Martlesham: Football club sparks entente cordiale as it hosts French team

MARTLESHAM: Two community clubs from opposing sides of The Channel have today proven that sport can bring cultures together.

After a wonderful weekend of football fun, Martlesham Football Club today bid farewell to 57 youngsters and parents from French team Entente Sportif du Layon, based in the Loire Valley.

The annual exchange between the two clubs began in 2008 when Martlesham coach David Lesaint suggested striking up an arrangement with the club in his home town of Martign�-Briand.

And four years later, the teams have continued the Easter tradition with the French visitors coming to stay with members of the Suffolk football club from Friday until today.

Club chairman Hugh Curle said: “We look at it as a cultural and football exchange.

“I think it’s just a wonderful experience, particularly for the young crowd. The whole weekend – and especially seeing the way the French children play their football which is different from the English – is very memorable.

“It’s been a wonderful experience for everyone and the adults get a lot out of it as well.

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“We love going to stay in their homes and sampling French culture, and it’s the same for them to come and stay in our homes and be our guests.”

The visitors took part in a mini football tournament with games between the Under-10s teams, a combined Under-11s and 12s side, and a match for the dads who came along.

The home side also took their visitors on a river cruise and visit to Orford Castle on Saturday followed by a trip to Felixstowe – and they even managed to fit in a few games of cricket on the green to give their French counterparts an insight into traditional English sports.

Julian Evans, digital director for The Evening Star and coach for the Under-12s side, said the teams were most impressed by the unseasonal weather.

He said: “It has been a great weekend. It’s a buoyant atmosphere and it has been full-on fun from 8.30 in the mornings to past midnight each day – which is how it was when we were in France as well.

“The guys all came along with waterproofs and jumpers because they know what England is like, and then they’ve been faced with these amazing temperatures.

“We want to show them a good time, and to see two communities coming together is wonderful.”

n What do you think of this cultural exchange? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or send an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.