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AJ Auxerre Football Club
Situated along the banks of the Yonne River on the Route de Vaux, the Stade de l’Abbé Deschamps is the home of the AJ Auxerre Football Club. The club is famous for its success at the highest level of football which is unprecedented for a team that hails from a small town of less than 40,000. To the locals, AJA is virtually a religion. Founded in 1905, the Club has played more than 100 European Cup matches and 1,000 First Division matches. The team currently plays in Ligue 2, one of two divisions that make up the Ligue de Football Professional - the French Professional Football League.
The club was founded on December 29, 1905 by a priest, Father Ernest Abbé Deschamps, as the club Association de la Jeunesse Auxerroise. For much of the club’s early history, they earned success playing on the amateur side in the local Roman Catholic league as well as the lower levels of the French system. In 1980, the club joined Ligue 1 and it remained there for the next 32 years achieving the highest pinnacle in 1996 when the team won the French Championship. However, the 2011-12 season did not end well with the club being plagued by injuries, weak performances, and morale which resulted in relegation to Ligue 2 after falling four points short. The relegation triggered the departure of a number of star players including Alain Traoré, Roy Contout, Kamel Chafni, and Anthony Le Tallec.
The Club has served as home to famous players including Eric Cantona, Yaya Sanogo and Bacary Sagna. Sanogo joined AJ Auxerre at 13 and was declared one of the club’s best prospects for his scoring on the international stage. He made his league debut in May 2010. But following the expiry of his first professional contract, Sanogo departed and signed a long-term contract in July 2013 with Arsenal FC. Sagna also plays for Arsenal FC but began his career with AJ Auxerre when he was 14 and was part of the team that won the French Cup in 2005.
Among other notable achievements, the club is famous for possessing the longest serving manager in European football. Guy Roux is a legend in France and was at the helm of the Club from 1961 until his retirement in 2005. Roux played as a midfielder for Auxerre in 1952. He led the club’s rise through every French division up to Ligue 1 in 1980 and the French Championship of 1996.
Stade de l'AbbE-Deschamps
The historic stadium originally built in 1918 by Father Deschamps is known for its humble amenities. It is the only team-owned stadium in the league. In spite of its simplicity, there is pride in that it is owned by the club. In the lower areas of the stadium, the seats are wooden benches which are not typically considered the best in the house. At the edge of the pitch, four single tier covered stands with a perimeter fence offer some of the best views of the action. Given its location just 2 kilometres southeast of the city centre, the stadium is easily reached on foot.
There are few things in Auxerre as thrilling as observing the local fans watch a match of their beloved football club. The season generally runs between September and May. If you want to get a real taste of the lively crowds, sit behind the home goal posts where tickets are a real bargain. Tickets are available for all matches online at the club’s website or you can also visit the club shop at the stadium. Average attendance is usually around 14,000 so it’s not necessary to reserve in advance. Believe it or not, the stadium has never sold out!
Directions to the Stadium
From the old town at Pont Paul Bert, cross the river and follow the main ring road as it curves to the left before bending to the right. Keep your eyes open for the third road on the left which will be Rue De Preuilly. Head south along this street and the stadium will be within a ten minute walk on the left side.