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Spaniards in FC Mulhouse, the fifth tier of French football - a search (7th August, 2017)

Where no one looks is where the true story lies. The shame is not that this story is uncovered - the shame is that other stories - the one that are already ubiquitous - are.

Looking for those stories often means looking deeper at obscurity. Staring it in the face - and often finding nothing. A trail here, a road there - but nothing.

And then, after yelling at the empty trains of thought that no one sees or listens to, if you focus at just the right time, at just the right moment, with everything you have, the doors of the train open up for just a momentary second.

For just a second, a ray of light enters.




Mulhouse, in France, is a city nowhere near Spain - it lies just 30 minutes away from the point where the borders of France, Switzerland and Germany meet. The city lies deep down in Alsace, the local club is deep down the football ladder. So how is it that multiple Spaniards are here?

I didn't understand it until I saw that the club website is available in English, French, Spanish and German. And then I realized what I had missed - this was that Alsace. The one that Germany ceded back to France after World War I ended in 1918 under the Treaty of Versailles. And then was taken by the German forces again after the Battle of France in 1940. And then was returned back to the French at the end of the war in May 1945.

But it's more than that - much more. Yes - even as an an enclave in Alsace. It was a free and independent Calvinist republic, known as Stadtrepublik Mülhausen, associated with the Swiss Confederation until, after a vote by its citizens on 4 January 1798, it became a part of France in the Treaty of Mulhouse signed on 28 January 1798, during the Directory period of the French Revolution.

After the Prussian victory in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871) Mulhouse was annexed to the German Empire as part of the territory of Alsace-Lorraine (1871–1918). The city was briefly occupied by French troops on 8 August 1914 at the start of World War I, but they were forced to withdraw two days later in the Battle of Mulhouse. The citizens of Alsace who unwisely celebrated the appearance of the French army, were left to face German reprisals, with several citizens sentenced to death. And after World War I ended...well, you know the rest.

It is not for nothing that this city was called the French Manchester. A former textiles heartland. Cosmopolitan. The industrial capital of Alsace, people called it.

Something that then caught my attention was that Mulhouse was the birthplace of Antar Yahia, the son of Algerian immigrants who plays for the Algerian national team. He spoke Arabic, French, German, Italian, English and Spanish.

It seemed clearer, this connection between Spaniards and Mulhouse. A connection based on language. Or, you could argue, a connection based on two coincidences.

But a connection nonetheless.



I shake my head. Hours of digging and research led me to this?

I found the connection. Honestly, I thought it would be this amazing cultural paradigm, warped in history and story. Turns out it's none of that beautiful stuff.

Do you remember that almost exactly a month ago, on the 8th of July, I wrote about how multiple Spaniards moved to Aris? Well, let's just say that I found that equivalent of what Manel Ferrer was to the Greek club.

How did I find it? Well, this press release talked about how FC Mulhouse's American president, Gary Allen (also the president of Portland Spartans FC) was re-branding Portland Spartans FC as FC Mulhouse Portland. As part of the re-brand, he brought in as Sporting Director Éric Descombes, who they say joined "after helping build one of the best youth academies in Spain under La Liga team RCD Espanyol".

Éric Descombes is the assistant manager of FC Mulhouse. And under his watch, this season FC Mulhouse's Spaniards are Adrià Muñoz signed from Lewes, Ramón Marimón signed from Whitehawk (both England), Xavi Puerto signed from Cornellà, new manager Carlos Inarejos signed from Ermís Aradíppou in Cyprus (he was the assistant manager there) and fitness coach Josep Oriol Sendros. And it explained the Catalan origins of the three players too - the players are born in Girona, Barcelona, and Barberà del Vallés respectively.

That's it. It really is that simple.



All that energy and effort and time and desire focused on a single door, and nothing opened up. Nothing. There is futility in both the effort and the lack of it.

And yet....there is validity in the pursuit. Achievements may be futile, but the pursuit of it is the fight, the struggle, the tension that life is, of which ignorance is a futility in itself.

I say tomorrow we go again...




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