Friday 29 March 2013

Interview #5 (March 2013): Occitània captain Boris Massaré

Founded in 2003 the Associacion Occitània de Fotbòl (AOF) joined the N.F.-Board in 2005 and since then Occitània have been one of the most regular and principled non-FIFA teams. The association was set up to help preserve the medieval language of Occitan, which is in danger of disappearing, and a 1999 census concluded that only 610,000 people still spoke the medieval language. For several years now activists have been working hard to maintain the Occitan culture which has been attempted to be eradicated by France for hundreds of years.

Massaré in last summer's Europeada
The AOF hosted the first-ever VIVA World Cup in inauspicious conditions back in 2006 but since then the team has gone from strength to strength, competing in the past 3 tournaments. Their high-point was a 3rd-place finish in 2010 and they were unlucky not to make the semi-finals last summer, ultimately coming 5th. The team is drawn from semi-professional players ranging from the 3rd-6th levels in France but every member must speak some Occitan in order to play. Indeed, manager Didier Amiel includes Occitan lessons when the team is competing at a tournament. Occitània also compete in the Europeada, the second of two quarter-final exits coming last summer. 

They are one of few N.F.-Board members who regularly play friendlies and their improvement is clear for everyone to see – last March they beat Sápmi 3-2, a team who’d beaten them 7-0 at the 2006 VIVA. This month we spoke to captain Boris Massaré, a 26-year old midfielder who currently plays in the Danish 2nd Division for Kjellerup IF.

NFFU: Would you say that the 2012 VIVA was the best one you've played in so far?

Ahead of a 2012 VIVA game versus Western Sahara
BM: Talking about level, I have to say the last VIVA in Kurdistan was the best. Also I enjoy more and more sharing different cultures with opponents from, for instance, Western Sahara, Kurdistan and Tamils from Sri Lanka. Talking about cultural exchange, I think the competition still has to increase. For me, it’s not about staying in a 5 star hotel but about bringing people together and opening doors between civilizations.

NFFU: How would you compare the standard of teams playing in 2012 to 2009 and 2010?

BM: I’d say each team is increasing their level due to the fact every year there are more nations joining the competition.  There are good, skilled teams like Northern Cyprus and Zanzibar who played for the first time in 2012.

NFFU: The Occitan team is one of the more active N.F.-Board members but you haven’t played since the Europeada last summer, why so?

BM: We had an away game planned for December 2012 either with Sápmi or Galicia but they both cancelled a few weeks before, so it was difficult to organize another game. Also the 2012 summer was full of travels and we need to get more sponsors to be able to travel now. However from now, we plan to play 3 games each year with 2 home games in March and October and 1 away game in the end of December. These periods will best suit our players because in regard to the French Federation of Football calendar. The most difficult part is to find teams able to travel to Toulouse (Tolosa in Occitan) or Montpellier (Montpelhièr). 

NFFU: How do you rate the Europeada compared to the VIVA?

BM: About the level, VIVA is averagely better but the best teams of Europeada may have the same level as the best VIVA teams. For example, South Tyrol, Carinthian Slovenes and Lusatia Sorbs could play a close game with Kurdistan, Northern Cyprus or Zanzibar. Regarding the organisation and the cultural exchange Europeada is really a wonderful competition with teams eating together after the game and a cultural day where we learn about each other nations represented (music, dance, food etc.).

NFFU: How does the Occitània team promote the Occitan culture? It’s correct that every player must speak Occitan right?

Language lessons with the team
BM: At the Europeada we had the opportunity to teach Occitan songs to each of our opponents. One of the best promotions of Occitan culture was on the stage during the cultural day when we presented to all the other teams who we are. We also have some Occitan courses during each time the selection gather for a game or a competition in order to increase our language skills. It is basically learning sentences but also songs and history, we have a lot of fun during these sessions and it is one of the best times to share and improve team spirit.

NFFU: How did you first hear about the Occitània team?

BM: I myself did not know almost anything about Occitània before entering the team except that I remember my grandparents using Occitan expressions when I was a kid like "es tissós" (you are teasing) or "qu'es aquò?" (what is it?). When Occitània was about to change coach after Europeada 2008 I was contacted by the manager to play the next game against Monaco on in November in order to prepare for the next VIVA World Cup in Italy.

NFFU: Is there much support for the side when you play games in France?

BM: It depends when and where we organize the game. If the event is organized in partnership with an Occitan festival, it could be a good audience like the in Toulouse against Sápmi in March 2012. The game was filmed by national French TV and was followed by a gathering with Occitan food. It was a successful game, not only because we won but we managed to make more people interested about what we are doing. If you go to stadium, you can see that for almost each football club from south of France playing in Ligue 1 (Olympique Marseille, Toulouse FC, Montpellier HSC) there are groups of supporters who will show our Occitània flag - in Toulouse they even sing our anthem!

NFFU: Provence have caused controversy in some parts of the non-FIFA world due to the fact it is an area within Occitània and has few factors that differentiate it from France. What are your thoughts? Do you think they should be N.F.-Board members?

The skipper faces the Kurdistan media
BM: Geographically and historically, Provence is one of the several regions of Occitània. The other regions in France are now Aquitaine, Limousin, Auvergne, PACA, Midi-Pyrenees and Languedoc Roussillon. There is also an Occitan province in Spain (region of Catalunya) called the Aran valley where Occitan is recognized as an official language since 1990. Also, there are Occitan provinces in Italy (Cuneo, Torino, Imperia and Guardia Piemontese) where the language received legal status in 1999.To come back to your question, I think the world is big enough to have room for everyone and I also think everyone should be able to decide about the place he wants to have.

NFFU: Would you ever arrange a game against Provence?

BM: From now, we have different point of views and wishes that does not allow us to play a game with them. There are focusing only on football and we are working on something centered more on the human and cultural side of the sport.

NFFU: What plans does the Occitan team have for 2013?

BM: We might be playing 2 home friendlies on 20th May 2013 against Raetia and in June 2013 with Quebec. Then we will travel to Isle of Man to play Tynwald Hill Tournament between 3rd and 7th July 2013 with Tamil Eelam, Alderney, Chagos Islands, St John’s United and Sealand. On 1st November we are trying to organize a home game in Toulouse or Muret with Kurdistan. We are also willing to travel at the end of December to Northern Cyprus or Galicia. But, at the moment, only the Tynwald Hill tournament is confirmed.

NFFU: Do you plan on attending the 2014 VIVA World Cup?

BM: We hope to play at the 2014 VIVA World Cup and hopefully the organization will be better than the last editions. Everything will depend on the location, our sponsors and the directions the N.F.-Board wants to take.

NFFU: What is your best memory playing for Occitània?

The opening 2009 VIVA match, one of Massaré's
(bottom row, far left) fondest memories
BM: Many. The opening game of 2009 VIVA World Cup in Italy, the memorial game we played for one of our teammates who died and of course the game in Kurdistan against the hosts with the big crowd against us. But I would say each game has the same emotional intensity and my heart beats stronger when we start singing our national anthem "Se Canta".

NFFU: Finally, if you could pick one non-FIFA team in the whole world to play, who would it be and why?

BM: I would say Catalonia because our culture, location and language are so similar. It's just that they are more recognized and that's a good thing they still keep talking Catalan. Sadly, our grandparents were forbidden to speak it and especially at schools when the French regime wanted to force people to have a single and unique language for all the country. There were seen like peasants or idiots if they used Occitan words. Like Bretons, Alsaciens, Corses or Basques the languages of minorities were bad treated.
I would like to conclude the interview with "plan mercés e a lèu lèu" (thank you and see you soon).

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