The first Sunday in May is sunny in Joinville-le-Pont, and it’s a strange pollen that has settled on the asphalt in the crowded parking lot at Jean-Pierre Garchery Stadium. It is dotted with red and white and is covered in child-sized shorts, sweaters that appear to have petrified on the ground and plastic bags from the supermarket with spare parts. As smiling as messy, children provide a pleasant welcome committee along with their two coaches. They have made a shady corner between a van and a bike path to a makeshift locker room, and apologize for being in the way. It is a little after 3pm on May 1, and as some prepare to return home, the eighth edition of the Joinville Cup, an international U13 event held in the south-eastern suburbs of Paris, is preparing to name its champion. Scheduled for 16:25, the final starts late, as with any good tournament with self-respect.
The road to field number 1, where the champion is crowned, is an obstacle course. The difficulty is not to follow the changing rooms located on the left, but to resist the smells from the first stand: the smells of the Merguez sausages. An odor that immediately teleports back to childhood, as between two matches it was not a question of which tactics to tackle for the next, but which sauce to accompany the sandwich. Clothes soaked in the delicious smoke, you still have to walk past fritters, pancakes, drinks and sweets before you can see the stands on the main field. A sweet mix between neutral observers, parents and discreet recruiters who have their eyes set on a Villejuif-Moissy-Cramayel, a battle for 3rd place, but who are already on their way to the final. Just arrived at the place, I can already hear the murmur that one of the two teams that will be fighting for the trophy has filled the spectators with pleasure since the day before. A club that has not yet conceded a single goal. I would be lying if I said I did not know who it was. And I would be lying if I said it did not make me smile as I know how well we work with young people in Anderlecht. Dressed in white for this tournament, the purple red heads turn on football fans in the Paris region, who are used to an excellent local level, and this every weekend. So behind the scenes, everyone has their own comments. “Overall, it’s really impressive“in my back,”the technical level is truly extraordinary“on my left,”oh lé lé, oh la la, who does not jump is not from Brussels“Behind my back. Yes, Anderlecht parents were very much present in Paris this weekend, as evidenced by the small purple flags hovering not far from Hertha Berlin’s opponents for this final.
The tradition that the smell of sausage is not the only one respected during a spring tournament, it is on the Champions League music that the two teams enter the athletics field for a presentation in good and proper form. While the microphone is handed to the coach of Hertha Berlin to introduce the little Germans, the tournament’s speaker – a former teammate – dares to pronounce the Belgian names in French. A taste for risk, which has the benefit of making people smile set from Brussels, among whom we find two names that remind us that football is played in the family: Milan Debast and number ten and captain, Joakim Lavia. From the start of the final, the deal is clear: Hertha is leading strongly, but the collective control is purple. What impresses is first and foremost the technical ease. At an age where you do not play under as much pressure as older children, ball catches are good, in a good way, while playing with both feet is not a problem. Pretty soon we see Anderlechtois right pitch take over, with a 3-4-3 far from being a base for the U13s. Carried by good introductions from their number 2 and their number 8, Mauves still opened the scoring after a good shot from the left and their number 11, which provoked a penalty kick converted by Joakim Lavia. Hertha will equalize fairly quickly, even on a penalty kick, after a handball in the box. Superior throughout the game, the people of Brussels finally won in the dying seconds thanks to a goal from their number 9, whose movement quality was also a pleasure to watch. Logically named after conceding only one goal into the competition, in the final, they left Paris after capturing the crowd while I left the stadium to watch the big players play against Bruges. And if it’s often hard to put purple and red in agreement on the pitch, it’s still fun to note that Standard de Liège U12 simultaneously beat Braga on penalty kicks in Brittany to win in the prestigious Guipava’s spring challenge.