Saint Etienne, the French noble who ended up in a dead end tunnel ~

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Saint Etienne – Auxerre it was the match that sanctioned relegation in Ligue 2 of the home team after eighteen years of stay. The May 31 2022 is a date that French football will remember for a long time due to the disasters that occurred shortly after the final whistle, when Auxerre players and fans celebrated promotion to Ligue 1 after winning 4-5 on penalties.

An invasion of the field by the fans of Saint Etienne with lots of tear gas that made the players of both teams flee to the locker rooms. THEThe result will lead to 41 injuries among policemen, players and fans. A fierce protest against the club and the players themselves. And precisely because of this episode, the team will start the 2022/2023 cadet championship with some penalty points.

L‘Team he will head the next day in his newspaper ‘Saint Etienne will pay dearly for it.’

But why all this anger from the fans?

Saint Etienne is one of the most successful teams in France with 10 championships won, 6 French Cups, 5 French Super Cups, 1 French League Cup and with the achievement of a Champions Cup final in 1976 lost in Glasgow against Bayern Monaco. All in all a team that boasts an excellent palmarés.

He lived through the golden years between the end of the 1950s and the end of the 1970s, and in the 1970s and 1980s there was a certain Michel Platini. In 1982, the company was hit with one financial scandal, which led the team more and more towards the abyss. The fans, however, have always shown their support. On the other hand, they were always the most successful French team and they would have been so for quite a while.

After a few years of promotions and relegations, the team managed to find a certain balance. After twenty-six years of absence from the European cups, in 2007/2008 they managed to arrive fifth in the league and to qualify for the Uefa Cup. The following year, however, they lost in the round of 16 to Werder Bremen, who later made it to the final, and finished seventeenth in the league.

The supporters of the Les Verts in those two years he won two consecutive times, in 2008 and 2009, three years if we also count the previous one in 2007, a recognition as best supporter of the French league. And despite this recognition they lost patience.

This loss of patience, however, also came on the occasion of a previous scandal, in 2001, which hit the club again. Saint Etienne had bought two Brazilian strikers, Alex and Aloisio, in 1999, and was having good results. Fans hoped to return to their former glory, but in 2001 the two Brazilian strikers were banned for four months for using fake passports.

And that’s not all. The false passport scandal also affected some club executives. The team received seven penalty points and consequently relegation to Ligue 2.

The inexorable decline of Saint Etienne, of which it is still a victim today, bears only one name: deindustralization, or at least it is the most plausible hypothesis. But first let’s take a step back to understand its dynamics.


Saint Etienne it is certainly one of the most important cities of the France from the historical point of view. In its past it counts a great industrial development (XIX century), and it was elected capital of design by UNESCO right in this century. The only French city to receive this honor, which makes modern and contemporary art its peculiarity. In fact, there is the second best art collection that goes from Picasso to Légerfrom Dubuffet to Warhol and many others. Second at the Center Pompidou present and in Paris.

Saint Etienne is not a very big city, it has around 175,000 inhabitants, but it knows its stuff. In the early 1900s thanks to the discovery of some coalfieldswhich will then count 900the French city will initiate a process of coal mining. Most immigrants will work in these mines, including us Italians. Thus evolving a large capital which led to the first railway in France which led from Saint Etienne to Lyon. And following an economy based on industrial development.

Also known as the city of the weapon, loops and tapethe fame of the city is also linked to Geoffry Guichard. The man in question was an entrepreneur. He started with a small warehouse with the name Casino, to the point of creating its own brand, but above all to create something unexpected. In fact, Guichard created one mutual aid society who safeguarded the health of his workers, and in the meantime was also interested in moments of leisure such as music and football. In the beginning called association sportive du Casinoa team made up of workers and workers.

The team, before entering the real world of football, immediately adopted green colorsthat is the colors of the Casino brand. In 1919 the skeleton of the team was founded, which years later will become part of professional football. So after changing the name to Amical Sporting Clubdue to the brand present in the previous name, the team also changes presidency, passes to his son Guichard, Pierre.

Pierre Guichard will decide to merge the club withAssociation Sportive Stephanoiswho played his games in the Stade Forézien universitaire, the current Geoffry Guichard stadium of Saint Etienne. The cauldron or, as they call it in France, le chaudron. Thus was born the AXIS Saint Etienne, which in 1932 entered the French professional championship, which entered professionalism in 1930.


After more than twenty years from enrolling in the professional championship, Saint Etienne in 1956/57 will win his first championshipalso participating in the Champions Cup. The previous year she had, however, won the Charles Drago cupprecursor of the Coupe de la Ligue.

