The celebrations continued long into the night after Olympique de Marseille ended an 18-year wait for the Ligue 1 title on Wednesday. The champagne flowed, Mamadou Niang put on his dancing shoes and, though coach Didier Deschamps was happy to stay in the background, president Jean-Claude Dassier shone the spotlight firmly on "the man who made it possible".
In 1992 few would have given credence to the idea it would be nearly two decades before OM claimed a ninth Ligue 1 championship. They had topped the table for four seasons running and would lift the inaugural UEFA Champions League crown the following May – but that would be their last silverware until 2010. A League Cup final victory against FC Girondins de Bordeaux in March ended that wait, and just over five weeks later another 3-1 win, at home to Stade Rennais FC, secured the title with two games to spare.
"It's just massive for French football to have Marseille back at the forefront," said former international Youri Djorkaeff, now a television pundit. The epicentre of the revelry was the city itself, as Mathieu Valbuena rejoiced in "the most brilliant day of my life" and Niang, taking a break from dancing on dressing-room tables, hailed "an incredible night and great reward for the people of Marseille". The populace hardly needed telling as they joyously spilled on to the streets of the 2,600-year-old port in their thousands, a brave few opting to take a dip in the waters.
Many were not even born when, on 26 May 1993, a certain Deschamps collected the UEFA Champions League trophy after captaining OM to a 1-0 final triumph over AC Milan. 'La Dech' replaced Erik Gerets as coach last summer and the most successful player in French football has overseen the renaissance. "You don't celebrate the same way as a coach as when you are a player, but it's a huge satisfaction," said the 41-year-old. Dassier, meanwhile, has every reason to smile and when asked whether Deschamps would be at Stade Vélodrome next term, he was unequivocal: "As I'm not totally stupid, I'll ask him to stay."
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|Last updated: 02/07/2011 04:31 CET|