It is 7h30 I have slept only 4 hours and I am one of them. My team number is 207 and we are playing against V.Chavinat game 1581. I go to the games Office, get my playing pack (3 bags, 3 t-shirts , 3 bobs/soft sun hats, 3 chifonettes) and my playing card on which we will have to enter the score at the end of the first round and return it to the same office.
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Sunday morning on the 6th of july 2008 ,as they say in Marseille the summer here does not start on the 21 of June like everywhere else in France, it starts today with the opening of “La Marseillaise a Petanque”, the biggest petanque competition in the world.
This year will see a new a new record with 12972 players or 4324 triplettes.
Great, I am in in but the only problem is that I do not have any teammates. This is not a problem I am a Joeur Isole (player on his own) and there are other players like me you just have to go to the information desk you will find some.
As promised there are two guys waiting for me, Louis Marius, an 84 year old first approacher, and one of the oldest players in the Marseillaise, and Daniel Vaudois a middle player from Tarbes in the Pyrenees. They each refund me a share of the 15 euros entry fee per team, I hand them their goods and of we go to playing ground No 1581.
The wiev is great but the terrain is tough , a hard surface made of stones and rolling patches, and only 2.5 meters stuck between a little wall on one side and a huge retaining stone lining the sea on the other side, as it is we play close to the stone edge, the boules can run down and fall in the sea.
To top it off, it’s Sunday morning and there are numerous pedestrians, joggers , families with kids and prams running up and down our piste forcing us to interrupt the game and wait for an opportunity to throw.
Louis is disgusted, in all the years he has played (probably 30 or so) he has never received such a bad treatment. I try to reassure him but ha cannot hear me as he is a bit deaf.
Anyway we are at the la Marseillaise, nothing else counts, at least for me.
At 9h00 3 cannon shots are fired, and the competition is officially open. Our opponents are not here but the rules say that they have until 1045 to arrive before forfeiting the game. We watch the time and wait, not knowing if it’s better if they comeor if they don’t. Finally at 10h30 they arrive.
Our opposing team is made up of a ex regional champion who will captain his team, a very good knocker and an average approacher At the beginning our team is very nervous and the others get a 4-0 lead, at this stage they think the game wn’t last long as they seem much stronger than us. But petanque is a very strange game, you haven’t won until you got 13 points and you can lose at 12 points therefore 1 point short of the win.
We come back an stay very close, up to 8-8, then we play brilliantly and win 13-8 after 1h30 of play.
The opponents are devastated, (what a shame).. one is about to cry, the other to vomit (because of too much alcohol the previous night)
We are so happy, Louis looks 20 years younger, Daniel is very ,very red and I have to refrain from hugging every passer by in my joy.
We almost run back to the games office to hand in our score card before the 13h30 deadline and get our second draw. This time we have to play between 14h00 and 15h30. Daniel goes back to his camping car to freshen up and rest a bit. Louis disappears. I hang around still not believing that I made it to the last 2100 last triplettes. From the Tuesday all the games will be played at the same spot on the Parc Borely as there will only be 64 teams left in the tournament and the following Thursday the two semi-finals and the final will be played on the harbour on an especially made piste with grandstands for the crowd. Today three rounds are played all over Marseille and free bus shuttle awaits the players. We decide to walk
We get there exhausted and completely dehydrated and we discover the playing field with fear; a huge soccer pitch made of fine stones divided into hundreds of individual pistes, surrounded by high buildings. No shade and not a breath of air.
We play against a father , his son and a friend. We start as the strongest, and the three of us play brilliantly, until we get to 11-2. (But the crowd is not for us, it is for Marco Foyot who won the Marseillaise 6 times) Our opponents look disempowered and see no way out. We are clearly the strongest and we seem so much more confindent. I suddenly say to myself , this is it, we are going to win. And this marks the beginning of the end. We start to make mistakes and only manage to score one more point to finally loose 12-13. We are so disillusioned that we cannot say a word.
We walk back to the game’s office and collect our prize, a bottle of Ricard and part without a word.
Next year I’ll get further than three rounds…..
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