The Saint Etienne seems to have something in their blood particularity. In 1961 the property passed to Roger Rocher with which the following year he won the French Cup but he relegated to the current Ligue 2. The following year he managed to win the second championship from newly promotedthat is, in 1964.

Three years later the club got into a new gear. Rocher decided to hire the coach Albert Batteuxwith whom he had won everything in France both as a player but above all as a coach with him Stade Reims. Indeed, with the native coach of Reims, Saint Etienne will win the next three championships, two French Cups And three French Super Cupsbetween ’67 / ’68 and ’69 / ’70.

In those years many great players played there: from the goalkeeper Georges Carnusto the defender Bernard Bosquierto the midfielder Robert Herbinwhich later will also win from trainer with i Les Vertsand the attacker Hervé Revelli. Among these was also a young Malian striker Salif Keïtauncle of Seydou Keïta And Mohammed Sissoko.

Rocher was an entrepreneur who had inherited the family mining company, and as a young man he was above all one of many miners to have worked on it. What he could not imagine at the dawn of the 1970s was precisely the crisis of the industries of the city of Saint Etienne. If the economy of an entire city was created from nothing, a monetary cataclysm was being generated from nothing.

The city, which in 1968 had around 223,000 inhabitants, slowly watched some of its inhabitants leave. A trend that would last until 2010.

The club initially, at least apparently, did not seem to be impressed and continued to win in ’73 / ’74 won the championship and the Cup. In ’74 / ’75 it arrived in European Cup semifinalwhile in ’75 / ’76 he arrived there in European Cup finalwhere in both cases it was the Bayern Monaco to get the better of it.

In those two years, which mark the best European progress of Les VertsRocher decides to invest in one of the best industrial companies in France, Manufrance, which will also become a sponsor of the team.

In 1980 / ’81 the club won its tenth championship, but was overwhelmed by the financial scandal mentioned in the previous paragraph. President Rocher was accused of having made illegal payments between 1977 and 1981. In that team there were players like the Dutchman Johnny Rep and French Michel Platini. The first at the end of his career a few years later will return to the Netherlands to play with PEC Zwollethe second will go to the Juventus.


It seems almost impossible to think that a team that has dominated in France for over twenty years is struggling to find a way out. In fact, from that 1982, Saint Etienne oscillated between Ligue 1 and Ligue 2, winning most of the times the cadet championship, but achieving poor results in the top flight.

Later the presidency passed to Alain Bompardwho in 2003 accepted the purchase request from Bernard Caiazzo. In 2004, the current president bought the company and things have started to look much better than the past two decades, albeit limping, as previously written.

Caiazzo began to implement his program of young people, both canterani but also as purchases. From the spring came out interesting young people like Loic PerrinAnd Bafetimbi Gomisand later two young twenties were monitored and then purchased: Blaise Matuidi And Dimitry Payet.

In the 2012/2013 season, Saint Etienne won the Coupe de la Ligue. They were in that squad Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang And Brandão From there I seem to go downhill for the greens. They obtained a fifth place in the year 2014/2015, and a fourth place in the year 2018/2019, best placement after the financial crisis, but the following year they touched relegation again, finishing seventeenth.

Despite everything, however, they qualified for the final of French Cupbut losing 1-0 to the PSG.

An epilogue like the one seen on Tuesday 31 May was easily predictable. The story of a glorious team that from 2004 onwards had been present in the top flight, even struggling to keep afloat in some years.

In April 2021, in fact, the club was declared up for sale, and in the season that just ended it became the protagonist of a negative record: twelve consecutive matches in Ligue 1. The coach’s exoneration Claude Puel gave space to Julien Sabléinterim coach and former midfielder of the Les Vertsbut without success.

Saint Etienne will arrive eighteenth and will lose the play-offs against Auxerre on penalties for staying in Ligue 1, after eighteen years of militancy.

AXIS Saint Etienne is certainly a club that now needs to be re-founded from scratch. The oscillation between good placings and disastrous seasons, albeit with decent results in the European context, does not help the history of the club.

The gesture of the fans, although never justifiable, was born from this, from the glorious past of this company. The fans are the supporting souls of the teams, but when there is a disreputable management with a lot of listless players and against society, the descent into hell is desirable.

And to think that this year the PSG with the victory of the tenth championship has reached just the Sain Etienne.

The Saint Etienne ended up in this tunnel with no way out until another rich entrepreneur arrives who will try to change history, now made up of faded memories, where however the security of change is without guarantees.

Simmaco Munno

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