The Olympique de Marseille’s hornet’s nest has once again exploded into the air after a tense Monday in which the ultra leaders who are part of the abrupt landscape of the club asked for the exit amid threats from the main executives of the club, chaired by the Spanish Pablo Fernández Longoria, the trusted person of a property that is in the hands of the American magnate Frank McCourt. The mess threatens to overwhelm him; not only him but also coach Marcelino García Toral, who has a close relationship with Longoria since he recruited him to work as scout when the now president of the French club was barely in his twenties.
The crisis arrives with the team in third position after five games, one point above PSG and two behind the leader Monaco, precisely its two next rivals in Ligue 1. The volcanic OM was left out of the Champions League in August after falling in a previous eliminatory against Panathinaikos, but has not known defeat in the domestic championship, even though the last match was tied goalless at the Vélodrome against Toulouse. “We are in an initiation process. We will improve,” Marcelino concluded last weekend. But there are situations that go beyond football.
The influence of the radicals in OM is a core issue that varnishes the day-to-day life of the club. This Monday, several ultra leaders met with club officials at La Commanderie, the training center they had assaulted two years ago to demand, and obtain, the resignation of Jacques-Henri Eyrau, Longoria’s predecessor.
McCourt compared that situation to the assault on the Capitol by insurrectionists loyal to Donald Trump, but he changed leaders, gave stripes to Longoria, who until then was sports director, and the ultras felt that they won the fight. Two years later they feel even stronger to take the club where they want. “We will defend the club at any cost,” warned Hamza Baggour, one of the leaders of the South Winners, the largest ultra group, in a post on social networks. “Let’s not forget what happened when Eyraud wanted to take us down. Today the club is going badly in every way”, he slipped before finishing: “The main rule in Marseille is clear and simple: you don’t touch our people”. Several reports allude to his dissatisfaction with the departure of like-minded people from the club since talents from abroad are promoted in the youth team before those from Marseille.
Longoria undertook a restructuring of the club that gave stripes to several young Spanish executives. Javier Ribalta is football director. Pedro Iriondo, 36 years old like Longoria, operates as general director of strategy and business development. This Monday the ultras demanded that the three Spaniards leave the club, they also asked for the departure of financial director Stéphane Tessier, who arrived at the entity a little over a year ago. The meeting with the radicals was scheduled in the usual routine of a particular club and the coach was not invited. It was a meeting with the leadership that turned into an inquisitorial trial and led to thick threats. Marcelino communicated the situation to the players in the locker room on Tuesday morning, two days before a Europa League match against Ajax in Amsterdam.
More than 63,000 people witnessed the goalless draw between Olympique de Marseille and Toulouse last Sunday. The most recent calculations suggest that almost half of that capacity could be filled with followers who are affiliated with one of the six main ultra groups that follow the club. OM finished last season in third position and the previous season was second. Nine of the last eleven leagues were won by Paris Saint-Germain. Monaco and Lille managed to put wedges in the dominance of the Parisians supported by Qatari capital. Olympique is the only French club to have won the European Cup, they did so in 1993 after winning the League the previous year. He did not become champion again until 2010, with Didier Deschamps on the bench. Since then he has only reached the runner-up position four times.
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