Stade du Ray
Ground: Stade du Ray
Date: 22nd February 2013
Match: Nice - Stade de Reims 2-0 (Ligue 1)
Attendance: 8 463
Since my visit OGC Nice have moved to a new ground. Pictures from the new ground: Allianz Riviera
On Friday evenings in France there are plenty of matches to choose from. Two matches in Ligue 2 are moved to Saturday and Monday for live TV-coverage but the remaining fixtures are played on Fridays. My choice was not to be a Ligue 2 match though, there is one Ligue 1 match played on Fridays as well and Nice vs Stade de Reims was to be my choice. I was then hoping Monaco was to play their Ligue 2 match on Saturday but it was (of course) chosen as the Monday match. Instead it was a CFA (level 4) match for me on Saturday but more about that later. My journey to Nice started 09.06 on Friday morning as I boarded the TGV-train at Part Dieu station in Lyon. Two hours later I was in Marseille and after another 2,5 hours I was in Nice, the capital of Cote d´Azur. Parts of the train journey from Marseille to Nice was very close to the coast line and I had some impressive views during the latter part of my train journey. Once in Nice I had a 10-minute walk to my hotel. Apparently there is a carnival in Nice this week but I was unaware of this. The hotel receptionist seemed very surprised when I told her I didn´t know about the carnival. She was even more surprised when I told her I was in Nice for football!
Stade du Ray in Nice is situated a 10-minute tram journey from the train station and since it was uphill all the way I was pleased not to have chosen to walk. I was at the ground around 3pm and went to the ticket office to buy my ticket. 2012/13 is the last ever season football is played at Stade du Ray and as I walked round the ground I could understand why OGC Nice are building a new ground. The new stadium will be opened in July this year and will have a capacity of 35 500. Allianz Riviera, as the new stadium will be called, will be used for the 2016 European Championships. Stade du Ray has a capacity of 16 000 of which 8 000 can sit in the main stand. The other stands are a strange mix of seating and terracing and are all uncovered. To my delight I found an open gate and I could sneak in to take some pictures. As I made my way back to the city centre I decided to take the tram all the way to the beach. I have to say it was a bit strange to see plenty of empty stands (see pic below) along the beach and streets in the city centre, for the carnival I guess. Down by the beach it was not difficult to understand how busy it must be during the summer in Nice.
Kick-off was at 20.30 and by 18.45 I was back at Stade du Ray. As always it is a great experience to walk to a ground, see the floodlights and feel the excitement of the fans. My seat was in row 34 in the main stand and I had a great view of the action. With Nice being 4th in the table and the visitors from Reims being 4th from bottom this was a match Nice should win. Reims had around 25 fans at the match but this is a long journey for them and considering the league positions I wasn´t expected more than 25-30 to be honest. Nice started the match very well and went 1-0 up after a penalty. They continued to create chances but no more goals in the first half. The second half was more even but when Reims had a player sent off Nice could score again and the match finished 2-0. The atmosphere from the home fans in Populaire Sud was quite good and even if the attendance was "only" 8 500 I enjoyed my Friday evening at Stade du Ray. I was back at my hotel shortly before 11pm and quickly fell asleep.
View of the beach in Nice
....looking the other way
View of Stade du Ray
Rear of Populaire Sud
View of Stade du Ray