Paris (AFP) – It is not exactly a name that trips off the tongue, but tiny Rumilly-Vallieres have put themselves on the map with a remarkable run in the French Cup that has taken them all the way to a semi-final against mighty Monaco.
Last month, on the day plans for a breakaway European Super League involving some of the continent’s biggest clubs was falling apart, Rumilly-Vallieres issued a reminder of what such a small side can still aspire to as they dumped out Ligue 2 Toulouse in the quarter-finals.
Now, on Thursday, they face a Monaco side battling to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
If they can pull off the unlikely feat of beating the club from the principality, they would advance to next week’s final against either holders Paris Saint-Germain or Montpellier at the Stade de France.
Following the 2-0 quarter-final victory at the Parc des Sports in Annecy, a ground which offers spectacular views of the Alps, their players celebrated on the pitch, belting out songs via a megaphone into the quiet night air during France’s evening coronavirus curfew.
Up until recently, most fans in France would not have been able to place on a map the amateur club that was only founded in 2018 as the result of a merger between four teams from the sleepy Alpine region of Haute-Savoie, on the border with Switzerland.
The odds were always going to be stacked against a team from the regionalised, amateur fourth-tier of French football, but all the more so given the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Late last month the French Football Federation decided to declare the season at their level over, null and void.
Rumilly-Vallieres had played just one league game since late October due to France’s various lockdowns and restrictions on amateur team sports.
Despite that, they have gone on a memorable Cup run, coming through nine rounds since October, including one walkover and three victories on penalties.
It culminated in that quarter-final victory against Toulouse, achieved despite the game being moved to the beautiful nearby lakeside town of Annecy and taking place behind closed doors due to coronavirus restrictions.
“We wanted PSG or Monaco and we have got our wish. It’s a glamour tie,” said coach Fatsah Amghar after the draw.
“It is magnificent what has happened, incredible,” added forward Ashley Moke, who has taken to boxing to improve his fitness given the lack of league matches.
– Day jobs –
The majority of the Rumilly-Vallieres players have day jobs, with centre-back Jean-Manuel Ribeiro working in a bank and midfielder Stephane Viglierchio working six days a week at a dairy with shifts starting at 5:30 am.
The dairy, which produces well-known regional cheeses like Reblochon and Emmental, is run by Luc Chabert, one of four joint-presidents of the football club.
Rumilly-Vallieres do however boast players with experience of the top level, including defender Dorian Leveque, who played in Ligue 1 and won the Cup with Guingamp in 2014.
And they can take inspiration from the success enjoyed in the French Cup by other minnows in recent years: third-tier sides Quevilly and Les Herbiers have both reached the final in the last decade, while the amateurs of Calais got to the final in 2000.
Away from the fairytale of Rumilly-Vallieres, PSG’s tie against Montpellier has taken on added importance for Mauricio Pochettino’s side.
The Cup could now be their best remaining chance to end the season with a trophy as they sit three points behind Ligue 1 leaders Lille with two games left, following their elimination from the Champions League in the semi-finals.
French Cup semi-final fixtures
Wednesday (1900 GMT)
Montpellier v Paris Saint-Germain
Thursday (1915 GMT)
Rumilly-Vallieres v Monaco
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