Paris-style cosmopolitan football

© T. Joly
Every week, footballers of all nationalities meet to take part in a league that pits teams from Parisian pubs and ex-pat bars against each other. Launched in 2002, the competition has steadily grown in size with the standard of play improving every year.

[ Contacts ]

- Participating teams
Bombardier: 2 place du Panthéon, 75005 Paris
Coolin: 15 rue Clément, 75006 Paris
El Prado: 52 rue Saint Sébastien, 75011 Paris
Il Sole: 1 avenue Trudaine, 75009 Paris
La Tête à l’Envers : 7 avenue de Nogent, 94300 Vincennes
Lizard Lounge : 18 rue du Bourg Tibourg, 75004 Paris
Lush: 16 rue des Dames, 75017 Paris
Pure Malt: 4 rue Caron, 75004 Paris
Rush: 32 rue Saint Sébastien, 75011 Paris
The Great Canadian: 25 quai des Grands Augustins, 75006 Paris
- Tankards League
Football matches between ex-pat pubs in Paris is hardly a recent phenomenon. Going back many years, squads would play each other on a casual basis, meeting up for games that were “friendlies”, but nonetheless fiercely competitive. Once a year, these teams also met to compete in the annual 7-a-side tournament organized by the Paris Gaels.
These matches became a regular occurrence and took on an official flavour in the autumn of 2002 with the setting up of “The Tankards League” championship. “A bunch of us were having a beer together when the idea came to us”, recalls Des Cooney, the driving force behind the project, an Irishman living in Paris for 15 years who has played for The Cricketer, The Pure Malt and The Auld Alliance.

© Des Cooney
 Players from all over the world
The first season saw seven teams compete. That number has since climbed to ten and in 2004 a league Cup was added. This event brings a little extra spice to the late spring period once the League is over. Another important development has been the introduction of official referees. At the same time, the competition has expanded beyond its original Anglo-Saxon origins with the arrival of teams from Spanish, Italian and French bars. The range of nationalities represented on the pitch is even more varied. Slovaks, Colombians, Americans, Argentineans, Africans … Some Sundays, it seems like the five continents, or almost, are lining up against one other on the Plaine de Mortemart in the Bois de Vincennes, where the matches are played. A footballing Tower of Babel that does not seem to get in the way of understanding among the players. Proof of this is the ever-increasing standard of play. “There’s commitment, rhythm and the matches are fast and furious and filled with emotion”, remarks Cooney with pride.

© T.Joly
 Who will rise to the top this year?
Indeed, many teams from the French Football Federation championships would find it tough going against Tankards League sides.
A trend confirmed by the first games of the 2010-2011 season, which have proved tighter than ever.
Against this backdrop, it is hard to predict who will win this year’s competition. That said, the Great Canadian looks like the bookies’ favourite and very much the team to beat. Last year the team ended up second after an impressive series of win in the second part of the competition and won the Cup. Last year winner and runner-up the two previous years, El Prado is depleted by injuries and departures and has a difficult start but might be once again close to the top thanks to their own brand of entertaining and effective attacking football.
Aside from these two, other pretenders are lurking in the wings. Lizard Lounge, a newcomer, was built up by former players of the Pure Malt, and even after a few games looks like a serious contender. After two disappointing seasons, the Bombardier signed few players who used to play for Stollys and seems ready to mount a challenge.

© El Prado
 Many contenders
Only squad to have managed to win the League twice, four Cup winner, and having achieved two League and Cup double, the Coolin will be as usual a serious contender. Only other team to have done the double, in 2005, the Lush is another one as it still has its legendary fighting spirit and shape. The Italian bar and 2008 League winner, Il Sole, has an experienced pool of players to draw on and may also threaten the top teams if it can manage to build more strength in depth. The Tête à l’Envers, formerly the Abribus, and the Pure Malt that has recruited many new players, are also in with a shout. Only the Rush seems out of the race. However, the season is long and many things can happen. During its short history, the Tankards League has already played host to thrilling finishes and matches to grace the record books. In 2005, the Lush grabbed the title on the last day of the season by securing a draw against the Auld Alliance in a match played in four inches of snow! In January 2009, the Auld Alliance played in similar conditions against El Prado and the match ended with a narrow Scottish victory.

© Tankards League
 A derby atmosphere
Other encounters have something of a derby feel. One such a contest is the pairing of Lush’s and Bombardier, two pubs who have been battling it out since the launching of the Tankards League. More recently, there has been the clash between the Coolin and its main rivals over the last year or two: Il Sole and El Prado.
In matches like these, the tackles have even more bite than usual and real or imaginary fouls and off-sides become the object of heated debate. Nevertheless, regardless of the occasional tense moment and competitive nature of the fixtures, players generally keep a cool head and unsporting behaviour is virtually non-existent. The matches are played in good spirit and at the final whistle, there are handshakes all round and pats on the back for the winners. The day culminates in the triumphant, or desponden, return to the pub followed by pints of the barman’s finest. Extra-time here often lasts longer than the game itself, especially after a win!

November 03, 2010
Pascal Lefeuvre 

[ Roll of honour ]

- League
2003: Bowler

2004: Auld Alliance 

2005: Lush 

2006: Frog Pubs 

2007: Coolin 

2008: Il Sole
2009: Coolin
2010: El Prado
- Cup
2004: Frog Pubs

2005: Lush 

2006: Coolin 

2007: Coolin
2008: Coolin
2009: Coolin
2010: The Great Canadian