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Thursday, 24 April 2014

A French football fairy tale - Luzenac Ariège Pyrénées

It's a touching tale, guaranteed to warm the cockles of any football fan's heart and probably those who usually aren't in the least bit interested - the rise and rise of Luzenac Ariège Pyrénées, LAP (formerly Union Sportive de Luzenac).

Forget all that high profile Qatari cash bankrolling a horde of international stars at Paris Saint-Germain as they attempt (with a degree of success) to buy themselves trophies.

Ignore all those Russian rubles Dmitry Rybolovlev is pouring into AS Monaco in an effort to keep pace with the excesses at PSG.

The real heart of the so-called "beautiful game" in France is, for the moment, alive and kicking elsewhere.

Because in the best traditions of fictional UK comic team Melchester Rovers,  LAP have just won promotion to the French second division.

No mean feat for a team originally from a village with fewer than 700 inhabitants who don't have a stadium large enough for the big time rigours of the professional league and in 2010 were on the verge of bankruptcy.

LAP celebrate after securing promotion to Ligue 2 (screenshot i>Télé report)

Their financial fortunes changed in 2011 when they were saved by Toulouse-based businessman Jérôme Ducros the following year.

He called on 1998 World Cup winning international Fabien Barthez (also originally from the département of Ariège) to act as honorary president and later general director to give the club a more professional approach to recruitment of players and staff.

And under trainer Christophe Pélissier, who has been with the club for the past seven years, LAP have moved through the ranks of amateur and regional divisions to become the smallest team to make it to the Ligue 2.

"If you had told me when I started at the club that Luzenac would be playing in Ligue 2 seven years later, I would have laughed at you," he said in an interview.

"But that's exactly what has happened...even though we still have a few problems coming to terms with it."

LAP trainer Christophe Pélissier (screenshot from official website

Luzenac's recent 1-0 win over US Boulogne was enough to give them the necessary points to secure promotion.

But as something of a poignant reminder about how fickle football fortunes can be, it's perhaps worth remembering that just a few years ago, Boulogne were playing in Ligue 1 alongside the likes of PSG and Monaco.

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