Girondins de Bordeaux

European stalwarts face stormy seas on the horizon

A fan’s guide – the club from early doors to today

The inverted chevron on their shirts a symbol of pride and class, the Girondins de Bordeaux reigned supreme in France in the mid 1980s and made a European final in the mid 1990s, suffering scandal in between. Regular top-six finishers in Ligue 1, the Girondins remain popular and consistent but lack the clout to dominate the domestic game as Lyon and PSG have done.

At the end of 2014-15, the Girondins said goodbye to Stade Chaban-Delmas, created for the World Cup of 1938, and moved into the Nouveau Stade Bordeaux, created for Euro 2016. The club’s most famous old boy, Zinedine Zidane, kicked off proceedings for the opening match on the last day of the season, Bordeaux’s win over Montpellier assuring them of sixth place in the league and European football in 2015-16.

Stade Chaban-Delmas/Peterjon Cresswell

Formed as a multi-sports organisation in 1881 – making the Girondins one of the oldest clubs in France – Bordeaux didn’t see much football until around the time of World War I. 

Once focus moved from racquet sports and cycling, it still took a while for football to develop. War-time silverware preceded a league title in the Bordeaux’s first season in the top flight, 1949-50. Star of the side was Dutch international Bertus de Harder – though it took more than three decades, a ruthless chairman and a genial midfielder before the Girondins again triumphed.

By the time club treasurer Claude Bez took over Bordeaux in 1979, Alain ‘Gigi’ Giresse had been manning the midfield for a decade. Short, swift and possessed with a sharp football brain, Giresse was essential to the French national side who won Euro ’84 on home turf. That same year, under coach Aimé Jacquet, and with French stars Jean Tigana and Bernard Lacombe, the Girondins won the first of three league titles in four seasons. 

The last was particularly satisfying for Bez, Giresse having abandoned his home-town club for Marseille, where rival tycoon Bernard Tapie was creating a new empire.

Stade Chaban-Delmas/Peterjon Cresswell

Bordeaux had narrowly missed out on a place in the European Cup final in 1985 – had they beaten Juventus, the Heysel disaster may not have happened – but after a number of shady deals, Bez was thrown in prison.

Forcibly relegated in 1991, Bordeaux bounced back with home-grown stars Christophe Dugarry and Bixente Lizarazu – and Zinedine Zidane. Under the ownership of millionaire optician Alain Afflelou, Bordeaux capped a 20-game winning run from the Intertoto Cup by reaching the UEFA Cup Final in 1996. A shock 3-0 win over AC Milan in the quarter-finals will live long in the memory.

The goals of Sylvain Wiltord and Lilian Laslandes secured a narrow title win over eternal rivals Marseille in 1999 – though it was an injury-time strike by young winger Pascal Feindouno in Paris that sealed it. 

Ten years later, under Laurent Blanc, another last-gasp finish saw Bordeaux take a sixth title. A stellar season by pin-up boy Yoann Gourcuff, his goal against PSG in a 4-0 victory the highlight, kept the Girondins ahead of Marseille and Lyon. Injury-hit the following season, Gourcuff duly joined Lyon, then back to Rennes, somehow never really living up to his huge promise.

Coach Francis Gillot having failed to repeat Blanc’s triumph in his three seasons at Bordeaux, in 2014 former Bayern full-back Willy Sagnol stepped in. Behind the scenes, despite all the pomp of a new stadium, the club’s takeover by little-known American owners King Street proved unpopular – and short-lived coach, Gustavo Poyet.

Poor performances in Europe – a winless Europa League group stage also featuring Liverpool in 2015-16, a shocking defeat to Hungarian team Videoton in 2017-18 – saw the club lose credibility abroad while the likes of Monaco and Lille put in stronger campaigns at home. Wresting ownership from the faceless King Street may prove to be the hot topic at Bordeaux for a long while yet.

Stadium Guide

The field of dreams – and the stands around it

The Nouveau Stade Bordeaux, renamed Matmut Atlantique after its sponsor, was opened at the end of the 2014-15 season, a year before its hosting of five matches as part of Euro 2016.

