The FA Cup is the oldest cup competition in the world and third round weekend is that magical time where fans of lower league clubs hope and pray for “the magic of the cup”. There will usually be at least one cup upset, and fans either dream that their club can achieve the impossible or fans of big clubs hope just to advance and avoid any potential banana skins.

From watching any of the pre-Cup build up programs that have been shown on British television , you may not have realised but other countries do have cup competitions as well. Just across the channel in France they have a competition similar to the FA Cup, the Coupe Charles Simon or more commonly known as the Coupe de France.


Since 1917 French clubs have participated in the competition. Before this weekend 7,449 teams have taken part in the 8 preliminary rounds followed by 6 main rounds until the competition reached Round 7, the equivalent of England’s Third Round…enter the big boys. The matches are played until they find a winner, no replays. 90 minutes followed by Extra-time and penalties.

To bridge the gap teams are split into categories: Ligue1 teams are Level 1, Ligue 2 and National teams are Level 2, CFA and CFA 2 are Level 3 and the remaining teams depending on what division they play at are split into Level 4 and 5. If you are drawn against a team two or more levels below you the game must be played at the lower teams ground. France is the home of the cup upset.

The biggest upset story in recent times was the Cinderella story of Calais, a part-time club that played in France’s fourth division. With a team full of part-time footballers the dock and office workers went on a tremendous run. Taking on the heavyweights from Lille, Strasbourg, and Bordeaux, Calais used its home advantaged to full effect and made it all the way to the Final. Played at the Stade de France, they would take on Ligue 1 side Nantes. This is where the journey would end, beaten 2-1 after taking the lead, it was so near but yet so far. The tale will live on forever giving every amateur side the hope that “it could happen to us!”

If you were looking for a cup shock this weekend, France was the place to be. 20 teams from the top division entered the cup this weekend and amazingly only ten Ligue 1 teams found their names in the draw for the Last 32. As the saying goes “start as you mean to go on.” And that’s what the round of 64 did.

Toulouse hosted capital club FC Paris on Friday night and after the Championnat National side took a 2-0 lead they managed to hold on and dump the TFC out of the cup. This was the start of the upsets. Saturday’s action didn’t upset and the big clubs began to fall. AS Monaco travelled to the east and took on Chambery an amateur team from the CFA 2 (Fifth Division) 171 league positions separated the two sides. The equivalent of Manchester United taking on a team from the Northern Premier League.

Chambery held Monaco to a 1-1 draw after extra-time and amazingly went on to win the match 3-2 on penalties. Chambery a small town with a population of 59,000, they will now take on Brest also from Ligue 1.

Valenciennes, Montpellier, Arles-Avignon, Auxerre, Saint-Etienne and the last team to play Marseille all felt the cold hand of defeat of a lower league side. Never have there been so many shocks in one round of the competition. Add to that Caen and Lens went out to Ligue 1 teams meant as previously mentioned only ten Ligue 1 teams were included in the Round of 32 draw.

Lorient will travel to CFA side Vendee Fontenay; Paris St Germain will make the trip to Agen from the fifth division. Top of the league Lille have the shortest of trips, they take on ES Wasquehal the team from the CFA2 division play their games at one of the pitches next door to Lille’s Stade Lille Metropole stadium, no excuse for away supporters there.

So when the next round of the FA cup is played and you’re looking for a cup upset, why not cast your eyes over the channel cause in France the Coupe has in no way lost its Magique!

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2 comments

January 12th, 2011

Fantastic post, Andrew. As a relatively Anglo-centric football fan I was unaware of the competition so it made for a really interesting read. The format sounds excellent, I think that the fact that all games are settled one the day – no replays – is a big plus as it helps create more memorable moments, more upsets and more exciting games. The fact that teams are seeded and that the big teams must play away from home if drawn against smaller clubs also seems a great idea. A way of giving the smaller teams a special day and giving them a slight advantage. Although having said that, many fans may prefer the opportunity to travel to the home of the big clubs as it is an opportunity they otherwise don’t get. Nevertheless, sounds like a great competition. Out of curiosity, how is it received in France? Is it taken seriously by the big team? What are the attendance figures like and how big is the coverage of it?

gibfootball

January 12th, 2011

I’m glad I was able to “educate” you as it were to a new competition, that was the aim when I wrote it, so job done :)

Yeah I think some fans would enjoy the trip to Marseille/PSG/Bordeaux etc but equally as you said having a big team come to your town and the chance for a famous victory I suppose is equally as good.

Coverage in France seemed very good, the Toulouse v Paris FC game was on Eurosport France, only 6,000 Toulouse fans turned up, 20,000 down on their last home league game. Probably the same attitude fans of bigger teams have over here when faced with a smaller team at home. Toulouse put out a good side though so they respected the cup in that sense.

Marseille had Gignac, Remy etc on the pitch when Evian beat them on Sunday and that was a full house at Evian. Only 10,000 for PSG v Lens so that’s very low for two Ligue 1 clubs but both concentrating on the league.

Media coverage was pretty good, L’equipe and France Football was filled with match reports and news stories.

I would say it gets the same attention that the FA Cup gets in England. Just guaranteed more small club involvement with the rules they have. Will be interesting to see on the 22nd if there are any more shocks.

Thanks for the comment and for reading Dom :)

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