SC Bastia

One of only seven French clubs to reach a European final, SC Bastia represent more than just Corsica’s second city. Fans of I Turchini (‘The Blues’), known as Furiani after SCB’s stadium and surrounding location, use Corsican-language flags and banners in praise of the island and its yearning for autonomy.

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Bastia station/Peterjon Cresswell

That UEFA Cup final of 1978 and victory in the French Cup over Michel Platini’s Saint-Étienne three years later helped galvanise support across Corsica at a time when regionalist nationalism was raging.

In football terms, Bastia haven’t hit such heights since but remain Ligue 1 contenders, pitting themselves against the moneyed clubs of the mainland.

For the first 60 years in Bastia’s history, the opposition was mainly local and amateur. Founded in 1905 at the Café des Palmiers, Bastia played their earliest games under gaslight at the place d’Armes by the city’s historic ramparts.

Competing in the Corsican regional league from its formation in 1919, Bastia struck up a rivalry with AC Ajaccio from the island’s capital – and with wealthier CA Bastia from across town. Winning a first Corsican title in 1922, SC Bastia became the dominant force in local football in the late 1920s and 1940s.

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Stade Armand-Cesari/Peterjon Cresswell

From 1959-60 onwards, SCB joined the French amateur leagues, playing the reserve sides of Marseille, Nice and Nîmes, while their own reserve side took on the likes of Porto Vecchio and US Corte back in Corsica. Bastia’s main rivalry switched to Nice in the Derby de la Mediterranée, and Marseille.

Renamed Sporting Étoile (SEC) Bastia, The Blues turned professional in 1965 with promotion to Division 2, before topping the league in 1968. Coming to the fore was young Corsican midfielder Claude Papi, a one-club hero, a playing member of the French squad at Argentina ’78. After his early death in 1983, a stand at the Stade Armand-Cesari was named after him.

In 1972, captained by Georges Franceschetti, SEC kept Marseille to a 2-1 win in the French Cup final, the Bastia-born midfielder quickly snapped up by the victors. His return to Bastia signalled the start of the club’s golden era. With goals from Yugoslav World Cup star Dragan Džajić and ex-Lyon centre-forward François ‘Fanfan’ Félix, Bastia outscored everyone in the campaign of 1976-77, qualifying for the UEFA Cup.

With Johnny Rep, all-time top scorer for Holland at World Cup finals, high-scoring Bastia saw off Sporting Lisbon, Newcastle, Torino and Carl Zeiss Jena to reach the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup. With Grasshoppers dispatched thanks to goals home and away by Claude Papi, Bastia made the two-leg final – weeks later, four of their PSV Eindhoven opponents would play alongside Rep at the 1978 World Cup.

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Furiani 1992 memorial/Peterjon Cresswell

On Bastia’s quagmire pitch, Rep’s savvy and Papi’s skills were nullified in the home leg, postponement impossible so close to the World Cup finals. PSV then proved too strong in Eindhoven.

Three years later, Bastia faced Rep, plus Michel Platini and SEC old boy Jacques Zimako against all-powerful Saint-Étienne in the French Cup final. Despite the absence of Claude Papi, the Corsicans prevailed, the winning goal coming from later Cameroun World Cup hero Roger Milla.

Bastia’s next chance at cup silverware came in 1992. Then in Division 2, SEC won through to the semi-final to host another dominant side of the day, Mediterranean rivals Marseille. Erecting a temporary structure at Furiani to accommodate an extra 10,000 spectators and hiking up ticket prices, club directors were looking forward to a bumper pay day – when the stand, built without a safety certificate, buckled, causing the death of 18 people and the injury of more than 2,000 more. Shortly before the matter came to trial, then Bastia president Jean-François Filippi was shot dead at his villa.

The 1992 semi-final was never played, nor the final itself. While Bastia revived to regain Ligue 1 status, fielding later Premier League stars Michael Essien and Alex Song at the start of their careers, the Furiani was rebuilt, memorials placed to those who lost their lives.

Relegated to Ligue 2 in 2005 then lower in 2010 after financial mismanagement, Bastia bounced back to Ligue 1 in 2012 after an unbeaten run at a rebuilt Stade Armand-Cesari.

