde. I now realise there is an odd points system. LD has won 12, drawn 5 and lost 6 giving the team .... 64 points. Marseille B are on 62 points. I need to do more homework to see what is needed from the final seven games to ensure promotion (or possible promotion, depending on the application of the criteria), so let’s just say that they’re well placed and will be champions if they win their remaining games. At least I can understand that. From the figures Lyon Duchere are not high-scorers, with just 29 goals from the 23 games played, but defensively are superb with just 19 conceded.
Seven games left, four at home, three away. This being France all remaining games are on a Saturday. Next up for La Duch will be a home game on 12 April against FC Bourg-Peronnas, a mid-table side with nothing to play for, followed by Gueugnon away. I followed the fixtures through and I suppose it had to happen. Final game of the season is – Marseille at home, on 24 May. Could be a title-decider and a real cracker.
My only problems are: first, if Charlton do make it to the play-offs and the final at Wembley, it’s going to be that weekend (and much as I have a growing affection for Lyon Duchere if it's Wembley I'm going to be there); second, if we don’t make it through can I suggest to Suzanne that I will visit Lyon for that weekend and at the same time deny – convincingly – that I’m only going to see La Duch?