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Marseille History- All About the Club

Marseille, also called Olympique de Marseille, is a French professional men’s football club located in Marseille, Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur. Marseille history began when it was established in 1899, the team has spent most of their history in the top tier of French football and currently plays in Ligue 1.

The club has a huge following and plays their home games at Stade Velodrome, which has a capacity of 67,394. Marseille has won nine Ligue 1 titles, ten Coupes de France, and three Coupes de la Ligue.

In 1993, they became the only French club to win the UEFA Champions League, with a 1-0 victory over Milan in the final. Marseille’s kit is typically all-white with sky-blue accents. In 2015, the club generated €130.5 million in annual revenue, ranking 23rd globally.

Marseille was purchased by Robert Louis-Dreyfus in 1997, and his widow Margarita became the majority shareholder in 2010.

In 2016, the team was bought by American businessman Frank McCourt, and Jacques-Henri Eyraud was appointed as club president. Eyraud was later replaced by Pablo Longoria in 2021.

Marseille History- All You Need to Know

What you are about to read in this article includes subjects around Marseille Champions League history, Marseille kit history, Marseille logo history, Marseille badge history, Marseille jersey history, Marseille honors, Marseille trophies history, Marseille mascot history, Marseille stadiums, Marseille rivalries history, and Marseille managers history.

The Beginnings

The Beginnings
credit: om1899.com

Marseille history began in 1892 when Rene Dufaure de Montmirail established Olympique de Marseille as an omnisport club under the name Sporting Club, US Phoceenne, and Football Club de Marseille.

The club was eventually named Olympique de Marseille in 1899 to honor the 25th-century anniversary of Marseille’s founding by Greeks from Phocaea, with the name Olympique coming from the ancient Olympic Games.

Initially, rugby was the primary team sport, and the club was affiliated with the Union des Societes Francaises de Sports Athletiques (USFSA) since 1898.

However, in 1902, thanks to English and German individuals, Olympique de Marseille started playing football, which enabled the club to become more organized and wealthy than other football teams in Marseille.

In 1904, Olympique de Marseille won the first Championnat du Littoral and participated in the final rounds of the 11th French championship.

During the 1920s, the club won the Coupe de France three times and the French championship once in 1929, cementing its status as a prominent team in France.

Olympique de Marseille joined the union of professional clubs in 1932.

Winning Multiple Trophies

Winning Multiple Trophies
credit: wikipedia

During the first championship, Division 1 was split into two groups, and Marseille came second in the first group behind Lille. They defeated Lille, the future champion, in their first match.

Marseille won their first professional French championship in 1937 thanks to a goal-difference advantage, one of Marseille honors.

The team strengthened their defense with Vasconcellos and had a talented former goalkeeper, Laurent Di Lorto. Marseille won the Coupe de France twice in 1935 and 1938 but missed out on a double victory in 1934.

They signed Larbi Benbarek, who became known as “the black pearl,” in 1938, but World War II cut his career short. Marseille set a record in the 1942-43 season by scoring 100 goals in 30 matches, with Aznar scoring 56 goals overall.

Marseille won the cup in two matches against Bordeaux with young players such as Scotti, Robin, Dard, and Pironti.

In Marseille history, in 1948, Marseille won the championship after drawing with Sochaux, and Aznar and Robin returned in the spring.

In 1952, Marseille was nearly relegated but was saved by Gunnar Andersson, who scored 31 goals. They lost a match against Saint-Etienne 10-3, but Liberati was injured.

Andersson set a record in 1953 by scoring 35 goals in one season. Marseille was the runner-up in the Coupe de France and Coupe Drago in 1954 and 1957, respectively.

They were relegated for the first time in 1959 and played in the second division until 1965, except for the 1962-63 season when they finished last in the first division. Marcel Leclerc became president in 1965.

Marcel Leclerc’s Period

Marcel Leclerc's Period
credit: sporcle.com

In the early 1970s, Olympique de Marseille began their first period of domination in the French League during Marcel Leclerc’s presidency from 1965 to 1972.

In Marseille trophies history, Leclerc’s ambition led the team to return to the First division in 1965-66 and win the Coupe de France in 1969, as well as the First division in 1971 with a record-breaking 44 goals by Josip Skoblar, supported by Roger Magnusson.

