Top 14: in Castres, rugby “makes the city vibrate”

On Place Jean-Jaurès, a statue of the socialist icon, and other local pride, is offered, as the Top 14 final approaches on Friday, municipal banners “Castres in blue and white”, the colors of club to which this city of 40,000 inhabitants is almost entirely devoted.

On Place Jean-Jaurès, a statue of the socialist icon, and other local pride, is offered, as the Top 14 final approaches on Friday, municipal banners “Castres in blue and white”, the colors of the club to which this city of 40,000 inhabitants is almost entirely devoted.

Since Castres Olympique qualified for the final phase for the first time since 2018, the year of their last title, the Tarn sub-prefecture has lived to the rhythm of rugby.

From the Halle de l’Albinque to the banks of the Durenque, flags, jerseys, scarves and balloons adorn the shops, most of which bear the same poster “Allez CO! Tous ensemble”.

“All the merchants play the game”, appreciates Marion Arcèse, who has placed in the window of her decoration store all that she has planned for blue and white products.

Arrived from Saint-Etienne three years ago, she is “not particularly” a great rugby fan, but “whether we like it or not, we are carried by the fervor”.

“It makes the city vibrate,” says the young woman. “Everyone is talking about it, people are gathering, the bars are full on match nights”.

– “Even the grandmothers” –

Windows wide open while waiting under a blazing sun for his next race, Pascal Bessou has attached a blue CO flag to the antenna of his white taxi.

As far back as he can remember, Castres has “always been a rugby town”, even when the local football club enjoyed its heyday in the 1960s.

That of basketball also cuts a pretty good figure and the steep slopes of the Black Mountain lend themselves well to cycling, with the Mazametan neighbor Laurent Jalabert as a standard, but nothing competes directly or indirectly with the oval ball.

“Even grandmothers follow rugby all year round,” says the taxi driver. “This club has a soul, without any stars in its workforce. Anyway, it does not work when there are”.

Fijian winger from Castres Josaia Raisuqe controls the ball out of scrum against Montpellier at Pierre-Fabre, March 5, 2022

Fred SCHEIBER – AFP/Archives

Five-time champion of France (1949, 1950, 1993, 2013 and 2018), the CO, supported financially by the Pierre Fabre laboratories, the largest employer in the department, likes to put forward values ​​​​in the city’s inhabitants. , humble and needy.

This communion is recipe. The 5,000 places made available to each of the finalist clubs have been snapped up and around twenty cars will be chartered for the trip to the Stade de France.

“We feel that there is a big craze”, confirms the general manager of the Tarn club Matthias Rolland. “We are working hard to find solutions for our supporters. They are passionate about it”.

– Happiness and pride –

Those who do not go to Paris will be able to follow the final, against Montpellier, at Irish or at Español, the headquarters of Castres supporters, run by the former third row José Diaz, crowned champion of France in 1993.

A giant screen will also be installed by the town hall on Place Pierre-Fabre, a week after the ban by the prefecture, due to the heat wave, of the fan-zone scheduled for the semi-final against neighboring Toulouse.

Castres supporters motivated during the reception of Lyon, February 19, 2022

Castres supporters motivated during the reception of Lyon, February 19, 2022

Fred SCHEIBER – AFP/Archives

Several hundred people were already gathered at Castres airport on Wednesday to cheer before their departure for players who were not insensitive to this support.

“It’s nice because we also play to bring people happiness and pride”, testifies the second row Loïc Jacquet. “It’s part of the DNA of the players at the club. We are taught when we arrive here that we are not playing for ourselves, but for something bigger”.

“It makes us want to surpass ourselves even more,” says winger or full-back Geoffrey Palis. “It’s not spectators who come to the stadium, but supporters. People who live for the CO and who for the most part will have a sale week if we lose the weekend. We will have to do a big performance on Friday so that the party is beautiful”.

By Sébastien DUVAL / Castres (AFP) / © 2022 AFP

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