Sociologist Williams Nuytens knows them by heart.
He interfered for more than fifteen years in the head of the groups of supporters of Lensois and Lille and in particular among the Ultras.
"An object of research downgraded but nevertheless fascinating and worthy of interest".
Today a university professor and member of the Sherpas laboratory at the University of Artois (Pas-de-Calais), he analyzes for Le Parisien the springs of the rivalry that has opposed the two clubs and the two cities for decades.
Especially since the duel promises to be electric this Friday evening at the Bollaert stadium, one playing the title, the other his place for the Europa League.
In football culture, we often think of Lens as “the workers' city” compared to Lille “the bourgeois metropolis”.
Is it a fantasy or a reality?
The answer is inevitably that yes, the socio-economic differences are considerable. 30,000 inhabitants on one side, 200,000 on the other. 30% unemployment on one side, less than 20% on the other, more than a third without a diploma here, less than 20% there… The list is long if we want to show how there is a clear polarization of the region for the benefit of Lille and to the detriment of Lens. It is obvious when we drive around in the car, even in terms of access to health or culture. Afterwards, pay attention to the words you choose. That Lens has a large popular base and enjoys notoriety throughout France, unlike its rival, it is true. On the other hand, to say that Lille is a bourgeois public is to be qualified.
The lensois ultras are pumped up before the derby against the Lille rival.
AFP / Denis Charlet
It's a bit reductive.
As we know, the sociology of a stadium is almost the exact copy of the sociology of a territory.
So inevitably, it's less popular in Lille than in Lens.
But football is a cultural practice that often excludes the same categories of people, no matter what city you are in.
And in Lille as in Lens, the typical profile of the supporter, it remains a young adult male in the ultrasonic groups say, and male among the other categories of spectators.
Note, however, a relative feminization.
Do you feel that this rivalry has faded in recent years?
History shows that there were arrangements, stadium loans or transfers between the two teams.
There were even plans for mergers, which obviously repelled the Ultras.
But this rivalry is still strong.
And this even if Lens is no longer this workers' city as it was half a century ago.
Its fallen industrial past remains in the collective memory.
After having missed the train of metropolization, the city is in a strategy of requalification with the work of the authorities but we do not erase decades of coal industries, waves of disqualification and unemployment rates that explode the averages. national.
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Among some supporters, there would therefore be a feeling of social revenge via football?
We are not mistaken in saying that.
For many, this is the opportunity to put things back on the ground, to put a little equality for 90 minutes even if basically, everyone knows that between Lille and Lens, there is no photo over time and in many areas of social life.
But as the French sociologist Alain Ehrenberg says, the sports spectacle is the spectacle of equality.
A kind of illusion is created there.
RC Lens playmaker Gaël Kakuta has said he would like to deprive Lille of the title and for Paris to be champions.
Do you think that some supporters would rather see Paris titled rather than Lens in the Europa League next season?
If you are an Ultra, why not yes.
To be ultra is to support beyond, it is to be as attached to his group as to his club for some.
What matters to them is that Lille does not have the title, because they define themselves in an opposition between them and us.
Football like society is structured around this kind of opposition.
It's structuring to define yourself in opposition, it feels good in the sense that it allows you to situate yourself.
It doesn't matter if this is true or false, what matters is defining yourself as opposed to something.
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But we should not generalize. There are aesthetes who especially want to taste a quality sporting event and others who believe, on the contrary, that the coronation of Lille would restore pride to the region. Lensois as Lille have not forgotten the stigmatization of which the people of the North have been the victim. To be described as a redneck audience, it did not please in the stadiums.