PSG coming to town is an event for any Ligue 1 Uber Eats side. Last weekend, it was Auxerre who hosted the global superstars of the capital club, and the fans from the Burgundy region really turned up!
Sunday 21 May, 2023. A huge night in the Burgundy city of Auxerre as Paris Saint-Germain come calling at the Stade de l'Abbé-Deschamps for their Ligue 1 Uber Eats Round 36 clash.
"We're really happy to have PSG here in Auxerre, we're happy to welcome Kylian Mbappé, Lionel Messi and all the others here!" one fan told the Ligue 1 Show on beIN SPORTS, with another chiming in. "I'd been waiting ten years to see the stadium sell out again, to see the best teams playing here!"
This sort of game is the reward for fans of the Burgundy club, who stuck by their team after ten years of second-division football and are now enjoying the benefits of the promotion back to Ligue 1 Uber Eats that came last summer.
Champions of France in 1996 and European regulars from the 90s through until 2011, Auxerre had the opportunity to give their fans a reminder of what the type of occasion fans have been missing out on for the last decade.
"To see Messi on the pitch here at the Abbé-Deschamps is really something!" Beamed one local fan. "Personally I saw Ronaldinho and Ibrahimovic here ten years ago in the Champions League! Now Messi, in a PSG team that could be crowned Champions here this evening. It's a special moment! We've had some incredible moments here in the past. We couldn't wait to be back in Ligue 1, now we're living dangerously!"
Indeed, at kick-off Auxerre sat 16th, a point above the bottom four with Champions-elect PSG, Coupe de France winners Toulouse and second-placed Lens left to play! Such fixtures have re-ignited a town's love for its club, a former powerhouse of French football desperate to remain in the elite.
Don't stop me now!
"It has brought fans back in their numbers, and the spirit has returned too! We don't want all that to stop," said an Auxerre fan. "Ten years ago, relegation was a frightening thought! Now, we know where we've come from, and we don't want to go back there!"
And it seems the effects of relegation can be far-reaching.
"If Auxerre sadly drop back into Ligue 2, the whole region will suffer! The impact would be huge," said one local man. "Auxerre is a small town, and Ligue 1 Uber Eats is brilliant for the economy in terms of sponsors, people in the restaurants and bars. It brings life to the town and the region. If we go down, it will be a big loss economically and we don't need that right now!"
To contain the Parisians, Auxerre fans were banking on their giant centre-back Isaak Touré to come up trumps!
"Since he arrived there's been real improvement. We're a lot more solid!" beamed an Auxerre fan. "We've struggled when he hasn't been on the pitch. He's vital to Christophe Pélissier's set-up. Quite simply, he's won us points!"
"Given his size, athleticism and never say die attitude, it will be a very interesting battle against Messi and Mbappe. Both operate with a lot of skill in very tight spaces! It'll be fun to follow!" said one of the Stade de l'Abbé-Deschamps faithful before his friend continued. "Isaak Touré will be the man to stop Mbappé! We'll do the job, we've got Isaak, he's the man!"
For all the belief, Touré was helpless as the man on course to be named Ligue 1 Uber Eats top scorer for a fifth consecutive campaign turned on the style inside the opening ten minutes…
Two down early on, Auxerre fought back, and they were rewarded early in the second-half.
"What's important to take from that is - given the position we're in, trailing 2-0 - to be able to dig deep and find the mental strength needed to worry PSG," explained coach Christophe Pélissier. "It's encouraging for the remaining games, which will be extremely difficult!"
Had it not been for Gianluigi Donnarumma, this could have been one of the most famous nights of recent times at the Stade Abbé-Deschamps!
Captain Birama Touré was well-pleased with the his side gave of themselves.
"We made life difficult for them, which really is something!" said the Mali international. "To see a team like PSG struggle against us gives us real confidence! Up to us to repeat that second half performance against Toulouse!"
Faith in the Big Cheese
In Christophe Pélissier, Auxerre have yet more reason to believe. Their coach has won three promotions during his managerial career - and has never been relegated!
"People said we were dead and buried three months ago, but we're still alive and have games to go!" said the AJA coach. "If there were only two or three teams going down we would be safe, but there's one more this year! It'll be one of the two!"
Ending the season at home might well give Auxerre the boost they need to beat the drop. Their fans will once again be giving their all, desperate to enjoy at least one more season of Ligue 1 Uber Eats football!
"The atmosphere was exceptional!" said Birama Touré. "These fans, the stadium, the club, the town, we deserve to be in Ligue 1. Up to us to give everything through until the end!"