Georges Carnus and Bernard Bosquier joined from Saint-Etienne, contributing to Marseille’s victories in the Ligue 1 and Coupe de France in 1972.

Although Marseille participated in the European Cup in 1971-72 and 1972-73, they were eliminated by Ajax and Juventus, respectively.

In Marseille history, we see that unfortunately, the success did not last as Leclerc was forced to leave the club on July 19, 1972, due to a dispute with the league over the acquisition of a third foreign player.

The team went into a period of crisis, winning only one Coupe de France in 1976 and being relegated to the second division.

They returned to the First division in 1984 with a group of young local players known as the Minots, which included Eric Di Meco.

Winning the Champions League Followed by a Steep Decline

Winning the Champions League Followed by a Steep Decline
credit: thesefootballtimes.co

Bernard Tapie became president of Olympique de Marseille in 1986 and quickly assembled a highly-regarded team with signings like Jean-Pierre Papin, Abedi Pele, and Eric Cantona.

Between 1989 and 1992, the team won four league titles and the French Cup, as well as reaching the Champions Cup final in 1991 and winning the Champions League in 1993, a true feat in Marseille Champions League history.

However, a decade of decline followed due to financial irregularities and a match-fixing scandal involving Tapie.

The team was relegated to the second division in 1994 and lost several titles and tournament appearances due to the scandal.

The affair, known as l’affaire VA-OM, was exposed by Valenciennes and involved Marseille player Jean-Jacques Eydelie contacting opposing players to ensure a victory and avoid injuries ahead of the Champions League final, quite a strange and unfortunate event in Marseille history.

Overall, Tapie’s leadership brought great success to Olympique de Marseille, but the team’s downfall due to scandal tarnished their accomplishments.

Back to Success

Back to Success
credit: ligue1.com

In 1996, Marseille was promoted to the top tier of French football with the support of Adidas CEO Robert Louis-Dreyfus.

In Marseille coaches history, you can see that the squad finished 11th in their first season back, with Rolland Courbis as coach and players like Fabrizio Ravanelli, Laurent Blanc, and Andreas Kopke on the team.

During the 1998-99 season, the team celebrated their centenary and built a strong team featuring stars like Robert Pires, Florian Maurice, and Christophe Dugarry, finishing second in the French championship and making an appearance in the UEFA Cup Final, though they lost to Parma.

Courbis left the team in November 1999 after a poor start to the season.

In 2004, Marseille reached the UEFA Cup Final again after impressive victories over Dnipro, Internazionale, Liverpool, and Newcastle United, but lost to Valencia in the final.

They won the Intertoto Cup in 2005, earning another shot at the UEFA Cup.

In January 2007, there were negotiations about selling the club to Canadian businessman Jack Kachkar, but Louis-Dreyfus ultimately decided not to sell to him.

Beating Liverpool at their Home
Beating Liverpool at their Home
credit: eurosport.com

Marseille made it to the 2007-08 UEFA Champions League group stage and became the first French team to win at Anfield by beating Liverpool 1-0, an impressive achievement in Marseille history.

They finished third in the group and moved on to the UEFA Cup.

Marseille finished second in Ligue 1 in the 2008-09 season, earning direct entry into the group stages of the UEFA Champions League for the third year in a row.

They won the Coupe de la Ligue Final in 2010 and the league championship two months later, their first major title since winning the Champions League 17 years earlier.

They also won back-to-back Coupe de la Ligue successes in 2010 and 2011, becoming the first team to do so.

The team qualified for the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League for the first time since their historic success but lost to Manchester United.

Marseille lost the Ligue 1 championship title in 2011 but qualified for the UEFA Champions League for the fifth time in a row, setting a club record.

They won the 2011 Trophee des Champions title by beating Lille 5-4 in a remarkable comeback.

Terrible Performances

Terrible Performances
credit: sbnation.com

The soccer club had a rough start to the 2011-12 season, losing six matches and falling to the bottom of the Ligue 1 table.

However, they made a comeback by winning against Borussia Dortmund and PSG and ended the year with a good sequence and qualifying for the knockout stages of the Champions League.

They had a period of 13 games without victory in February 2012, but still managed to make it to the quarter-finals of the Champions League, where they lost to Bayern Munich.

Their overall performance in Ligue 1 was not great, finishing in tenth place, but they did win the Coupe de la Ligue for the third year in a row.

