Toulouse is a city which celebrates sport and has a dedication to football, rugby and handball. On match evenings, the city centre comes alive, especially when the Stade Toulousain (rugby) or the Toulouse Football Club (TFC pronounced “TéFéSé”) are playing away. The fans congregate in bars to support their favorite teams, drinking toasts to their health in front of the big screens. We shout, we chant (especially when we win), we cry (mainly if we lose) and we party! When we play at home, the fans fill the town before heading to the Ernest Wallon Stadium (rugby) or the Municipal Stadium (football), which has been renovated for Euro 2016 (Toulouse will host four matches, including a quarter final). Groups of friends in fancy dress or their team’s shirts, with faces painted, carrying flags, whistles and foghorns appear at every turn: it’s pretty hard to miss them: you can hear them a mile off!
I love walking through the city when it is like this: it literally shines, and the fans good humour passes on to each person who crosses their path. We shout: come on you Blues! Come on the Red & Blacks! Come on you Purples! Toulouse is the world capital of the violet, so naturally our football team wears a shirt the colour of this emblematic flower; a flower found in gardens, on plates and in glasses (the famous Toulousian Kir) throughout the area.
Fans are not discreet: they are happy, yelling their enthusiasm and sharing their joy. Terraces, squares and pubs are jam-packed. Place du Capitole is decorated with flags in honor of Euro 2016. Just behind the town hall, the Fan Embassy will welcome spectators before and after the matches, it’s the perfect place to rest and get your face painted.
In the bars, we clink our glasses with strangers, friends for an evening, friends for the night, friends for life, we congratulate each other, console each other, talk about what will happen next time, in the next season, at the next cup, we rehash the match. I love watching fans on the pavements or in the squares re-enacting the penalties, tries, or free kicks, or gesturing wildly as their criticise the referee for not seeing, not whistling, not understanding.
Rugby fans meet up at Byron Kelleher’s Haka Corner which is famous for its “third half” but there are many bars and pubs in the city where you can enjoy an evening of rugby or football, with big screen action and an electric, friendly atmosphere. The Toulouse Tourist Office has produced a brochure for Euro 2016 listing all of the pubs in the city where you can follow the matches.
On these evenings I don’t have a favourite pub, I prefer to wander from one to another, soaking up the exciting atmosphere which makes the city even more beautiful, experiencing my city dancing unchained.