Why Ligue 1 French football club has song that echoes British royalty

Le Havre Athletic Club was founded in 1872 by British expats, making it France’s oldest club in activity

HAC’s passionate fans; the club reached French football’s top flight after a successful campaign in Ligue 2

King Charles III will be a new – unlikely – figure of football’s Ligue 1 UberEats championship for the 2023/2024 season, whose first games start on August 13. This is thanks to Le Havre Athletic Club (HAC).

The King’s name will never be mentioned, however, only suggested from the chant that supporters will sing during each of Le Havre’s 34 games. Le HAC supporters’ song takes on the ‘God Save The King’ theme. Unnamed, the chant goes like this: ‘A jamais le premier, de tous les clubs français Ô H.A.C.

Fier de tes origines. Fils d’Oxford et Cambridge. Deux couleurs font notre prestige ciel et marine’. (Forever the first, among all of France’s football clubs, O H.A.C. Proud of your origins, son of Oxford and Cambridge. Two colours make our prestige, sky and navy-blue).

“It is chanted mostly by supporters right now but we have high hopes the whole stadium will follow us this season,” said Florian Hédouin, member of the Fédération des supporters du HAC.

Read more: British origins of France’s oldest football club still playing today

It was first sung on April 8, 2013 during a derby against Stade Malherbe de Caen, the result of a collaboration between members of the club’s direction and supporters’ clubs, and has never stopped being spontaneously chanted by supporters ever since.

The football club’s first three presidents were British: Frederick Field Langstaff directed the club from 1872 to 1884, then from 1887 to 1901, before his oldest son William Ramsay Langstaff took on his succession from 1901 to 1905. It was run by John-Edward Orlebar from 1884 to 1887.

The choice of colours are to be found on the flags sailed by both teams of the famous Oxbridge Boat Race. Sky-blue and navy-blue are the result of a compromise from club founders, who could not agree over a single colour, be it either sky-blue (the colour of Cambridge), or navy-blue (Oxford).

Those colours were adopted in 1891. Both colours were chosen since many players had been students at both universities – Frederick Field Langstaff had played rugby for Cambridge in 1848.

Aside from Le HAC’s chant, occasional British watchers of Ligue 1 will delight over ‘Les Corons’, RC Lens’ official quivering chant and based on Pierre Bachelet’s song. It is France’s equivalent of ‘You’ll never walk alone’ from Liverpool FC.

However, while readers will enjoy some of Premier League’s best derbies and rivalries, France’s biggest rivalry – Olympique Lyonnais against AS Saint-Etienne – has suffered of late, with St-Etienne relegated to Ligue 2 two seasons ago.

There’s always next season…

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