In front of the Velodrome stadium, 4 hours before the kick-off of France Namibia, a crowd in blue jerseys begins to clump. The instructions of the organizer, advising to come early to the stadium to avoid the congestion of the beginning of the World Cup, were respected by these first comers. Like Caroline, Cynthia and Noémie, thirty-year-olds from La Rochelle (Charente-Maritime) and Périgueux (Dordogne) with their friends who lingered at the bar.
"We've been following rugby since we were little," say the young women. It's a family story. Our spouses play rugby. We wanted to see a match of the Blues. We have already been to the Stade de France or Ireland but there, we chose Marseille because we did not know. We wanted to discover this city. And on top of that, there's the pope coming. It's unbelievable. We're going to take advantage of it. We stay all weekend. »
OM fans want to "change their minds"
The arrival of Pope Francis in Marseille, the day after this match, it is the other "XXL event" that will agitate the Phocaean city, says Franck, T-shirt France 2023 on the back and cap of the World Cup on the head, manager of Food Inside, a restaurant with an American atmosphere that also flows liters of beer on its terrace right next to the Velodrome. He will probably sell less Saturday to the faithful than to the fans of the Blues tonight. "But we brought in wine, soft drinks... People will consume too. »
"The pope, we don't realize what it represents," he adds outside his bar. He will come here in a popemobile, there are snipers on the roof of my building, faithful are coming from all over the world... It must have been 500 years since a pope came to Marseille. We too don't know what to expect. Football, rugby, we know, but here... »
"And it's not just a crazy week," explains Franck. Between the first weekend of the World Cup here, the XV of France tonight, the Pope on Saturday, South Africa-Tonga next week, two OM matches, two quarter-finals of the World Cup and Olympico OM-OL to finish at the end of October... It's two crazy months! »
"Our Mass is tonight!"
In this program of madness, the soap opera of OM, its former coach, its president and its Ultras, is ultimately only one adventure among others. The football club shop, open even for this rugby match, still attracts some curious people. Philippe, 52, lives in Marseille and came to see France-Namibia with his OM jersey. "The situation of OM... Pff, it saddens me a little, he whispers. I came here to clear my mind and enjoy the rugby atmosphere. The game against Ajax, I'll watch it when I get home. The Rugby World Cup is not every day anyway. »
OM supporter, Philippe came to attend France-Namibia on Thursday evening. LP/Romain Baheux
While waiting for the Holy Father or the name of the new coach of OM, the religion of the public of the Velodrome Thursday night, it is therefore the oval ball. "We're coming for rugby, and we're staying a little bit this weekend. No school tomorrow, smile Jean-René and Virginie, who came from Toulouse with their children Victor and Timéo. The Pope's coming? We are not interested. Our Mass is tonight! » In communion with the XV of France.