The coach, Deschamps, resigned in the summer of 2012 and was replaced by Elie Baup. Despite losing some key players, Baup led the team to a surprising second-place finish in the 2012-13 season and a return to the Champions League.

However, they had a disastrous run in Europe, losing all six games and becoming the first French team to pick up zero points in a Champions League group stage, an unpleasant event in Marseille history.

Baup was sacked in December 2013 and replaced on an interim basis by Jose Anigo, but the team struggled and finished in sixth place in the 2014 season, missing out on an important European competition place for the first time in ten years. Anigo left the club soon after.

Not Able to Get Back Up

Not Able to Get Back Up
credit: 20minutes.fr

On May 2, 2014, Marcelo Bielsa was announced as the new manager of Marseille, becoming the first Argentine coach and leading the team into the renovated Velodrome stadium.

Despite leading the league for seven months in his first season, Marseille finished fourth and qualified for the UEFA Europa League.

In June 2015, three important players left the club. After a successful pre-season with a 2-0 win over Juventus and the signing of nine new players, Bielsa resigned just moments after the team’s first game of the 2015-16 season against Caen.

His sudden decision was due to a lack of trust in the club’s management, who he claimed had gone back on a previously agreed contract extension.

The news reportedly shocked his players, many of whom found out through social media while in the dressing room.

Marseille appointed Michel as their new coach on August 19, 2015, but he had a frustrating season as the team failed to win a home game in Ligue 1 for more than six months.

In April, Michel was dismissed by club owner Margarita Louis Dreyfus, citing poor conduct as the team’s coach, just before the club’s Coupe de France semi-final fixture.

Passi was then appointed as the caretaker coach, and he guided the team to the Coupe de France final, which they lost to rivals Paris Saint-Germain by 4-2, marking Marseille’s first appearance in the final in nine years.

However, Marseille finished the league season in 13th place, which was their worst finish in 15 years.

In the summer of 2016, the club sold several key players, including Steve Mandanda, Nicolas N’Koulou, and Michy Batshuayi, to meet financial obligations and reduce their wage bill in preparation for a takeover.

A New Owner

A New Owner
credit: latimes.com

Marseille had Franck Passi as their interim coach at the start of the 2016-17 Ligue 1 season. In August 2016, American businessman Frank McCourt agreed to buy the club from Margarita Louis-Dreyfus, and the purchase was completed in October 2016.

Jacques-Henri Eyraud was appointed as the club’s president, Rudi Garcia as the manager of the first team, and Andoni Zubizarreta as director of sport.

In the 2017-18 UEFA Europa League, Marseille reached the final but lost to Atletico Madrid. In the 2019-20 Ligue 1 season, Andre Villas-Boas was appointed as head coach, and Marseille finished second, qualifying for the 2020-21 UEFA Champions League.

However, Villas-Boas offered to resign in February 2021 due to conflict with players and a lack of support from the club’s sporting director and president.

He was sacked and replaced by Jorge Sampaoli, and Jacques-Henri Eyraud was also replaced as president by Pablo Longoria.

In January 2022, FIFA banned Marseille player Pape Gueye for four months and banned the club from making transfers in the summer 2022 and January 2023 transfer windows, and forced them to pay €2.5 million to Watford over a contract dispute.

The club appealed the decision. Marseille history saw that in the 2021-22 Ligue 1 season, they finished in second place, securing Champions League football for the first time since 2020.

Marseille Competitors

Marseille Competitors
credit: actu-football.fr

Le Classique is a football match that takes place between Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique de Marseille. The name “Classique” is inspired by the El Clasico game contested between Barcelona and Real Madrid.

This competition goes beyond the football field, and like other major rivalries, the Marseille rivalries history with PSG has cultural and social significance.

It pits the capital against the province, and the traditional wealth and high culture of Paris against the industrial and cosmopolitan traditions of Marseille.

However, this rivalry only gained prominence in the 1990s when it was promoted by the respective owners of PSG and Olympique de Marseille for marketing purposes.

It is sometimes seen as a conflict between the “favorite son” of French football and its enfants terribles. PSG is located in the north of the French capital, while Marseille is situated along the Mediterranean coast, which is why the rivalry is often referred to as “the North versus the South.”

PSG and Marseille are two of only three French clubs to have won major European trophies, with PSG winning the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in 1996 and Marseille winning the UEFA Champions League in 1993 in Marseille history.

