An amateur tournament, a family reunion that – at times – looks like daycare, or a weekend with neighbors discussing football? The National Neighborhoods Cup passes for an unidentified football object. Whatever its contours, the event returns in June to Créteil (Val-de-Marne), where it was created three years ago in a slightly different form, before being available everywhere in France. The principle: bring together players from different districts of the same city according to their family origin, and organize a tournament between these “national” teams.
Propelled by social networks, the first edition was immediately transformed into a popular phenomenon, the same which spreads an unusual buzz around the Duvauchelle stadium, Saturday June 18. The troops come to survey the edge of the synthetic field which is leaned against it, Moroccan, Malian, Congolese and West Indian jerseys on the back, that is to say those of the first teams concerned by the quarter-finals. And a soundtrack is responsible for attracting the rest of the curious not yet familiar with the initiative.
Break with inter-district tournaments
Despite the 38°C reading, several hundred of them came to “greet a friend”, “see a former student again” or “juggle a few balls while enjoying the atmosphere”. Coming to support Morocco, for which he had lifted the cup in 2019 against Tunisia, Rhimou Lahcel sees it above all as an opportunity to give “a good image of the suburbs. Some play for countries other than their parents’. It opens people’s minds, and it shows that everyone can bring the neighborhood to life.” poses this thirty-year-old employee at the town hall of Créteil.
“The initial idea was to do something different from the traditional tournaments which often pit neighborhoods against each other, explains Moussa Sow, employee at the Red Cross and founder of the event, rejecting the trials in communitarianism. There, we bring together several neighborhoods in the same team. »
The most athletic mingle with classmates or parents with “discovered the tournament the same day”, proof that there is “than football, which brings together so many”, believes George, of Indian origin, having played as a child with Sammy Traoré, the Malian coach and former defender of Paris-Saint-Germain, who is this year among the ex-professionals who joined the event. If Karim Benzema or the Algerian Riyad Mahrez have sent their support, others have squarely put on their crampons, like the Gabonese Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the same tournament organized at Le Mans.
They sometimes rub shoulders with it at an unsuspected level, heightened by hopes in search of exposure. That evening, the performance of the Moroccan goalkeeper will not have escaped the eyes of the recruiters of the English and Spanish championships, “present from knockout matches”, slips Moussa Sow. He could follow the example of his eldest in the cages, Sami Tlemcani, titled in 2019 and since attracted by Paris FC before signing for Chelsea.
Positioned a few meters from the players, the crowd is ready to jump at the slightest incursion into the opposing camp, while each goal is synonymous with an invasion of the pitch. « Cwas well tried, but the referee saw the fault”, “tactics took over this match”, “I like this number 18” : a trio of speakers comment on each action. On a last free kick at the end of extra time, it was finally Mali that qualified for the semi-finals, after a match that revived the golden goal rule.
Khalid El Hamdaoui, player from Morocco, does not regret his trip, he who preferred Créteil to the cup organized in his 18th arrondissement of Paris: “Like all French people, we have origins, so it’s also a little something to play for the country of your parents. » He joins the veteran of the team, who ends on the kneecaps, to watch the penalty shootout, won by Congo, in the other match. “Make room for the cameras”, repeats the organization, while an Amazon film crew is preparing a documentary. She will return for two major premieres: the women’s matches and the July 2 final, broadcast on Prime Video, the Ligue 1 broadcaster.
Street football recovered by sponsors?
In proportion to the showcase it offers to street football, the National Neighborhoods Cup is attracting more and more sponsors. Nike was chosen to design the jerseys. If observers can see in it a form of recovery or even denaturation, the founder of the event, Moussa Sow, regards it as a “coup de com’ accepted, offering better visibility on social networks, where the tournament was born”. And to recall the presence “coherent” local partners.