In the south of France the city of Montpellier, capital of the Languedoc-Roussillon area, is perhaps better known for being a sun-drenched stage of the Tour de France. However, their soccer side, one used to languishing in the lower reaches of the French top division, has just completed one of the biggest upsets in recent European soccer history.
Last term Montpellier Hérault SC finished 14th in Ligue 1. This year they have won the whole thing, scooting past mega spenders Paris St. Germain.
They do not have the money, they do not have the star names, they did not even have much of a crowd for most of their campaign, but they were determined. They have sneeked up on French football and have proven that although they are a club with very little money, they can overcome adversity.
On Montpellier’s toppling of French football’s elite, manager Rene girard said this: “I think it’s refreshing. It’s good. It revives our football. It shows you don’t need to fear anybody, and that money doesn’t buy happiness. We’re a club made of friends, basically an academy, and finally it worked with a balanced team.”
There is no comparison that can be made with this feat. England and Spain have not seen an occurrence like this in recent memory.
They wrapped things up in their final game, a fractious affair with Auxerre. The Auxerre fans made sure play was halted on several occasions as flares were thrown at Montpellier players. The flares were reportedly part of a protest against Auxerre’s relegation from Ligue 1.
However this stopped nothing. A double from Nigerian striker John Utaka, formerly of Portsmouth FC, secured a 2-1 win. As the fans fell in to raptures it sank in that Montpellier had done the impossible.
They automatically start next season’s Champions League in the group stages and will have a lot more money to play with than they have ever had before.
As for the elites of PSG and their wealth of names: they will get their chance again next year and perhaps have their sights set on the Champions League, as well as storming to a Ligue 1 title.