Why is the derby between Saint-Étienne and Lyon the most important game of French football?

The Rhone derby is a unique match for the proximity of the two cities and for what it means to win the eternal rival.

Many are those who affirm that the PSG-Olympique de Marseille is the most important game of French football. 'Le Classique', as it is known in France, is a party that began to be of great rivalry from the 90s, when Paris began to grow geographically and fought for territorial domination with Marseille. As all Olympique de Lyon and Saint-Étienne fans claim, the PSG-OM is a fashion that was forged from modern capitalism. "Saint-Étienne and Lyon is the derby that represents social classes in the world. It is the poverty of Saint-Étienne against the wealth of Lyon. The working city against the industrial city. That is why the Rhone derby is the most important game of French football, "says Faustine, a fan of 'Les Verts', who has lived the rivalry since the day he was born

Saint-Étienne is the city that has been hardest hit by the mining crisis in France. In the 80s, his team had 10 leagues and had played in 1976 the final of the European Cup against Bayern Munich. Although it is not strictly within Rhone (Rhone-Alpes), the derby is called "Derby du Rhone". After the economic recess that suffered in the 80s, nothing was the same in the region. The emigration to Lyon, which offered much higher economic conditions, further accentuated the hatred of the citizens of Saint-Étienne. In the world of football it was not yet a fierce rivalry - Lyon was in Ligue 2-, but the teasing and animosity was increasing.

Lyon was one of the cities that benefited most from the mining crisis in Saint-Étienne. Where the cinema was born thanks to the money that the Lumière brothers received at the beginning of the last century, they made it one of the most important places in Europe. While Saint-Étienne was barely surviving thanks to mining and workers, Lyon was a metropolitan area where great figures from the world of cinema and construction walked. Today, if one walks through Lyon, there is a renewed city, whose businesses are 'in crescendo' and in which the word crisis does not exist. Quite the opposite occurs with Saint-Étienne, a city that has gradually become one of the least contributing to the national GDP and where many people emigrate to Lyon to reach the end of the month.

The Lyon-Saint-Étienne contrast was extrapolated shortly after the crisis to the world of football. Jean-Michel Aulas bought the Olympique de Lyon and at the beginning of the current decade made it one of the best teams in Europe. He played two Champions League semifinals, won seven consecutive leagues - threatening the Saint-Étienne record - and put in the spotlight players like Juninho, Wiltord, Malouda, Abidal, Revèillere, Benzema, Tolisso, Lacazette or Ndombelé . Many of the French fans considered that what Classrooms did in Lyon was not lawful, because as stated in the book "Soccernomics" by Simon Kuper, he looked at MLB or handball as economic management to be an example in the world of football on how to turn a second team into one of the best teams in Europe.

To reflect the rivalry between Saint-Étienne and Lyon, we only have to attend the last matches between the two. Three seasons ago, Saint-Étienne fans jumped to interrupt the derby after Fékir showed the ultras his shirt in a painful 0-5. It is the encounter with the most expelled from recent history in Ligue 1 and the one with the most fouls and goals averages. Therefore, it is not a match for either team.

"The match for me is independent of Ligue 1. It doesn't matter how the two teams are in the standings. I only care about the game. If we win it, people will forget that before this the Saint-Étienne is the colista of Ligue 1, "says Alyssa, supporter of Saint-Étienne, a member of the Kop Nord, and passionate about the club.

The match comes with a lot of tension for both Saint-Étienne and Lyon. 'Les Verts' have just announced the hiring of Claude Puel until 2022 after a start of the season in which he is a colista before the derby. Printant did not meet expectations and the club is entrusted to a coach who curiously trained Lyon, making him reach the Champions League semifinals in 2010.

It will be a very important match for Sylvinho, which has been seven games without winning in Ligue 1 and reaches the derby at a critical moment. Despite the victory on Wednesday in Leipzig in the Champions League, the pressure on him at maximum, as there are many fans who have complained about the inexperience of the Brazilian on the benches and his lack of ambition, because Lyon is of the few teams in Ligue 1 in which their sides never attack and that allow rivals to defend much more comfortable.

Tomorrow will not be any match. Saint-Étienne and Lyon will be two cities with their streets deserted from 9:00 pm for one of the most rival and important matches of recent French football. Whoever wins for several weeks will forget his place in the standings, since winning the eternal rival always leaves an indelible mark.

Photos from as.com
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