Sunday was a routine day in the Coupe de France. Tiny SO Cholet beat even tinier L’Aiglon 2-0 in the seventh round of that competition, a result that was probably buried in most box scores.
But for L’Aiglon, it was a truly historic occasion, the first time the club has played in mainland France since 1992. The team had arrived in Cholet on Wednesday, flying 7200 kilometres from Fort-de-France to play a football match. The five-hour time difference might have been easier to deal with than the temperature difference, a drop from 31° Celsius to 16°.
“This is a very important moment for the club,” said Camelio Luis Garcia, the coach of L’Aiglon. “It was 21 years since we had not played outside of Martinique. I am a little disappointed with the result. The coaching staff and the team worked to prepare for this game all week. But we did not get shots on target and ample opportunities to put Cholet in danger.”
One of the key members of that L’Aiglon team is 23-year-old defender, Pernal Williams. The Saint Lucia international has also played for W Connection FC in the Trinidad & Tobago Pro League, but he has been playing in Martinique the past two years. And he’s been loving it. “I find the level over here is nice and high, with great disipline” he says.
For Pernal, it was his first visit to France. It wasn’t easy, but he was up to it. “I like it here, though,” he said, enjoying the day off after the game with his teammates. “I was jet lagged, and I am not accustomed to the cold, but I always prepare myself when it comes to my work.”
On the pitch, SO Cholet found it no easy task to brreak down the Caribbean men. The home team scored in the first half through Khass Diop, but Pernal feels the visitors were very much into the game… until they went down to 10 men.
“I find that we matched their aggression, but we weren’t as consistent as they were,” Pernal told us. “They were more disciplined than us, and they showed they wanted to win. On another day, if my teammate [Lionel Victoire] didn’t get the red card, I definitely think we could have grasped that victory.”
Despite the loss, the islanders were cheered on by supporters from Martinique. Wearing the yellow and red of L’Aiglon, they continued to sing, play music, and create a true Caribbean atmosphere until well after the final whistle at the Stade Jean Bouin Omnisports.