As I cast my eye over this weekend’s fixtures, I couldn’t help but wonder if they had been designed to induce tedium.
The other fixtures, perhaps Dortmund’s inevitable Götterdämmerung at the hands of Bayern aside, do not advertise themselves as especially interesting. Despairing slightly, I considered briefly looking at Olympique Lyonnais’ bash at a Zlatan-less PSG, and yes, it is true that Les Gones are pretty befitting of a hipster tag with players like Fofana, Grenier, and Lacazette (their nickname means ‘The Kids’, for fuck’s sake), but it just seemed a bit too obvious.
I was sliding into a state of Sartrean nausée, gripped by an existential sense of loneliness and confusion, flailing around for meaning in a meaningless world. Without a hipster footballer upon whom to pin my colours this weekend, what could I possibly talk about? How could I dazzle anyone? Who was I, really, when it came to it?
And then I remembered Grzegorz Krychowiak from Stade de Reims. And, just that like, the world regained its stability. The ground felt solid under my slightly distressed All Stars. Phew, right?
In fact, it was big name myopia that caused me to overlook what is, in actuality, an old-school hipster fixture of colossal proportions: Reims hosting AS St-Étienne. Both teams are redolent of the halcyon days of French football, Reims being home to many the golden generation of footballers in the 1950s, footballing wonders like Just Fontaine, Raymond Kopa, and Roger Marche. St-Étienne assumed the mantle of greatness from Reims, and from the 1950 to the mid 1970s, the two teams bestrode French football and also performed with distinction in European competition. Reims were relegated from Ligue 1 in 1979 and suffered the ignominy of financial administration too, despite the loving ministrations of Carlos Bianchi, who returned after as successful spell as a player to try to resurrect the club from the dugout. In 1992, reconstituted as Stade de Reims Champagne, the club began an arduous ascent from the Divison d’Honneur, and in 1999 they achieved promotion to Ligue 2 and changed their name back to Stade de Reims, finally returning to the top flight in 2012.
Hubert Fournier’s squad this season has a backbone of experienced French players, with Togo’s Floyd Ayité providing the attacking spark and goals coming from various sources, with the gloriously named Prince Oniangué weighing in with eight (hipsters, note him also, for his time will come). But the backbone of the side is, without doubt, the towering Pole Grzegorz Krychowiak.
Playing as a screening defensive midfielder, he also likes to look to release Reim’s pacey wingers with long, sprayed passes wide like his idol, Liverpool’s staggeringly un-hip Stevie G. Much of Krychowiak’s work is unglamourous though, tackling and shuttling forward to intercept opposition passes, laying it off rapidly to the advancing Oniangué, who has a greater license to roam. This requires great tactical discipline and positioning from Krychowiak, and, indeed, his previous experience at centre-back is of significant help to him in this role. And we know how much a true hipster likes tactical discipline, don’t we? Strong in the air and in the tackle and not afraid to get a little robust, Krychowiak has also weighed in with a few goals, scoring four this season. He is starting to establish himself in the Polish national team too, and, without doubt, the Pole’s physical style, married to a very astute ability to read the game and a growing ability with his long passing (yes, yes: a regista may sprout from this water-carrier – now simmer down) means that Krychowiak is very pleasing to the eyes of both Bundesliga and Premiership scouts. Expect big things in the summer.
Playing for hipster team? Oh very much so, in a sort of Ur-hipster progenitor kind of way. Almost too obscure for most hipsters: 10
Mentioned as young talent by World Soccer? No, and unlikely to be. Reims doesn’t get that kind of attention: 0
Linked with Arsenal for no particular reason? Yes, but tentatively. It’s sort of whispered in the ether, though Bundesliga rumours are far stronger: 6
From same nation as club? No – but has only played professionally in France, moving to Bordeaux at 16: 6
Positive reference from the Guardian? He got a picture in January! He’s smiling! It says he scored a goal!: 6
Level of obscurity: Very obscure, if I’m honest. Which is what I like: 9
Has Twitter decided to discover him? Beyond transfer rumours, no. But he’s discovered Twitter. And he likes to post pictures of himself and his rather lovely girlfriend: 8
Hipster hobby? Selfies, it would seem, with his ladyfriend Celia Jaunat. They also model for a clothing range together. Very Kooples: 9
Overall: 54/80 – A joyous blend of relative obscurity, tactical nous, crunching tackles, mawkish photo-shoots, and a thoroughly pleasing jaw-line (did I mention that our Grzegorz is pretty rugged?), Mr Krychowiak is keeping it very real.
Watch Krychowiak and his chums from Reims in the battle of Les hipsters traditionnels against St-Étienne on ESPN at 16:00 on Sunday 13th April.