by JC Nowers
This year Hot Club Petanque from London, England played its first international competition at the Mondial la Marseillaise a Petanque in Marseille, France. It was ‘boule’ paradise and I would encourage any bouliste to compete in it at least once.
I picked up on the idea of attending after reading a report featured on Petanque.org last year (I forget who). The ‘all comers’ access and the scale of the event, 12000 players/ 4000 teams on average per year, was a phenomena not to be missed.
blog comments powered by Disqus
It is a triples knockout competition set in Marseille over five days. The level of play is fierce and we were quickly eliminated at the first stage by a devastating 13-0 fanny !. However our opponents from Marseille ensured the arbiter recorded it as 13-3. There was no need for this, we had hardly passed three words between the teams, but says something of the spirit of the Mondial (believe me many teams were not so gracious).
Now do not think that if you enter and play one game and are eliminated you are on the next flight home, there is a lot more to it. Let me briefly describe our experience.
I had registered and paid 15 euro over the internet in April. There was a registration form in English and the inscription form was sent via email and was the evidence one needed to bring to the competition as proof of entry.
The first day of play was Sunday 8th July and Oli and myself hooked up with Herve, a Marseille native, on the previous Friday afternoon. Whilst the three of us are long time friends we had never played petanque as a triples team so practise was imperative and we quickly got to work on a piste near the old port. Soon enough we were joined another team seeking practise for the competition and a friendly game between us ensued. These lads were from Picardy ,south of Paris, and like most of what we were to witness very coherent as a team. It was important for us to engage opposition early on as the nerves of playing strangers is always a stumbling block in confidence and the sooner the stumbling steps get shorter the sooner we could enjoy the game. It was a friendly and humorous affair once the competitive edge had been softened and whilst we did not win any of the three games we scored points and found a shape to our play.
We met up again on Saturday for registration in Parc Borely. This you can do between 3pm - 6pm on Sat or 7am onwards on Sun. You also find out where in Marseille you are playing and your opponents team number. As the first stage is played in 25 different places over Marseille it is wise to know where abouts in advance.
The atmosphere was good and pensive in the Parc Borely as the scale of endeavour became evident. On registration each team receives a programme giving all the details of the comp, especially the location of pistes and to our surprise three Mondial bags, t-shirts and caps. On reading the prize categories we discovered that even first stage losers received a prize of a ‘flasque’ of Ricard each. This was good stuff.
Our first game was to be at the Parvis Stade Velodrome, the home of Olympique Marseille footbal club. We had planned to visit our opening piste to gain experience of the terrain but we figured the Stade might be closed and so decided to get some practise in the Parc Borely.
There were hundreds of players doing the same thing and also keeping half an eye on everybody around them, sizing up. We found a strip of piste with sun and shadow (it was very hot!) and began our tentative practising. Sure enough after five minutes we were approached by a team of chaps from St Etienne and we started another stumbling packet of games.
As the day before these were warm ups for the teams in preparation for the next mornings real deal. Again good humoured but while we knew from the outset that advancement was unlikely for us we felt our opposition and the people around us all felt they were prospects. The chaps took the games but our points ratio and confidence got better. We called it a day and wandered past more games and more arrivals. At one point on the hot breeze I heard the whisper of English but could not discern where from. It was the only time during my week long stay.
Sunday 8th 9:30 am we met at the Stade Velodrome terrain in our team shirts and already teams were exiting and as I said at the beginning soon were we. Although prepared for loss it was still a bit bruising but nothing could have prepared us for the intensity and tension around us.
So it was with humble relief that we returned to Parc Borely to claim our consolation prizes. Now you must remember that of 4000 games that morning there were 6000 players who had lost so our position was not an isolated one. All teams, winners and losers alike, decended upon Parc Borely for their next stage details and ’flasques’ of Ricard respectively. This was the Mondial at its most dense. Thousands of boulistes filling the ‘parc’ split between first stage euphoria, and “c‘est la vie”resignation. Bands played, and hundreds of friendly games continued around the ‘parc’, the ‘clack’ of steel on steel was everywhere.
Everybody nodding at each other with the question ‘vous gangez ?’.
We bumped into the chaps from St Etienne who recognised us from the t-shirts through the crowd and they too had lost in the first stage. However there was to be a losers competition for 15 euro at 3pm that afternoon if we were interested. We were expecting friends later and declined. We were also pretty burnt out and leisurely boule and pastis was required for cool down.
That afternoon was the boule ‘paradise’ moment. Every corner you turned and as far as the eye could see a game was ‘on’ in this beautiful ‘parc’. Alternatively clubs congregated under the shadows of trees for giant picnics to swap the mornings antics.
Besides the consolation knockout competition the second and third stages were to be played that afternoon mostly in the Parc Borely so there was plenty of top action to see. Our friends showed and we found a spot that did not interfere with the second stage 3pm ‘coche’ off.
No one actually believed we were in the second stage but we got a lot of friendly attention primarily due to Herves’ museum piece boule which were illegal due to their softer alloy. We had fun and called it a day about 5pm, pretty tired. The games were still in play and the ‘parc’ less crowded.
I stayed until Thursday for the finals and caught some great games during the week. I also met the great Marco Foyot and plotted him up with some ‘La Vie Petanque’ t-shirts. I saw some great players especially Michel Adam, Stephane Robineau and Gilles Gayraud the trio who eventually won the Mondial 2007.
We will return next year and I certainly recommend it for a long weekend of the most accessible and excellent boule to be found.
JC Nowers 2007
For some reason the worl championship in petanque is held in the buzzling metroloplis of Tahiti this year! So pack your swimwear and go there at once!
Finally petanque has found a new home, as a bar game! Althought it might take a few years befor the darts-boards get the boot and petanque moves in everywhere it has started to happen
The Financial times has finally understood that Petanque is the game of the future, with our long time friend Mike Pegg, International umpire. "It may not be the sunny south of France but even on a chilly Devon day, British fans are warming to the charms of pétanque"
This is a product we have mentioned earlier, just because it is sooooo French. A Tour de France petanque-set! This is more French than a baguette!
We stumbled across a petanque-game for the andoid-system. From the produces description:"Petanque in St Tropez is a 3D bowls game, as played on the mediterannean coast." We do not have an android-phone to test it on, perhaps one of you can help us out?
The world wide petanque and boule community, by and for users.