Sampaoli head in the air, Longoria in a box with the players, behind the scenes of the Marseille party after 2nd place

Sampaoli head in the air, Longoria in a box with the players, behind the scenes of the Marseille party after 2nd place

The party was wild in Marseille to celebrate second place in Ligue 1 snatched by OM at the last minute on Saturday evening and qualification for the group stage of the Champions League. With some memorable scenes.

OM celebrated this return to the Champions League as it should. There was a mixture of madness and communion on the lawn in the Marseille ranks. Some great Olympian evenings have not always given off this feeling of union, happiness and lightness. An incredible scenario, a happy ending, and scenes of joy galore in a Vélodrome stadium full as an egg until very late at night. Children, women, families, friends of the players, all united and all smiles on the lawn. It is 11 p.m., the stadium capsized a few minutes earlier when Lens equalized against Monaco.

Suddenly, Payet shouts: “Is there a Lens goal or not?!”

In the presidential gallery, the first to give the alert are Dimitri Payet (injured) and William Saliba (suspended), their eyes glued to the defender’s phone. Payet sees the Lensois goal, but does not dare to believe it and starts screaming: “Is there a Lens goal or not?!” Everyone tries to refresh their phone, but regulars at the Orange Vélodrome know that the connection there is sometimes capricious… and no one dares to confirm the good news.

In 2018, a false rumor of a goal conceded by Lyon took hold of the Vélodrome. This time, the doubt only lasted a few seconds. The Velodrome shouts, jumps, exults. On Saliba’s phone, the Monegasques are on the ground, and the Lensois are celebrating. To the Marseillais to do the same.

Sampaoli, Longoria, Payet, a three-star embrace

Pablo Longoria descends on the lawn at a speed never recorded in the spans of the Velodrome. He joins sporting director David Friio, who was the first to approach the bench, to ensure that the staff had the information that a 5-0 could directly send OM to second place, without Lens needs to equalize. After being carried by Matteo Guendouzi, Jorge Sampaoli falls into the arms of Payet and Longoria. This is the photo of the evening. The president of OM is in tears.

The hug between OM coach Jorge Sampaoli and Matteo Guendouzi, May 21, 2022
The hug between OM coach Jorge Sampaoli and Matteo Guendouzi, May 21, 2022 © ICON Sport

The other memorable shot was almost unimaginable: Frank McCourt arrives on the lawn, and jumps into Guendouzi’s arms. The music of the Champions League barely covers the “Aux Armes” and the chants of Marseille supporters.

Saliba was therefore suspended, but he came in shorts. He hasn’t had his share of effort, and decides to run everywhere, from the north bend to the south bend. Earlier in the evening, he had triggered a laugh in the staff because he had naturally positioned himself next to the physical trainer of OM, to animate the warm-up. He shouts: “We are second, my face!” The French international is happy, like a child.

“Who does not jump is not Marseille” between club employees!

OM President Frank McCourt greets Steve Mandanda, May 21, 2022
OM President Frank McCourt greets Steve Mandanda, May 21, 2022 © ICON Sport

Children are everywhere, precisely, which adds a touch of sweetness to this evening of euphoria. Amine Harit’s daughter plays with Sampaoli. McCourt’s gets to know the coach’s son. Football games are improvised between kids. The shareholder is delighted, he applauds the supporters, and is surely having one of his best evenings since he bought OM in 2016. Bouba Kamara is living his last in the jersey of OM and poses in family the feeling of duty accomplished. While communications director Jacques Cardoze films everything that moves to immortalize these jubilant scenes, in particular the Brazilians Luan Peres and Gerson who dance and savor… The hug is warm between Jorge Sampaoli and Steve Mandanda, after a season not always obvious for the goalkeeper, replaced behind Pau Lopez.

Valentin Rongier confided that he had tears of joy, “moved to belong to this group”. Emotion will also be there during a speech given by Pablo Longoria in front of around fifty employees, in the presidential lounge. The president, very stressed throughout the match, recounts the highlights of the season and his presidency. He insists on this feeling of pride that everyone can feel, living in Marseille or working for OM. His speech ends with a song… between employees, arm in arm, who all sing the vibrant “Qui saute n’est pas Marseille!”. Incredible time.

Sampaoli almost forgot the press conference

Pablo Longoria and Frank McCourt will also speak in the locker room, in a wild atmosphere. Matteo Guendouzi ignites in front of the journalists: “We are second!!!”… while the press officers are looking for Jorge Sampaoli. Even his wife has lost sight of him!

“Donde está Jorge?!” The Argentinian, still in a daze, has lost some reflexes. He’s already in his car… and forgot to show up for the press conference! The communication director catches up with him in extremis. Sampaoli thanks his players and is delighted to have given the Vélodrome emotions until the last second. He leaves the press room with a smile and a big “yes” when RMC Sport throws him a mischievous “See you next year, coach?”.

A standing ovation for McCourt… at “The Red Lion” pub!

The Marseille party with McCourt, Longoria and Cardoze, May 22, 2022
The Marseille party with McCourt, Longoria and Cardoze, May 22, 2022 © The Red Lion

The evening will continue in a few night establishments in Marseille. Frank McCourt invites his family and his American collaborators to a restaurant in the 8th arrondissement. Other employees left for a few drinks in a well-known pub in Pointe Rouge, on the edge of the beaches.

Pablo Longoria is preparing to leave the Bostonian to join his teams there. “Where are you going?”, asks McCourt. “At the Red Lion,” Longoria replies. “Okay, I’m coming with you!” And here is the American billionaire who splits the crowd, the supporters and the students of Saturday evening. Customers are hallucinating. With his tracksuit top, the owner of OM is greeted by a guard of honor and “McCourt! McCourt! McCourt!!!”. The shareholder is pumped up by such recognition and such fervor. “It’s not a trophy but it’s a great victory, says someone close to McCourt. The fact that he experienced these emotions in Marseille and with his family is unique for him.”

Longoria in disco with a dozen players

All these beautiful people order champagne and proudly pose for a photo. Pablo Longoria, long acclaimed by all the supporters he meets on his way, will then join a dozen players in a small discotheque to dance with Steve Mandanda and his teammates.

This Sunday, the voices of many Olympians were broken. “We were all exhausted, the week was hard, there were injuries, but this group has something different, an extra soul, confides an intimate of the locker room. But we knew that it could be played at the last minute of the last match.” The denouement even took place… at the last second.

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