Despite their recent ups and downs, PSG and Marseille remain fierce rivals, creating a special atmosphere for “Le Classique,” which is also known as “Le Classico.”

Marseille Stadiums

Marseille Stadiums
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Marseille used to play their home games at the Stade de l’Huveaune between 1904 and 1937, which had a capacity of 15,000 and was owned by the club.

The stadium was renovated in the 1920s with financial assistance from the fans, an interesting fact in Marseille history.

However, in 1937, Marseille moved to the larger Stade Velodrome after successfully negotiating with the city of Marseille to lower the rent.

The Stade de l’Huveaune was temporarily used again during the 1982/83 season and for the renovation of the Velodrome for Euro 1984.

The Stade Velodrome underwent redevelopment twice, first for the 1998 World Cup, and then again for Euro 2016. Its capacity was increased to 67,000, and the stands were covered with a roof.

Marseille has a tradition of playing “Jump” by Van Halen before the start of each home game. They also play “Come with Me” by Puff Daddy when they score a goal at home.

Also, you should know that there is not much information on Marseille mascot history simply because the club doesn’t have an official mascot yet.

If you like these types of articles, you can also read PSG History.

Marseille Jersey History and Emblem

Marseille Jersey History and Emblem
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In Marseille kit history, Prior to 1986, Marseille’s kit consisted of white shirts and shorts, along with blue socks. However, since then, the club has switched to an all-white kit with white socks, and the blue color in the kit has been made lighter due to Adidas marketing.

In the 2012-2013 season, Marseille reverted back to their original kit, which included blue socks.

An interesting fact regarding Marseille logo history is that the club’s founder, Rene Dufaure de Montmirail, used his personal seal as inspiration to create the club’s original badge, which featured interlaced letters “D” and “M”.

The club’s motto, “Droit au but” (which translates to “Straight to the Goal” in English), dates back to when the club’s main sport was rugby, under the name “Football Club de Marseille”.

In Marseille badge history, you should know that the original badge featured an ornate letter “M” over an “O”, with the club motto draped across it. This logo was used for three decades until 1935 when an art deco shield featuring a simple “M” encased within the “O” was adopted.

In 1972, a more complex “M” letterform was used for the logo, but in 1986, the club reverted back to its original badge, which underwent slight changes over the following years.

The badge gained a star in 1993 to commemorate the club’s UEFA Champions League trophy and a golden “O” and turquoise “M” were used for the club’s 100th anniversary in 1999.

The current badge was unveiled on February 17, 2004, and features the “O” and “M” combined as a single unit in turquoise without any shading or borders, with a golden star above it to represent the Champions League victory.

The club’s motto “Droit Au But” is rendered in gold under the badge.

Marseille Fan Base

Marseille Fan Base
credit: eurosport.com

The Stade Velodrome has a lively atmosphere due to the dominance of the club’s supporters, who occupy the Curva style ends behind both goals.

The North Curve is home to the Marseille Trop Puissant, Fanatics, and Dodger’s supporters associations, who purchase tickets at the beginning of each season and sell them to their members.

The Virage Nord is adjacent to the away enclosure, which is protected by high fences. In 2002, the Virage Nord was named after Patrice de Peretti, the late founder, and leader of the supporters group Marseille Trop Puissant.

In 2018, owner Frank McCourt and president Jacques-Henri Eyraud decided to exclude the Yankee Nord due to their delinquent activities, particularly related to ticket sales, and the association is no longer officially recognized by the club.

The South Curve is controlled by supporter’s associations with the Commando Ultra ’84, the first group of ultra supporters in France created in August 1984, and the South Winners dominating the central section and Club Central des Supporters filling the remaining sections of the stand.

Marseille fans often show support for fellow teams like AEK Athens, AS Livorno, and UC Sampdoria by lifting banners and creating choreography.

However, they often argue with many SS Lazio fans due to differing political opinions. In Marseille history, the Marseille team pays tribute to some of their supporters’ groups through their third kit colors.

For example, the 2007/08 third shirt of the club was a tribute to the South Winners fans, whose colors are orange, as they are traditionally left-wing fans.

Damian Cade
Damian Cade
He is an enthusiastic senior writer for Footbalium who leans towards writing and researching the history of football clubs and players' life stories.


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