For one of the easiest travel-football experiences you could want in a brand new stadium, check out OGC Nice on the Côte d’Azur.
I feel sorry for the French Ligue 1. It’s Europe’s sixth most-attended league, and yet has just one European Cup to show for it; that great Marseilles team of the early nineties. With new Qatari money PSG might start competing for continental honours, but with Euro 2016 looming, one club with a brand new 35,000-seater stadium and plenty of appeal is OGC Nice.
Nestled in the heart of the Côte d’Azur, affluent Nice is an attractive and easy place to get to and spend a few relaxing days. The airport is just 6kms from town, flights are abundant and the weather is usually pretty good.
Olympique Gymnaste Club Nice Côte d’Azur was a founding member of Ligue 1 in 1932-33 season and is one of only four founder members currently playing in the top flight of French football. The others are Marseilles, Rennes and Montpellier. Famous former players include Just Fontaine, Josep Samitier, Patrice Evra, Loïc Remy and Hugo Lloris.
When I last went to OGC Nice in 2012 the club was playing Evian at the old Stade du Ray and that was pretty rough. Having successfully bid to host matches at Euro 2016, Nice’s spanking new Allianz Riviera stadium is a world away.
The fan experience OGC Nice
Given the club’s former ground held just 17,000, it didn’t surprise me that a similar number attended the OGC Nice match I went to, which was versus Olympique Lyonnais (OL). One end was completely shut off, with the majority of us filling three other sides as much as possible.
Lyonnais brought a couple of hundred down, a small but vocal contingent.
I paid just €25 for a corner flag seat against high-profile OL and the club’s online ticket office is dead easy. You can choose your seat and there’s a print at home option. Personally, I don’t understand why all clubs don’t have this option. Printing and posting tickets – especially internationally – is a time and resource drag.
The atmosphere is OK. Whereas a lot of English crowd are ‘reactive’ – i.e. sing when there’s something to sing about, like a corner, as is typical in a lot of European grounds OGC Nice had a hardcore led by a couple of protagonists armed with loudhailers. That small pocket kept going the whole night but the rest of the ground was pretty placid.
Steed Malbranque (remember him?) was instrumental in a 3-1 win for the visitors, who were spearheaded by the talented Alexandre Lacazette.
How to get to OGC Nice’s Allianz Riviera stadium
The Allianz Riviera is on the west side of the city, a 45-minute bus ride from the centre of the city (Jean-Médecin) on the number 96. The buses stack up at the arena so you can jump on them when you come out. There is entertainment around the ground beforehand and it’s really well designed for swift exit. The buses are lined up for you when you leave to take you back to the city via the famous Promenade des Anglais.
You can read more about how to get to the ground here.