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Is AS Cannes ready to revive football festival?

Friday 28th July 2017
AS Cannes gave us Zinedine Zidane and Patrick Vieira before sinking to French football's deepest depths. Now, there is hope the Red Dragons may eventually resurface.

While Zinedine Zidane was guiding Real Madrid to its successful Champions League defence in May, the club at which he launched his professional career was showing signs of emerging from the most turbulent period in its history. AS Cannes won promotion to French football's fifth tier.
Les Dragons Rouges have not been the most 'historic' among French football teams since their formation in 1902 but Zidane and Patrick Vieira led an array of promising prospects who featured as young players for the Cote d'Azur club. Cannes won their only Coupe de France in 1932. More recently, they were eliminated from the UEFA Cup at the second round in both 1991 and '94, the first time with Zizou, the second time with the Arsenal and Juventus legend.

The side yo-yoed between Ligues 1 and 2 at the time but relegation from the top flight after the 1997-98 campaign began a serious decline for the club. Subsequent seasons proved disastrous. Cannes plummeted to the fourth tier. Simultaneously, its debt spiralled. Anonymous donors offered help but expulsion from French professional football was unavoidable. They were out of sight and mind at the Divisional Honneur level in the Mediterranean regional league.

Now, however, there are hopeful signs the former team of Zidane may be at last rising from its lowest ebb. Cannes finished first in their sixth level league last season. In 2017-18, the Red Dragons will try to breathe fire into the newly restructured, renamed French National 3 division following two promotions in three seasons.

Former player and French international Johan Micoud has become club president. He has persuaded former colleague and ex-Bordeaux manager Michel Pavon to accept the challenge of guiding AS Cannes further up France's football pyramid.
It will not be easy for Micoud and Pavron. There are no players at Cannes as accomplished as Zidane and Viera. Then again, the two legends were hardly that themselves in their time on the Riviera. Thirty-three-year-old striker Jean Jacques Mandrichi netted 19 goals last term. Equally experienced club captain Michael Cerielo has become a reliable performer for the team. Both players are expected to feature this term as Pavon plots another promotion to the fourth tier National 2.

Outside the lines, meanwhile, need for infrastructural investment has become evident. Training, and some friendlies, are staged at the Stade de Saint Cassien complex, out of town. Stade Pierre de Coubertin, in Cannes' La Bocca district, is well overdue for renovation. Stadium capacity estimates range from 12-16,000 but few spectators can be accommodated behind either goal. Both touchline stands are severely outdated.

Regardless, the Pierre de Coubertin is still a vastly superior stadium when compared to Cannes' National 3 competitors' grounds. specially Supporters for this season's derby rival, Entente Sportive Le Cannet Rocheville, based in Northern Cannes, will be envious during their away leg.

With 73,000 people residing in the Cannes conurbation, potentially sizeable crowds could be seen again at home fixtures should Micoud and Pavon build upon the relative successes achieved in recent seasons. AS Cannes could be restored to a more suitable level of French football in the coming years. Huddersfield Town have returned to the English top flight after 45 years in obscurity. Why not AS Cannes?
John Welsh
I am a freelance sports writer specialising in football covering Premier League, EFL and English non-leagues plus top leagues in France, Germany and Italy. I have written for Inside Futbol, Football Weekends plus football previews for Hong Kong Jockey Club, and I’m also the author of book First Touch, a novel covering the exploitation of young African footballers and their experiences in Europe.

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