Why Saint-Étienne? I asked.
“I’m from there.”
When I was a kid, falling for the irresistible Liverpool team of that time, there was another team that was hard not to like. From a small town in France, with Yugoslav international goalkeeper Ivan Ćurković, winger Dominique Rocheteau and Argentinian fullback Osvaldo Piazza among other great players, Saint-Étienne played some great football and became the most successful club in French football history. They reached the European Cup final in 1976 only to loose to Bayern Munich. They won their last title in 1981, captained by Michel Platini, and then it all fell apart and Saint-Étienne disappeared from the football map.
As I was approaching the entrance of the Vendome metro station, negotiating all the obstacles of a construction site, out of darkness emerged Étienne in his beautiful Saint-Étienne jersey. A quick chat revealed that he came to Montreal 3 years ago to finish his studies but stayed to live and work here afterwards. When I got back home that evening and checked the current French league standings I found there, at the very top, no other club but Saint-Étienne. Leading the league lasted for one day only – before Monaco took over – but it filled me with joy and hope that a small club from central France could successfully compete, again, against the big and rich ones.