November 22, 2017
57 years later?
To win the battles of autumn in order to continue the adventure into the new year. This is the objective of the Gyn before the visit of Zulte-Waregem (on Thursday at 7pm). In case of victory, this encounter with the Belgians would guarantee the people of Nice, at least, two extra European fixtures during the second half of the season. Something that has very little precedent in the club’s history.
The Giants’ prerogative
Eras are difficult to compare for one simple reason: international competitions have evolved over the decades. In their names and their form. However, a trip into the archives allows you to measure the challenge that presents itself to Lucien Favre’s side. Only two squads have managed to get into the new year, maintaining continental ambitions in a corner of their minds: the squads from 1956/57 and 1959/60. Champions of France, these two sides, almost-legendary, participated at the time in the European Cup of Club Champions, a precursor to the Champions League.
During the 56/57 season, when Colonna, Gonzalez, Nuremberg and co. went out to compete in the queen of all adventures. Beating the Danish side Aarhus (1-1, 5-1) ; then Glasgow Rangers, at the end of a “great game” winning 3-1 at the Parc des Princes* (2-1 for the Scots in the first leg, 2-1 for the Aiglons in the return fixture). They then started 1957 with a double header against Real Madrid on the cards. The Meringues, lead by Di Stefano, Kopa and Gento, won 3-0 at home (le 14 février 1957) and 3-2 at the Ray (14 March).
3 years later, the same fixture came at the same period. Winner of the first four editions, Real travelled to St-Maurice on 4 February 1960. The Niçois, victors over Shamrock Rovers and Fenerbahçe during the 1st round and round of 16**, earned a victory thanks to a hat-trick from the eternal Vic Nuremberg (3-2). They lost heavily in the second leg (4-0, 2 March) against an army of artists who would eventually earn their 5th consecutive crown.
A race against time
Since this double encounter against one of the greatest teams in the history of the greatest sport in the world, the Gym has been chasing after a 2nd half of a season that is written in the stars. The 70s and its ambassadors would never make it into the new year on the greatest scene in the world. Three years in a row, the Aiglons were knocked out right at the start of their campaign in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup (ancestor of the Europa League) (against Gothenburg in ’66, Fiorentina in ’67 and Hansa Rostock in ’68). They would progress further a few years later, still in the C3. In 1973, Van Dijk and Molitor snuffed out the giants of Barça at the Ray (3-0), before being pegged back away from home (0-2). Fenerbahçe would be swept out of the way in the round of 16, but the journey came to an end in December against Cologne.
Since then, the Niçois have, however, qualified through past the first round of a continental competition: in the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1997. Victorious against Kilmarnock, they were knocked out in the following round, against Slavia Prague in November.
On Thursday, they will therefore have the opportunity to extend their adventure beyond the winter break, at home, against Belgian players who will be looking for the win.
With a real challenge ahead. More than half a century later…
*There was no extra time or penalties at the time. A third encounter was used to decide the winner.
**The Group Stages were adapted in 1992 and, after several changes, the competition adopted its current format in 2009.