Players who come to the Stade de Nice during UEFA EURO 2016 will need to prepare themselves for a fantastic and noisy atmosphere, if Sunday's official opening was anything to go by.
OGC Nice marked the occasion with a 4-0 victory over Valenciennes FC at their new home, one of four new-build stadiums for the final tournament in less than three years' time. "It was a brilliant start," said Nice midfielder Eric Bauthéac. "We expected a great spectacle and the fans provided it – we paid them back on the field."
A sell-out crowd of 35,000 helped produce an experience that the protagonists of Sunday's Ligue 1 fixture will not be forgetting in a hurry. "It's all enclosed here and the noise reverberates – you can definitely hear it on the field," continued Bauthéac. "It's an amazing feeling and if it's like this all season, it could be something special."
Bauthéac, 26, was among the first-night scorers, telling UEFA.com afterwards that he had been "waiting for the new stadium" to open his account for the season. "That's precisely what I've done," he added, and compared Nice's new arena with their old ground with the words: "This is like the Stade du Ray to the power of ten – and it was already a cauldron at the Ray." Team-mate Lloyd Palun agreed: "It's even more magnificent here. There are even more people and our fans are right behind us. It's truly fantastic."
Nice, who several weeks ago bid farewell to their home since 1927, could look forward to a bright future on Sunday. "It was a beautiful day – a beautiful party in a magnificent stadium," said club president Jean-Pierre Rivère. Nicknamed 'The Jewellery Box', the environmentally-friendly facility could also help sustain Les Aiglons' bid for a return to European competition next term, after they missed out on the UEFA Europa League following a 2-1 aggregate defeat by Apollon Limassol FC in last month's play-offs.
"It inspires us to deliver performances and we're going to need those supporters," said defender Timothée Kolodziejczak. "It was a perfect afternoon and I hope there will be more to come." More of the same is what forward Alexy Bosetti aspires to. "We hope this stadium becomes an impenetrable fortress," he said. "The stadium is beautiful. We need to get used to the new atmosphere and the new ground as quickly as possible. We've done that in the best possible way without conceding a goal."
"I could not have dreamed of anything better," concluded Rivère, his club's new base now primed to host some of the continent's finest at UEFA EURO 2016.
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