Accustomed to lifting the various trophies of the French football scene, Bordeaux are traditionally one of Ligue 1’s most successful representatives.
But what truly distinguishes this club, the offices of which are located in the pleasant surroundings of the suburban Chateau du Haillan, is its low-profile, unassuming character, where everyone blends in and where the slightest drama clashes with its cosy atmosphere. It is a club in perfect harmony with the city it represents.
Birth of an institution
Officially, the Girondins de Bordeaux multi-sport club was founded on 1 October 1881. Football was introduced in 1910, but lasted just one season, before returning in 1919 under the name of Section football des Girondins Guyenne Sport, following mergers with numerous sporting entities including Argus Sport who, as part of the deal, provided the dark blue jersey colour still worn today and the famous white v-shaped design present on the crest.
The club was able to boast 70 members at this point, but their first match ended in a heavy 12-0 defeat by a local team, Section Burdigalienne, in 1920.
Their first piece of silverware – the third division championship – dates back to 23 May 1937, two months after the club had attained the professional status required for membership of the second division, which they joined the following season (1937/38).
A further merger with AS Port on 15 October 1940 enabled them to register their players with the fire service of the port of Bordeaux, thereby helping them to escape from being enlisted in the Germans’ Atlantic Wall project. Boosted by this injection of quality, Les Girondins lifted their first-ever French Cup in 1941, but World War II stalled their momentum.
The making of a legend
After the liberation of France, Bordeaux restarted in the second division and gained promotion to the top flight the following season. They would go on to become the first team to secure the French league title the year after being promoted.
The south-western outfit were already starting to exhibit a vibrant brand of football, founded on a rock-solid defence and piercing counter-attacks, which were often finished off by their two major stars of the era, Dutchman Johannes Lambertus de Harder, who scored 43 goals over two seasons, and Franco-Polish striker Edouard Kargu (105 goals in 208 appearances between 1945 and 1956).
With the league’s best attack and least porous defence, FCGB went into the 1950 Latin Cup final with one of the strongest sides in their history, but lost out narrowly to Benfica, after a replay that lasted two hours and 25 minutes, as the competition’s rules placed no limit on the amount of extra time required to score a ‘golden goal’.
The club then entered a period of stagnation, even dropping back into the second tier before reclaiming their place in the top division in 1961, where they would remain for 30 consecutive seasons.
Under the guidance of Salvador Artigas, who was heavily influenced by the highly defensive Italian catenaccio system, Bordeaux finished second on three occasions and lost three French Cup finals. Internationals like Hector de Bourgoing, Didier Couecou and Andre Chorda, among others, did not win any medals, but they did achieve some eye-catching feats, a 10-0 defeat of Stade Francais on 4 September 1965 being one such example.
Stars secure success
It was not until the controversial Claude Bez bought over the club in 1978 that the trophy drought eventually came to an end. An ambitious accountant, Bez brought in Raymond Goethals and then Aime Jacquet to coach a revamped side that featured top talents such as the influential Alain Giresse, Rene Girard, Jean Fernandez, Marius Tresor, Jean Tigana, Raymond Domenech, Patrick Battiston, Bernard Lacombe and the Vujovic twins.
During this period, Bordeaux landed three league titles and qualified for the semi-finals of the European Cup in 1985, establishing themselves as France’s most prominent team and providing the spine of the country’s national XI.
The Bez era was brought to a sudden end with an enforced relegation in 1991, but the club would rise from the ashes with a new ‘golden generation’ led by Christophe Dugarry, Bixente Lizarazu and Zinedine Zidane.
In 1996, Bordeaux enjoyed a stunning European run, taking the UEFA Intertoto Cup route into the UEFA Cup and reaching the final of the tournament, where they lost to Bayern Munich, after having overcome AC Milan at the quarter-final stage in memorable fashion.
In 1999, under the command of Elie Baup, a team including Johan Micoud, Sylvain Wiltord and Lilian Laslandes were involved in a neck-and-neck title race with Marseille. Bordeaux led by a point going into the final match of the season away to Paris Saint-Germain, and captured the championship via a dramatic last-gasp strike by young attacking midfielder Pascal Feindouno.
In 2007, the club’s powers-that-be took a gamble by appointing an inexperienced coach, the former international defender Laurent Blanc. In his second campaign in charge, Bordeaux won the Trophée des Champions and in so doing became the fourth French club to hold aloft every national trophy available to them at least once.
Later that same season, Alou Diarra and Co hoisted the French League Cup for the third time and triumphed in their last 11 consecutive league matches to earn the label of champions of France for a sixth time, bringing Lyon’s seven-year domination of the French football landscape to an end in the process.
Much like the majority of French clubs, Les Girondins have recently been forced to reduce salaries and release several players. Relying on up-and-coming youth academy graduates supported by a handful of seasoned campaigners, the club has nevertheless managed to remain in the top half of the table. They held aloft their fourth Coupe de France in 2013.
The Stade Jacques Chaban-Delmas, formerly known as the Parc Lescure between 1924 and 2001, was opened on 30 March 1924, but was given an extensive facelift in 1938 ahead of the FIFA World Cup™.
Boasting revolutionary architecture, the arena possesses a capacity of 30,000, including 14,000 covered seats. It was the first stadium in the world to offer perfect visibility of the pitch from anywhere; no pillars obstruct supporters’ views. In addition, the tunnel that links the players’ dressing rooms and the playing area is, at nearly 120 metres, the longest in Europe.
The stadium has been renovated on three other occasions, in 1987, 1998 and 2008, during which time the cycling track was removed and the stands were expanded, increasing the capacity to 40,000, although this has since been reduced to 34,694 for security reasons. Located close to the city centre of Bordeaux, the stadium hosted two FIFA World Cup encounters in 1938, as well as six in 1998.