These are two institutions of French football that compete. From the top of their eleven French champion titles and ten French cups between them, this Thursday, May 26, 2022, Auxerre receives Saint-Étienne, at the Abbé-Deschamps stadium, in the first leg of the Ligue 1 – Ligue 2 play-offs, from from 7 p.m.
Facing Pascal Dupraz’s Greens, AJA, which has been playing in Ligue 2 for ten years after having spent 32 at the highest level, wants to believe in a rise in the elite of French football. And the whole town of Auxerre believes in it: the club’s pennants adorn the shops and businesses in the town centre. Last Friday, at the end of the suspense: the team had qualified for this barrage of accession to Ligue 1 by winning on penalties at the expense of Sochaux (0-0 ap, 5-4 tab) in a stadium Abbé-Deschamps sold out. And this will still be the case this Thursday evening: more than 17,000 people are expected for this first shock against Saint-Étienne, including Cyril.
This supporter is in heaven just to imagine AJA very close to going back to Ligue 1, ten years after relegation: « That’s wonderful ! It brings the city to life. There, we are really at the top of the top. Auxerre is a real football city. In any case, I hope that we will soon be able to relive Ligue 1. And there, I think we will be fine. We’ll be fine! »
Headed by James Zhou, a Chinese billionaire, who arrived in Auxerre in October 2016, the club with 1,196 matches in the first division and 128 in the European Cup is regaining color. Jean-Marc Furlan, the Auxerrois coach assures him: he has never been so ready to return to the elite. « What I feel deeply is above all the enthusiasm and the joy that we have known only this year, that we had not known before. That is to say an enthusiasm and a pleasure, a fantastic joy. We, what we want is Auxerre in Ligue 1!“, he assures.
However, the challenge remains immense for AJ Auxerre: no Ligue 2 club has managed to rise in League 1 since the introduction of this play-off formula during the 2017/2018 season.