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6 to 10 July La Marseillaise


Sunday morning the 6th of July 2008, as they say in Marseille the summer here does not start on the 21st of June like everywhere else in France; it starts today with the opening of “La Marseillaise a Petanque,”  the biggest petanque competition in the world. This year will see a new record with 12 972 players or  4 324 triplettes. 

It is 7h30 I have only slept 4 hours and I am one of them.
My team number is 207 and we are playing against V.Chauvin at game 1581.
I go to the Games Office, get my playing pack ( 3 bags, 3 T- shirts, 3 bobs/soft sun hats, 3 chifonnettes) and  my playing card on which we will have to enter the score at the end of the first round and return it to the same office 

Great, I am in but the only problem is I don’t have any team mates…This is not a problem I am a Joueur isole (player on his own) and there are other players like me you just have to  go to the information desk you will find some.
As they promised there are two guys waiting for me; Louis Marius an 84 year old first approacher, one of the oldest player in La Marseillaise and Daniel Vaudois a middle player from Tarbes in the Pyrenees.

They each refund me their share of the 15Euros entry fee per team, I hand them their goodies and off we go to look for our playing ground No 1581

The view is great but the terrain is tough, a hard surface made of stones and rolling patches, and only 2,5 meters stuck between a little wall on one side and huge retaining stones lining the sea on the other side, as it is if we play to close to the stone edge, the boules can run down and fall in the sea. To top it off, it’s Sunday morning and there are numerous pedestrians, joggers, families with kids and prams  running up and down our piste forcing us to interrupt the game and wait for an opportunity to throw. 

Louis is disgusted, in all the years he has played (probably 30 or so) he has never received such a bad treatment. I try to reassure him but he cannot really hear me as he is a bit deaf. Anyway we are at la Marseillaise, nothing else counts, at least for me.

At 9h00 3 canon shots are fired, the competition is officially open. Our opponents are not here but the rules say that they have until 10h45 to arrive before forfeiting the game. We watch the time and wait trying to relax, not knowing if it’s better if they come or if they don’t. Finally at 10h30 they arrive.
Our opponent team is made up of an ex regional champion who will captain his team, a very good knocker and an average approacher. At the beginning our team is very nervous and the others get a 4/0 lead, at this stage I think that the game won’t last very long as they seem much stronger than us; but petanque is a very strange game, you haven’t won until you get 13 points and you can lose (or die which often feels the same as players used to say you die at 12) at 12 therefore 1 point short of the win. We come back and stay very close, up to 8/8; then we play two brilliant ends and win 13/8 after 1h30 of play.

The opponents are devastated, what a shame…..one is about to cry the other to vomit (because of too much alcohol the previous night…) We are so happy, Louis looks 20 years younger, Daniel is very very red, and me I have to refrain from hugging every passerby in my joy..
We almost run back to the games office to hand in our score card before the 13h30 deadline and get our second draw. This time we have to play between 14h00 and 15h30. Daniel goes to his camping car to freshen up and rest a bit. Louis disappears, I hang around still not believing that I made it to the last 2100 last triplettes. From the Tuesday all the games will be played at the same spot in the Parc Borely as there will only by 64 teams left in the tournament and the following Thursday the two semi finals and the final will be played on the harbour on an especially made piste with grandstands for the crowd.

Today three rounds are played all over Marseille and free bus shuttle awaits the players. We decide to walk.

We get there exhausted and completely dehydrated and we discover the playing field with fear; a huge soccer pitch made of fine stones divided in hundreds of individual pistes, surrounded by high buildings. No shade and not a breath of air

We play against a father, his son and a friend. We start as the strongest, and the three of us play brilliantly, until we get to 11/2.
(but that crowd is not not us, it’s for Marco Foyot who won the Marseillaise 6 times) 
Our opponents look disempowered and see no way out. We are the strongest and we seem so much more confident. I suddenly say to myself, this is it, we are going to win. And this marks the beginning of the end. We start to make mistake and only manage to score one more point to finally loose 12/13. We are so disillusioned that we cannot say a word. We walk back to the game’s office collect our prize, a bottle of Ricard and part without a word.

Next year I’ll pass three rounds……                                Gerald TANESSE

Another huge success. The biggest petanque competition in the world saw 4324 teams ( triplette) from across the world competing steel against steel for the championship.

If you'd like to have a look at how the professionals do it then take a look at the video's on: http://mediterranee.france3.fr/mondial-petanque/MondialPetanque.swf and soon Gerald will be giving you his own take on how it felt to be amoungst them.