Lens is one of the few genuine football towns in France. The club Racing Club Lens has fanatical support, and won the French league last year (which was a major accomplishment for such a small club). It is a tiny town, the stadium holds more people than its entire population.

I bought my ticket from a scalper at the train station. It was definitely a buyer's market. Spanish football revoles around clubs not the national team, and the team hadn't done anything in its first two games to motivate casual supporters to make the trip from Spain. Most of the crowd were British who couldn't afford to get tickets for an England or Scotland game (the going rate was around $1000). I sat next to two people from Scotland taking a day off work and a group of spolied English school kids who spent most of the match chanting about the referree being a wanker for no particular reason.

Spain put on one of the best attacking displays of the entire tournament, but because of Paraguay's win over Nigeria, was eliminated anyways. As the FIFA Match Report puts it, Bulgaria was a "team without spirit" who lost interest after the fourth goal.

That Bulgarians are a passionate people was evidenced by the number of television sets hurled out of windows at the end. This is something of a recent tradition, but it's a grand gesture when you take into account the amount of work that most Bulgarians have to put in to afford one.

Mark McQuinn in Back Home: How the World Watched France 98

Spanish and Bulgarian fans waiting to board the TGV to Lens at Gare du Nord, Paris.

Stade Felix Bollaert was a great stadium, exactly the kind of stadium every MLS team should have. Four simple stands that can be expanded separately, cheap construction, great views from everywhere, and a roof to keep in the atmosphere.

Back to Index Next: United States / Yugoslavia David Evans evans@virginia.edu