This summer French football was dominated by the £200million move of Neymar but the true impact of the game on fans was never more evident than in the south of the country on Sunday.
Marseille invited super-fan Kamel Zaroual to take a ceremonial kick-off ahead of Sunday’s Ligue 1 fixture at home to Toulouse after he raised money for a local children’s charity.
The gesture was to acknowledge the effort Zaroual had gone to in raising funds for a local charity for disadvantaged children.
The 36-year-old cycled roughly 2,000km from his home in nearby Arles to the city of Amiens, and then back again, for Marseille’s game against the Les Licornes the week before.
Zaroual, who was under strict instructions from referee Benoît Millot to simply pass the ball back to Marseille attacker Dimitri Payet, had other ideas and was not about to let his moment pass him by.
In the split second that Millot turned away, Zaroual dropped his shoulder, escaped the referee’s attention and tore into the Toulouse half. No-one put in a challenge and the Marseille supporter advanced before firing low past Toulouse stopper Alban Lafont.
The strike was, unsurprisingly, ruled out but Zaroual still got a hug from OM boss Rudi Garcia as he left the field to rapturous applause.
“I am not a professional cyclist, the only doping substances I take are beer and cigarettes,” he joked afterwards.
And maybe Zaroual’s fine individual goal gave Marseille the lift they needed. Garcia’s men went on to record a 2-0 win, courtesy of efforts from Florent Thauvin and Lucas Ocampos, their third straight victory.
Olympique de Marseille super fan Kamel Zaroual reminds us all why football truly is the beautiful game! ?
Posted by Dugout on Tuesday, September 26, 2017