THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Marseille were first crowned League champions, then European Champions. They were stripped of the former though, reports Aaron Donaghy

The long-term significance
The best-supported and richest club in French football, Olympique de Marseille, beat AC Milan to win the first-ever Champions League on May 26, 1993. Twenty-four hours later, news broke that Marseille’s vital league match against Valenciennes just six days earlier had been fixed. It emerged that three Valenciennes players had been paid to “go easy” on Marseille, who were chasing a record fifth consecutive league title. Valenciennes defender Jacques Glassmann claimed that he and two of his colleagues were offered £30,000 to throw the match. Marseille were thus barred from the 1993‑94 Champions League by UEFA and stripped of their league title by the French FA, while three players and a Marseille director were banned from football. A year later they were further punished with enforced relegation, bankruptcy and the imprisonment of club president and millionaire entrepreneur Bernard Tapie. The whistle-blower Glassmann claimed to have been shunned by French clubs subsequently and wound down his career playing on the Indian Ocean island of Réunion.

Story of the season
Alen Boksic’s goals kept Marseille, by this time without Chris Waddle, top of the heap in France, ably assisted by that veteran German goal-poacher, Rudi Völler. Paris Saint-Germain, including David Ginola and George Weah, ran them closest, while Jürgen Klinsmann’s Monaco faded badly in the final few weeks of what was, for the most part, a three-horse race. Parisian consolation came in PSG’s French Cup win over Nantes, as well as the ensuing collapse of their bitter rivals from Provence. In Europe, Marseille pipped Glasgow Rangers, who had earlier disposed of Leeds, for a place in the final, with, in retrospect, a disturbingly easy 6-0 thrashing of CSKA Moscow along the way. In Munich they met AC Milan, who featured the injury-ridden Marco van Basten in what would be his last ever competitive match. Defender Basile Boli headed the only goal from a corner on the stroke of half-time. Paris Saint-German and Auxerre both reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup, PSG having got to the last eight by beating Real Madrid 5-4 on aggregate in one of the competition’s best-ever ties. In the last four they were edged out by Juventus, while Borussia Dortmund needed penalties to overcome Auxerre.

For the record books
Marseille were stripped of what would have been their ninth championship and a record fifth league title in a row, Monaco replaced them in the Champions League after PSG declined. Coincidentally, the club who had blown the whistle on the Marseille match-fixing scandal a couple of weeks from the end of the season, Valenciennes, suffered relegation in a play‑off to Marseille’s neighbours Cannes. On the other hand, Marseille won their first European trophy and in doing so also became the first French club to win the European Cup. At the age of 71, Marseille’s veteran, wig-wearing, Belgian manager Raymond Goethals became the oldest man to coach a European Cup-winning team. Boksic, later of Middlesbrough, was the 1992-93 top league marksman with 22 goals.

Same place today

Seven teams haven’t left Le Championnat: Auxerre, Bordeaux, Lens, Monaco, Nantes, Paris Saint-Germain and Lyon, the last having established a Chelsea-like hegemony in recent years with five successive league titles. Seven others – Lille, Marseille, Metz, Saint-Etienne, Sochaux, Strasbourg and Toulouse – were subsequently relegated then promoted back; Strasbourg and Metz have just gone down again. After a decade in the lower levels, Valenciennes have returned to the top flight as French second division champions for 2005-06.

Moved furthest away

Nîmes and Toulon, both of whom were relegated in 1992-93, have slipped further down the scale and currently play in the semi-professional Championnat National, France’s third-tier.

Went on to greater things
David Ginola ~ French player of the year for his displays at PSG; double player of the year in England in 1999, before starring in dubious shampoo commercials.
George Weah ~ The PSG star hit 14 league goals. With Milan in 1995 he became, uniquely, World, European and African Footballer of the Year. Ran for president in Liberia last year, unsuccessfully.
Didier Deschamps ~ The man Eric Cantona dubbed “the water carrier” (not quite the insult it was interpreted as in the UK) captained Marseille and won the 1996 European Cup with Juventus. He skippered France to the World Cup in 1998 and to victory at Euro 2000.

Disappearing from view
The old European Champions Cup ~ The group stage had come in during 1991-92, with a name change to Champions League this season.
Bernard Tapie ~ Marseille’s eccentric president was hit hard by the 1993 match-fixing scandal, losing his club and all his money, and in 1995 was sentenced to two years in prison for complicity in corruption. More recently he became a TV presenter and an actor.
Jorge Burruchaga ~ The man whose goal won the 1986 World Cup for Argentina was banned from playing in France, for his role in the match-fixing scandal involving his Valenciennes side and Marseille.

From WSC 233 July 2006. What was happening this month

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