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Ligue 1

The Phoenix: The Heady Days Of RC Strasbourg Alsace

French businessman Luc Dayan gestures during a press conference announcing his contract with the French L2 football club RC Strasbourg (18th of the L2 championship), on January 4, 2010 in Strasbourg. Luc Dayan was president of Lille football club in 2000-2001 and Nantes from June to July 2007 and president of the SASP Entente Sannois Saint-Gratien (CFA) in 2008-2009. AFP PHOTO / Patrick HERTZOG January 04, 2010| Credit: PATRICK HERTZOG

The legacy of a football club can be measured in its longevity, in its ability to withstand the tides of time and rise like a phoenix when the going gets tough and the tough must get going. The French region of Alsace is known for its gastronomy, the advocacy of its unmistakable identity and for being an integral part of the Tour de France. The epicenter of Alsace is the city of Strasbourg, and the one club that represents this region is Racing Club de Strasbourg Alsace, founded in 1906. One of its former players happens to be Morgan Schneiderlin, who is now a bookend for Manchester United and the French national team. Other former players include Frank Leboeuf, Youri Djorkaeff, Jose Luis Chilavert, Marc Keller, Leonard Specht and Oscar Heisserer.

The club began its history as FC Neudorf and started competing in the German leagues due to its location. In 1914, the club evicted its original (now defunct) rivals FC Frankonia from the Haemmerle Garten, now the Stade de la Meinau. After World War I, Alsace came under French control and was renamed Racing-Club Strasbourg-Neudorf, inspited by Racing Club de France, who currently play in the Division d’Honneur. Now competing in French competitions, Strasbourg became a powerhouse in the region and also made Coupe de France appearances.

In 1933, Strasbourg turned professional and began play in Division 2, only to be promoted to Division 1. However, despite playing in their first Coupe de France final in 1937, World War II broke out and play was suspended across the country. Alsace was captured by Nazi Germany and Strasbourg continued play as Rasensportclub Straßburg, competing in an amateur regional league. In 1944, the Allies recaptured Alsace and the club regained its identity.

After World War II, Strasboug made major improvements, finally winning the Coupe de France in 1951. But in 1952, they were relegated and had to rebound to get promoted. Two more relegations to Division 2 happened in 1957 and 1960, which were followed by subsequent promotions. The 1960’s were high times for RC Strasbourg, which say another Coupe de France win in the 1964-65 season to go with famous victories over AC Milan and Barcelona. A merger in 1968 would see them join forces with amateur side ASPV Strasbourg, but relegations to Division 2 in 1971 and 1976 saw the club return to its original identity.

The years from 1976-1980 were the best Strasbourg ever had. They earned promotion in 1977, won Division 1 in 1979, finished in the Round of 16 in the UEFA Cup (now Europa League) in 1979, and the European Cup (now UEFA Champions League) in 1980. Those teams were led by Gilbert Gress, one of the club’s legendary players and who remains to this day as one of the top managers to ever manager RC Strasbourg. But in September 1980, Gress was sacked and that started another tailspin that saw the club relegated again in 1986. Despite earning promotion in 1988, they earned the drop one year later.

Gress returned as manager in 1991 and led the club back to the top flight, but disagreements over the club’s direction saw him take his leave. Strasbourg rode the wave of confidence that was mounting on the French national team and in the 1994-95 season, Strasbourg, now under the tutelage of Jacky Duguépéroux, returned to the Coupe de France final, only to lose to a certain club called Paris Saint-Germain who were years away from reaching their own heyday that they currently enjoy now. They were victorious in the 1995 Intertoto Cup and reached the second round of the UEFA Cup, losing to AC Milan. One year later, they captured the Coupe de La Ligue over Girondins de Bordeaux.

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IMG took over the club in 1997, but Patrick Proisy’s mismanagement of the club as president and Claude Le Roy’s mismanagement of the first team resulted in some unscruplous transfers. This was highlighted in the 2000-01 season, where Strasbourg won the Coupe de France but were relegated to Ligue 2 after spending the entire season in the drop zone. 2003 would see local investors take back the club and oust IMG and Proisy. The payoff was a 2-1 Coupe De La Ligue victory in 2005 and a UEFA Cup finish in Round of 16.

2006 would see Strasbourg relegated and again they would rebound, only to be relegated soon after. From 2006 until 2011, the club went through four different managers, including Gress, and were relegated to the Championnat National in 2010. July 17, 2011, will be considered as one of the darkest day in the club’s memory, as they entered administration and were removed from the third division. One month and eight days later, the club were sent to the CFA 2, Group C. At the first attempt, they were promoted after finishing on 100 points. Francois Keller was the manager during this transitional period, which also saw the club finish as champions of the CFA in the 2012-13 season. Prior to this season, Strasbourg were given their current official name, RC Strasbourg Alsace.

In 2014, Duguépéroux was named the manager for a third time, and he continues to be the manager to this day. Currently, Strasbourg have a record of 15-11-6 (56 points). They are currently at the top of the table in the Championnat National with two games yet to play in the season. Their main rivals, FC Metz, were promoted to Ligue 1 days ago. A win away to ASM Belfort on May 27 will secure their third promotion in seven seasons.

The story of RC Strasbourg has indeed seen heady days to go with the life and times of the Alsace region. Its resiliency is fueled by its supporters, who make this club the Marseille of the East. It’s a club that will never die, so long as it draws its energy from the region it serves. One day, the time will come when this club returns to Ligue 1 after going through the dark valley not too long ago. Like a majestic phoenix, Racing Club de Strasbourg Alsace will rise again.

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