Two-faced Marseille gives way to a world-class area as the city of Bok feels gees | Sport


  • Marseille showed up on Saturday afternoon when it really mattered.
  • The city is hosting the Springboks for the first time since 2007.
  • There were some sleepy parts, but it was also buzzing as it got ready for the test, and the stadium itself is stunning.

in Marseille

This port city is deceiving and in every sense of the word.

If you go to one side of town, especially the old harbor area with the old museum, nothing screams that a big rugby match is taking place.

There were a few rugby jerseys, but of greater importance were the boat trips, public displays of affection, small picnics, the museum, the circus and, most importantly, a gentle but tremendously cooling breeze coming from the Mediterranean.

Near the Dockside Mall, the restaurants are all quiet.

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Closer to the harbour, especially on Old Quay Port Road, things get really festive.

As Marseille is a tourist city, it is expected that rugby will not always be the main attraction.

After all, this is where France’s only UEFA Champions League team Olympique Marseille is based, which hoisted the famous European trophy in 1993.

There are a few football shirts, but there are many more rugby shirts on this day.

On one side of the harbor, with the bulk of the restaurants, business was conducted in an orderly manner.

The conversations, mostly in French, were boisterous, but now and then Afrikaans and English pierced the air.

However, it was in Quinze and Murphy’s bars where things got hectic.

The patrons sang along to a song, and when the chorus came around, they absolutely turned it off.

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The two bars are just as popular as those in the harbor district.

However, they occupy prime real estate by being on the corner of a very busy intersection.

Since French bars are self-service and drink outside, it’s a winner for everyone.

The mild autumn weather also played a role, although every now and then a glimmer broke in.

Train Station in Marseille

The Joliette metro station was a hive of activity in a trio of languages.

The carriage was packed.

Again, not everything revolves around sport, but it must be said that the heat in the overcrowded carriage was the hottest since I left Johannesburg.

The arrival at the stadium was as chaotic as the carriage.

Train Ride in Marseille

There was a drunken but brisk rendition of La Marseillaise, but Nkosi Sikelela’s reaction was as disjointed as SA’s goal last week.

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The stage? Well, it’s a beauty that only the eye can behold.

A shopping center is attached to it, plus a spectator bench where fans can patiently wait for the gates to open.

The design is reminiscent of what Loftus Versfeld and the Cape Town Stadium are trying to be.

The place is crazy but also beautiful.

The neighborhood in which the stadium is located was a world away from the quiet everydayness of the harbor area.

If there’s one thing I’ve experienced in France over the past week, it’s that melodic chaos is not only acceptable, but a way of life.

21:00 (22:00 in South Africa) seemed just a bit too far away for me.