In 2015, after beating Monaco 7-6 on penalties, ex-Arsenal centre-back Sébastien Squillaci scoring the decisive spot-kick, Bastia made the French League Cup final at the Stade de France. Nearly 72,000 then witnessed an early red card for Squillaci and a brace of goals each for PSG strikers Zlatan Ibrahimović and Edinson Cavani.

But Bastia live to fight another day – and, in 2016-17, as Corsica’s sole representatives in Ligue 1.

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Stade Armand-Cesari/Peterjon Cresswell

Stadium

Forever tainted with the terrible disaster of 1992 that saw the deaths of 18 spectators and injuries to 2,357, Furiani is the common name for SCB’s stadium, after the surrounding community just south of Bastia itself. Officially known as the Stade Armand-Cesari, the stadium was built in 1932 – and rebuilt over the course of the decade after the tragedy.

The first stand to be built was the home end, the Tribune Est, in 1995, fittingly named after legendary Bastia supporter Jojo Petrignani. The main North Stand commemorates the great midfield player Claude Papi, who died at the age of 33. It houses the players’ tunnel, VIP and press boxes. Behind the other goals is the West Stand, Tribune Pierre Cahuzac while opposite the Claude Papi is the Tribune Victor Lorenzi, named after the club president who steered Bastia from local amateurs to Ligue 1 professionals.

Current capacity is 16,000. As games against Ajaccio usually take place in front of home fans only, visiting supporters tend to be few and far between – those that make the trek to Bastia by boat or plane are placed in a small sector of the Tribune Pierre Cahuzac, at right-angles to sector H of the Tribune Victor Lorenzi.

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SC Bastia transport/Peterjon Cresswell

Transport

Public transport to Furiani is extremely poor. The stadium stands alongside Furiani, the station on the Chemin de Fer de la Corse line from main Bastia station ten stops/10min away (singles €3). Trains run roughly hourly but only run until early evening – fine for going to the match, no good for coming back. For games attracting more than a handful of visiting supporters, PSG, Nice and Marseille, trains don’t run at all on match day.

The No.5 bus runs from the Palais de Justice in town to Rustincu by Furiani Town Hall (Mairie Furiani), about 1km away from the stadium along route du Village. But services stop at 1.30pm.

Provided you can get to the stadium by train, the only option is a taxi back (at least €20-€25), provided you can find one, or beg a lift from a local/hitch. It’s too far to walk and, in the dark, quite dangerous.

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SC Bastia tickets/Peterjon Cresswell

Tickets

The ticket office is beside the club shop at the stadium, opposite the Quick fast-food restaurant, with the same opening hours of Mon-Fri 9am-noon, 2pm-6pm and 3hrs before kick-off. The club also now offers online sales, registration required.

For most league games, the best seats start at €25, €20 in the Tribune Nord Claude Papi and Sud Victor Lorenzi, €12 behind the goals in the Tribune Est Jojo Petrignani and Ouest Pierre Cahuzac. Prices rise about 10-15% for the visits of PSG, Nice and Marseille.

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Boutique SC Bastia/Peterjon Cresswell

Shop

Opposite the Quick hamburger joint, the modest Boutique SC Bastia (Mon-Fri 9am-noon, 2pm-6pm and 3hrs before kick-off & after final whistle) sells copies of SCB magazine ‘Solu Noi’, jigsaw puzzles of the team and snow globes.

Bars

There are few outlets around the stadium – sadly the nearby Pietra brewery hasn’t seen fit to create a little in-house bar. The Quick fast-food restaurant (104-106 allée des Fleurs) has at least seen fit to install big screens for TV sport, though not complemented by alcohol. Behind it, on route de la Lagune, O’Minimel is more bakery than café but offers Pietra and Heineken on draught – though it’s quite a walk for the sake of a pre-match beer.

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O'Minimel/Peterjon Cresswell

The only other option, one taken by a number of SCB fans, is a pre-train Pietra at the Terminus bar at Bastia station – see the Bastia city section for details.

Kiosks around the stadium sell that classic staple of football stadiums in southern France, merguez, a spicy sausage from North Africa.


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