When Zinedine Zidane kicked off the inaugural match there, the last game of the 2014-15 campaign against Montpellier, he brought an end to eight decades of history. His former club, the Girondins de Bordeaux, had been based at the Stade Chaban-Delmas since it was adapted for the World Cup of 1938.

When conceived by key Bordeaux architect Jacques D’Welles and Art Deco stylist Raoul Jourde, the former Parc Lescure was a grand rebuilding of an existing, modest velodrome-cum-sports ground. With the feel of an ocean liner – a decorative echo of Bordeaux’s past – it was embellished with a vast concrete arch, a Neo-Classical courtyard and two Olympic towers. Art Deco touches added a final flourish.

The arena was ready just in time to host three games for the 1938 World Cup, all involving the great Brazil side and all featuring goals by the great Leonidas. The last match, a third-place play-off, was also the swansong of legendary pre-war World Cup referee John L Langenus.

Too small to be considered for the 1984 Euros, the Parc Lescure was transformed under ambitious chairman Claude Bez, who had the cycling track removed and the capacity increased to 40,000. For the purposes of FIFA, this was the smallest of the France ’98 host stadiums.

Renamed after a long-term city mayor in 2001, the Stade Chaban-Delmas was replaced in May 2015 by the Nouveau Stade at Bordeaux-Lac, just north of Les Aubiers, current northern terminus of the C tramline.

Holding 42,000 people, the €168-million arena has been created by Herzog & de Meuron, also responsible for the Tate Modern in London and Munich’s Allianz Arena. Surrounded by signature poles representing the woodland beyond this commercial zone north of Bordeaux, the stadium comprises four stands, away fans allocated sectors 50 and 51 between the north end and east stand. If demand requires, visiting supporters can also be placed in sectors 58 and 59 in the middle of the north end.

getting there

Going to the stadium – tips and timings

The stadium is a short walk from the northern terminus of tramline CParc des Expositions Stade Matmut-Atlantique, 12 stops from central Quinconces. 

free shuttle bus also runs on match days from Brandenburg, on tramline B.

getting in

Buying tickets – when, where, how and how much

Tickets are available online via the club from 15 days before each match. Ticketmaster, incorporating the Auchan network, also distribute. To purchase in person, advance tickets are sold at the club shop (Mon-Sat 10am-7pm) in town at rue Sainte-Catherine 77.

The ticket windows at the stadium open on match days, 3hrs before kick-off.

Prices range from €15 behind the goals, around €32-€42 along the sidelines in either the Tribunes Est or Ouest, to €50-plus for the best seats, in eight categories. For Europa League fixtures, prices start at €18 and increase by around €3 around the stadium.

what to buy

Shirts, kits, merchandise and gifts

The club has two outlets, one at the stadium, one in town (Mon-Sat 10am-7pm) at rue Sainte-Catherine 77, diagonally opposite Fnac in the city’s retail hub.

On the home south side of the Matmut Atlantique, by avenue de la Jallère, the vast Galerie Girondins (Tue-Sat 10am-7pm, match days) sells all things Bordeaux. Look out for Giresse-era vintage shirts with the iconic OPEL advertising, current first and second kits in navy/white and white/navy, both the with the reversed chevron, of course, and branded sets of pétanque boules.

Pop-up stalls and kiosks are also set up around the Fan Zone and stadium on match days.

Where to Drink

Pre-match beers for fans and casual visitors

On match days, a family-friendly Fan Zone operates alongside the Tribune Ouest from around 2-3hrs before kick-off, with live music, games, food trucks and lashings of Carlsberg beer. Food and drink outlets also line level 3 of the stadium.

By the club shop, the Brasserie St Once serves traditional regional cuisine every weekday lunchtime and on match days, when you should reserve (+33 5 56 29 56 28). Note the photo montage of classic Girondins moments across one wall. The shaded patio is a pleasant retreat during the week.