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France’s Champions Trophy took place with some success in French Canada a couple of weeks ago, the regular preseason contest between the French league and cup winners held outside France for the first time. Most of the impressive crowd of 34,000+ present in Montreal would have instantly recognised the winners Bordeaux, of course, but their opponents may have been less familiar to fans when they first read about the contest — En Avant Guingamp are hardly a household name around the world, after all.
Based in a northwestern French town, Guingamp, with a population of 8,000, it’s a remarkable achievement that En Avant de Guingamp were in the Champions Trophy at all, as a result of their victory in the Coupe de France last year over local(ish) rivals Rennes.
That success also means they will be playing European football this season, taking part in the Europa League.
Their stadium, Stade du Roudourou (built in 1990), is over double the population of the town itself, with a capacity of 18,126 and they play in Ligue 2 — becoming only the second team outside Ligue 1 to win the Coupe de France with their victory last season.
The club was founded in 1912, but only reached the French Leagues in the 1970s, floating between Ligue 1 and Ligue 2, turning professional in 1984 and qualifying for the UEFA Cup in the late 1990s. They were relegated from Ligue 1 in 2005, and even in last year’s successful season with their amazing cup run, could only finish thirteenth in Ligue 2.
Whether or not they ever hit the big time back in Ligue 1 or not, they’re having a moment in the sun most small clubs in Europe can only envy.