“I couldn’t watch the game sitting down”, Benoît Payan talks about OM’s European title in 1993

Romain Rouillard (comment collected by Stéphane Burgatt) / Photo credit: CLEMENT MAHOUDEAU / AFP

Three weeks ago, Napoli won the third Italian championship title in its history, the first since the Maradona era. The jubilation and drunkenness that invaded the streets of this volcanic city in southern Italy have certainly revived many memories more than 1,000 kilometers away. Because 30 years earlier, Marseille had a similar experience. His team had just won the first Champions League in its history after a final victory against AC Milan and its constellation of stars. A match that tipped the Marseille city into total euphoria.

Aged 15 at the time, the current PS mayor of Marseille, Benoît Payan, returned to this evening of May 26, 1993 without forgetting the few days which preceded this moment in history. “Before that evening, there were crazy days. And the closer we got to that moment, the more we felt the stress rising in the city,” he recalls. The city councilor describes a Marseille city entirely focused on this final. “Everyone had the scarf: bus drivers, subway drivers, the elderly, men, women… It was madness here. You have to imagine a city in blue and white whose heart beats in rhythm of OM”.

“I couldn’t stay put”

Naturally, all Marseille supporters who experienced this moment of glory remember precisely where they were at the moment of vibrating. For Benoît Payan, it was “at [mes] grandparents”. “We could hear the neighbors, it was in the street, it was everywhere. In fact, everyone was doing the same thing, namely watching this game.” With the tension and pressure that came with those 90 minutes suspended in time. “I couldn’t sit still. I couldn’t watch the game sitting down. I was standing, I was turning …”, confides the elected Marseille.

Before the final whistle comes to free an entire city. “I remember, it was the sweaty palms, the throbbing heart. You have to imagine that we are all in this state. It was a city that beat in unison, there was only one heart and that, it’s grandiose. There aren’t many cities in the world that experience it like that”, insists Benoît Payan. Moments of “collective madness, absolute happiness” which will “leave us and leave me with lasting memories”, concludes the mayor.

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