Sat, Jan 24, 2009 - Page 19 News List

French giantkillers look for another scalp

AFP , PARIS

Schirrhein players celebrate their 4-2 victory over Clermont in the French Cup in Schirrhein, France, on Jan. 3.

PHOTO: AFP

Tiny Schirrhein, whose entire village population of 2,000 would fit into even the most modest of soccer stadiums, have their chance of French Cup glory as the seventh-tier club host Toulouse this weekend.

The Alsatian outfit have added a touch of romance to the round of 32, playing against a team that qualified for last season’s Champions League, having beaten second-division Clermont to put this once anonymous club on the soccer map. Press, television and radio journalists have since flocked to the village close to the border with Germany to learn more about the first club at “District” level to qualify for the last 32 in the 91-year history of the tournament.

Club coach Herve Sturm said of his team’s exploits: “After beating Clermont, everything went mad. We made ourselves available to everyone who wanted to talk to us and we were happy about that because the media helped us in our success.”

“Lives have changed for the amateurs, many of them are now recognized at work or in the street by an admiring public,” Sturm said.

“Naturally, we were not prepared for all this, but we have done our best to satisfy everyone. That’s only fair considering what we have been living through in recent weeks,” club president Pierre Dillinger said.

Their stadium is named after Oscar Heisserer, a French international before and after World War II who played for France at the 1958 World Cup.

Schirrhein’s fortunes will no doubt be on the ascendant in the next few seasons after the success this year, but the cosy, friendly atmosphere is unlikely to change. Every Thursday night, after the week’s second training session, players eat chips together at the club house, as opposed to the more diet-conscious professionals, and a few beers being drunk is not unknown.

Meanwhile, French league leaders Lyon will host third-placed Marseille on Wednesday should they win their postponed, last 64 battle at fourth division Concarneau today.

Tomorrow, Monaco host Nice in a south coast derby, while Paris Saint-Germain play at Ajaccio GFCO.

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