Have you ever heard of FC Genyon? In fact, if this is the case, then it is not surprising. Few people outside of France know about him even now, and in the Fifth Republic itself there will probably be many football fans who have absolutely not heard about this team.
Now “Gennon” is in the fifth ranked division of the football system leagues of France, and the total value of the club’s players, according to the Transfermarkt portal, does not exceed one million euros. Something similar happened 20 years ago, in April 2000, when Gennon managed to surprise everyone with a unique victory over Paris Saint-Germain in the French League Cup final. That case is still the only one when this trophy was won by a team not from the elite division, and the tournament has been held for a quarter of a century – since 1995.
Of course, that Paris Saint-Germain was not such a hegemon French football, into which it has now been turned by Arab billions, but by the time of the confrontation with Gennon, the Parisians had already had two participation in the League Cup final, and both cases ended with victories for PSG.
Few doubted that the third exit to the final would end with a triumph for the capital team, especially since the game took place at the Stade de France. At that time, there was not a single famous footballer in the ranks of Genyon, and only central defender Sylvain Distin managed to become such in the future among the “blacksmiths” (the nickname of the team from Burgundy). At the time of reaching the final, this Beck was 22 years old, and his career seemed to go downhill – after the PSG academy, Sylvain found himself first in the modest Tour, and then in the provincial Genyon.
But Distin, who in the summer of 2000 first returned to Paris Saint-Germain, and then played in Foggy Albion for Newcastle, Manchester City, Portsmouth, Everton and Bournemouth, as and his teammates understood that they had no choice but to knock out the relaxed favorite. To make a name for himself, “Gennon” as a whole and each member of the team individually needed only “gold” medals awarded to the winner of the Cup.
“In the Cup you need to win the game for game. But we had a really good season. In the league we finished fifth, and in the French Cup we passed Creteil in the 1/32 finals, after which we gave a real fight to Marseille (4: 3). I remember that after that game, none of us in the locker room said a word of joy from the magnificent victory over the grand. We wanted more, we didn’t doubt our strength, ”recalls Distin, whose team was eliminated in 1/8 of the French Cup against Nantes in a penalty shootout.
The humble Gennon, founded in 1940 , for 60 years of its existence, preceding the described events, has achieved absolutely nothing. Only in 1980 did the “blacksmiths” receive the status of a professional football club, and therefore the entry of such a supernumerary team to the League Cup final was a real sensation even for France.
“We started the tournament on a game-by-game basis. In every match we understood that we had to play to win, and we succeeded. At that time, only about seven thousand people lived in Genyon. By comparison, the population of Paris was nearly 10 million! But when we reached the final, at least 15,000 fans supported us at the Stade de France – that’s twice as many as the population of our hometown! It was a unique moment for each of us. No one expected the Genyon to be able to climb so high. We were just ‘a little club from a small town’, not otherwise, ”Distin emphasizes.
“Even a draw with Paris Saint-Germain in regulation time would have seemed like a victory to us. But in the end we managed to play absolutely relaxed and calm. As a result, every Gennon player gave his best, and we managed to create a sensation, ”adds Sylvain.
The start of the final match between Gennon and Paris Saint-Germain surprised many. The “blacksmiths” resorted to an interesting pre-match ritual, when the Senegalese team captain Amara Traore went to the center of the circle and, together with his teammates, stumbled on the spot, which ended with running at each other, pushing and expressing warlike emotions.
“We have rehearsed this moment many times. Yes, from the outside our behavior could seem strange, more like elements of American football or rugby. But we were preparing for war, “explains Distin.
And there really was a war on the field. Brotherhood and a spirit of unity were palpable in the ranks of the Genyon. Everyone understood how and where he needed to work if a partner lost his position, or made a mistake, and the role of the team captain seemed almost crucial.
“Amara was really great, he was the leader of the team, – confirms Distin. – The atmosphere in the Genyon dressing room was indescribable. Later I saw something like this only at Everton. It looked like a group of friends. When we trained, it never felt like it was work. There was a great atmosphere and team spirit, and we did not have any problems to discuss some difficult moment with each other. Each of us could calmly look each other in the eyes and no one held grudges. I think this is very difficult to find in football today. ”
When the game started, it immediately became clear: “Genyon” is not going to pass to an elite opponent. The “blacksmiths” tried to respond to every attack of the Parisians with their moment. Yes, Genyon’s attacks were not so sophisticated, because there were no masters like JJ Okochi in their ranks, but PSG goalkeeper Dominique Casagrande had no time to rest. He had to constantly be in the active phase of the game, and promptly respond to problems.
Even the rooster painted in the colors of “Gennon”, which unexpectedly ran out onto the field in the first half and caused smiles from the spectators in the stands, did not managed to confuse the concentrated Distin and the company.
By the 65th minute, zeros continued to flaunt on the stadium scoreboard, but it was not PSG who managed to change the score, but Gennon. Midfielder of “blacksmiths” Nicolas Esket-N’Zi decided on a long-range shot, after which the ball bounced off the bar to his teammate Argentinean Marcelo Trapasso, who sent a “gift” into the net. At this moment, the joy of the outfield players and Genyon’s bench knew no bounds!
“When we took the lead 1: 0, it was like the feelings that were in our hearts and minds after 4: 0 break against Marseille. I remember that then we returned to the locker room with the thought: “What, after all, is happening at all?”
In response, Ali Benarbia and Jay-Jay Okocha tried to take back the conceded ball, but their long-range shots did not were crowned with success. And then came the famous triple save from the goalkeeper “Genyon” Richard Trivino. One hit, second, third … But the goalkeeper of “blacksmiths” repulsed everything that flew into the target of his goal, forcing the Parisian striker Laurent Leroy helplessly to fall on the lawn …
“As a defender, I can say that such episodes add strength and confidence. You look at what is happening and say to yourself: “Wow!” – says Distin grandiose saves Trivino.
When Paris Saint-Germain threw all their forces forward to recoup, Genyon made a substitution – instead of Nicolas Esquet-N’Zi, Sylvain Flauto entered the field. It was this player who was destined to become the hero of the final minutes. When Flauto took the ball at the end and ran forward with it, brazenly bypassing one opponent after another, the PSG defenders seemed to be absolutely unprepared for such a thing … But Sylvain not only passed them all, but also struck the most accurate blow to the far bottom angle. 2: 0 – it’s done!
“We have done what no other club in France has done before, and have not been able to repeat since then. We were the first lower division club to win the French League Cup. We didn’t even think about it at the time. Only after a while, you realize that it was something special, “- says Distin.
Sylvain Distin soon moved to Paris Saint-Germain, where he managed to play with such star players as Ronaldinho and Mauricio Pochettino and future Manchester City teammates Ali Benarbia and Nicolas Anelka. Despite the fact that even then the clubs had completely different status, their further destinies also took completely different paths. While Paris Saint-Germain was bought out by the Emir of Qatar, Genyon went down to the bottom, and in 2011 it went through liquidation altogether. A little later, the “blacksmiths” were reanimated, and now they are again trying to climb up …
As for Sylvain Distin, he finished playing football in 2016. Two decades ago, before the final with PSG, the defender dyed his hair yellow, which is one of the main colors for Gennon. Has he ever wanted to do something like this?
“No. Of course not! It was a one-off event and will remain so, ”says Distin.
The magnificent Gennon is the 1999/2000 French League Cup winner. Perhaps this was also a one-time event in the history of local football, which is confirmed by all subsequent finals of the tournament and their winners, invariably representing the elite …