OM: Sampaoli with his head in the air, Longoria in a box with the players, behind the scenes of the match in Marseille after 2nd place

OM: Sampaoli with his head in the air, Longoria in a box with the players, behind the scenes of the match in Marseille after 2nd place

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The party was wild in Marseille to celebrate OM’s last-minute snatch of second place in Ligue 1 on Saturday night and qualification for the Champions League group stage. With some memorable scenes.

OM celebrated this return to the Champions League as it should. There was a mixture of madness and communion on the pitch in the Marseille ranks. Some great Olympic evenings have not always given off this feeling of togetherness, joy and lightness. An incredible setting, a happy ending and scenes of joy in abundance in a Vélodrome stadium packed like an egg until late at night. Children, women, families, friends of the players, all united and all smiles on the pitch. It’s 11 pm, the stadium was overturned a few minutes earlier when Lens drew against Monaco.

Suddenly, Payet yells: “Is there a Lens goal or not?!”

In the presidential gallery, the first to give the alert are Dimitri Payet (injured) and William Saliba (suspended), with their eyes glued to the defender’s phone. Payet sees Lensois’ goal, but can’t bring himself to believe it and starts yelling: “Is there a Lens goal or not?!” Everyone tries to recharge their phone, but the Orange Vélodrome regulars know that the connection there is sometimes capricious… and no one dares to confirm the good news.

In 2018, a false rumor of a goal conceded by Lyon took hold of the Vélodrome. This time, the doubt only lasted a few seconds. The Velodrome screams, jumps, exults. On Saliba’s phone, the Monegasques are on the ground and the Lensois are partying. To the Marseillais to do the same.

Sampaoli, Longoria, Payet, a three-star hug

Pablo Longoria descends on the grass at a speed never before recorded in the openings of the Velodrome. He joins sporting director David Friio, who was the first to approach the bench, to ensure that the squad had the information that a 5-0 run could send OM straight to second place, without Lens needing to equalise. After being carried by Matteo Guendouzi, Jorge Sampaoli falls into the arms of Payet and Longoria. This is the afternoon photo. The OM president is crying.

The hug between OM coach Jorge Sampaoli and Matteo Guendouzi, May 21, 2022
The hug between OM coach Jorge Sampaoli and Matteo Guendouzi, May 21, 2022 © ICON Sport

The other memorable shot was almost unimaginable: Frank McCourt hits the pitch and jumps into Guendouzi’s arms. The music of the Champions League barely covers the “Aux Armes” and the chants of the Marseille fans.

Therefore, Saliba was sanctioned, but he arrived in shorts. He hasn’t had his share of effort and decides to run everywhere from the north bend to the south bend. Earlier in the evening, he had elicited a laugh from the staff because, naturally, he had positioned himself next to OM’s physical trainer, to liven up the warm-up. He yells, “We’re seconds, my face!” The French international is happy, like a child.

“Who does not jump is not Marseille” among club employees!

OM President Frank McCourt greets Steve Mandanda, May 21, 2022
OM President Frank McCourt shakes hands with Steve Mandanda, May 21, 2022 © ICON Sport

Children are everywhere, precisely what gives a touch of sweetness to this evening of euphoria. Amine Harit’s daughter plays with Sampaoli. McCourt meets the coach’s son. Soccer matches are improvised among the children. The shareholder is delighted, he applauds the fans and he is sure to experience one of his best evenings since he bought OM in 2016. Bouba Kamara experiences the last one with the OM shirt and poses as a family with the feeling of having fulfilled his duty. While communication director Jacques Cardoze films everything that moves to immortalize these jubilant scenes, in particular the Brazilians Luan Peres and Gerson who dance and savor… The embrace is warm between Jorge Sampaoli and Steve Mandanda, after a season not always obvious to the goalkeeper. , replaced behind Pau López.

Valentin Rongier confided that he had tears of joy, “excited to belong to this group.” The emotion will also be present during a speech given by Pablo Longoria before fifty employees, in the presidential room. The president, very stressed throughout the match, recounts the best moments of the season and of his presidency. He insists on this feeling of pride that everyone can feel, living in Marseille or working for OM. His speech ends with a song … between employees, arm in arm, who all sing the vibrant “Qui saute n’est pas Marseille!”. amazing time.

Sampaoli almost forgot the press conference

Pablo Longoria and Frank McCourt will also speak in the locker room, in a wild atmosphere. Matteo Guendouzi lights up in front of the journalists: “We are second!!!”… while the press officers look for Jorge Sampaoli. Even his wife has lost sight of him!

“Where is jorge?” The Argentine, still stunned, has lost some reflexes. He’s already in his car…and he forgot to show up to the press conference! The director of communication catches up with him in extremis. Sampaoli thanks his players and is delighted to have given the Vélodrome emotions until the last second. He walks out of the press room with a smile and a big ‘yes’ when RMC Sport throws him a cheeky ‘See you next year, coach?’

A standing ovation for McCourt… at “The Red Lion” pub!

The Marseille Party with McCourt, Longoria and Cardoze, May 22, 2022
The Marseille party with McCourt, Longoria and Cardoze, May 22, 2022 © The Red Lion

The evening will continue in some nightclubs in Marseille. Frank McCourt invites his family and his American collaborators to a restaurant in the 8th district. Other employees went for drinks at a well-known Pointe Rouge pub, on the edge of the beaches.

Pablo Longoria is preparing to leave the Bostonian to join his teams there. “Where are you going?” McCourt asks. “At the Red Lion,” Longoria replies. “Okay, I’m coming with you!” And here is the American billionaire dividing the crowd, supporters and students on Saturday night. The customers are freaking out. With the tracksuit top on him, the OM owner is greeted by an honor guard and “McCourt! McCourt! McCourt!!!”. The shareholder is excited by such recognition and such fervour. “It’s not a trophy, but it’s a great victory, says someone close to McCourt. The fact that he experienced these emotions in Marseille and with his family is unique to him.”

Longoria in disco with a dozen players

All these beautiful people order champagne and proudly pose for a photo. Pablo Longoria, acclaimed for a long time by all the fans he finds in his way, will join a dozen players in a small disco to dance with Steve Mandanda and his companions.

This Sunday the voices of many Olympic athletes were broken. “We were all exhausted, the week was tough, there were injuries, but this group has something different, an extra soul,” confides an intimate in the locker room. But we knew that it could be played in the last minute of the last game. .” The denouement even came… at the last second.

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