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French grassroots football is flourishing in the shadow of Nice and Monaco

Wednesday 26th July 2017
Football on the French Cote d'Azur received a real boost last season with Monaco winning the domestic title and Nice also qualifying for the Champions League after finishing third in Ligue 1, but there are also indications of progress at a much lower level of football by two teams sharing the same small area of coastline.

The team of Saint-Jean Beaulieu have recently merged with local neighbours FC Villefranchois, and following a successful season last term when they finished third and secured promotion from the 6th tier DH Mediterannee Ligue, they will now feature in Groupe Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur-Corse of the newly created National 3 league (formerly CFA2) in France for the 2017-18 campaign. Among their local rivals in the coming weeks will be AS Cannes and ES Cannet Rocheville and prospects for the forthcoming campaign appear reasonable especially as there appears to be no financial hardship evident at the club.

Saint-Jean stage home matches at a communal Stadium on Boulevard General de Gaulle which is located on the exclusive Cap Ferrat headland just east of Nice. Where several millionaires live in detached villas residing in private roads patrolled by the local police. Meanwhile, during December 2016, Saint-Jean Beaulieu FC attracted some headlines when legendary sprinter Usain Bolt visited the club for a training session.
Just a few miles along the narrow coastal area and playing at a home stadium directly opposite Stade Louis II in Monaco, US Cap d'Ail FC operate at an even lower level of French football than Saint-Jean Beaulieu. Monaco's close neighbours featured in the 7th tier DHR section of the Mediterrannee Ligue last term, and during a recent visit this summer they were demonstrating their ambition by renovating their Stade Municipal home.

Although an underground car park for the nearby Marriott Hotel is based under the small stadium, the club is installing new floodlights and an all-weather pitch on the roof, with further renovation work also scheduled to be completed in time for the seasonal opener during September. As considerable parts of Cap d'Ail are built into the narrow rocky coastline, the stadium probably occupies one of the few flat areas within the commune.

The club celebrated their centenary last year and the recently-built clubhouse was opened by French national team manager Didier Deschamps during December 2014. US Cap d'Ail FC also encourage the younger footballers in the vicinity by staging regular open days at the clubhouse, with Kylian Mbappe a regular and popular visitor on these occasions.

As with their neighbouring football teams, financial issues do not appear to be an issue with this grassroots club especially as potential wealthy donors live on their doorstep, although some of the better performers rarely earn in excess of 100 euros per match. Any players with decent prospects are more likely to be playing for the Monaco B team, but it is also conceivable that there will be ‘arrangements' between the two clubs regarding football issues.

While Nice and Monaco attempt to repeat their successes of last season, it may be worth following the future progress of both Villefranche Saint-Jean Beaulieu and US Cap d'Ail in this very prosperous region of France.
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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