“It’s still a wild place”: Historian OGC opens Nice Supporters Forum

He is a tall, 43-year-old man from Saint-Laurent-du-Ver, with smiling eyes, who first agreed to speak. “Priesthood”. An ardent supporter who is at the heart of a huge corner of OGC Nice’s life. Supporters Forum: www.ogcnice.net.

Alexandre Debache calls himself “Proud” More than 20 years after its creation, in the age of omnipotent social networks, to establish this virtual space that is still living very well.

Can you tell us about the origin of this project?

It was October 2000. I am about 22 years old. I just finished my studies. We were 14th or 15th in League 2 then (Editor’s note: Division 2). It doesn’t make me smaller anymore. This was the beginning of the Internet. I have been associated with it for over a year. It was also the era of Italian rulers. It was a tool to unite the supporters. And it ended in the summer of 2002, when the club was expelled by the DNCG. It served as a relay to organize street protests in Nice and Lyon. Then it becomes normal towards sports.

What carried you was Jim’s love …

I was in the stadium all the time as a supporter. Popular or presidential, I rarely miss a match. I’m a little Geek. It makes me happy. I was gossiping. We met at the stadium at the time, and we found out who was behind the nickname. Some “forumists” were 14 years old. They came to the stadium with their parents. In forums we discuss as equals where in stadiums, in real life, it may not always be. This allows you to not be afraid to argue.

And is this a project that you brought?

I have made friends who have become relatives for this forum. And it was a step towards working with the club. We created the website and we run it. This is what I am doing today with Kick Off Produ, a company set up with Cédric Messina. We also make videos.

Does the club use this forum?

This is a barometer for the club. This allows you to escalate any complaints. This is a problem with access to the stadium or tickets. We talk more when the situation is bad. Big clubs like Lyon or Marseille have completely devoured the fan forum. They like to take it to their social networks because it generates money. Our federation but it does not make money.

And yet he’s still there, when social networks are the main …

There are about 20,000 subscribers and about 2,000 profiles are still active, meaning they connect at least once a week. Since the beginning of the forum, 9 million messages have arrived. And there are new registrations. It is the ancestor of the club’s social networks. That was all for a decade.

How do you explain that?

It doesn’t really compete with other social networks. The average age there is between 30 and 50 years. The real difference is that it is exclusively in the gym. And then there is the thematic discussion and it can last for several days on the same theme. It still doesn’t fly very high, but it’s a bit quiet. This is more of a substantial discussion. It’s really different. In addition it is transmitted. I know there are several generations of the same family in the forum.

It is also a meeting place and mutual aid …

Absolutely. Expatriates find each other thanks to forums and groups are formed as was the case in Paris or Montreal. Today, it allows for expatriates to organize to find tickets for the final of the Coupe de France. For those who are far away it is a real compass. And then we’re still a family club. This is next to the village. Everyone knows each other.

And an information channel?

It has become a “beautiful forum”. There is even a classified section. Some information first came out during the July 14 attack. But we want it to be primarily dedicated to the gym. Controversial and political issues are banned. It’s of no interest.

Yet you claim a kind of freedom …

It is a wild place and it is good that this place exists. It’s a lot like a 21st century bistro. Later, it doesn’t have to be a stress reliever. We have been accused of insult and defamation.

Who do we find in the forum?

Women, men, supporters have their official accounts. There are even occasional opposition supporters. But it must be respected or we will dismiss them. There are volunteer moderators who take care of it.

Because the forum drives you crazy?

I have a funny story about it. An acquaintance asked me to expel him from the forum because it was consuming too much of his time. You may be addicted. We tell ourselves we’re going to be there for two minutes and we’re going to be there for an hour.

What was the peak of the audience?

The server is full once. This was the last day of the 2016 transfer window. When we sign Balotelli and Belhanda at the last minute. On the other hand, there has never been a piracy.

Do players use forums?

At the very beginning of the forum, Jean-Daniel Padovani, who was an alternate goalkeeper, occasionally came into discussion with fans after the match. When “Pausin” Meslin was injured in 2002, a guestbook was launched on the forum. We gave it to him, it touched him. I also know that Luca Elsner came regularly, especially when he was the coach of Amiens. He thanked his supporters who paid tribute to his father Marco when he died in 2020 (Editor’s note: Former OGC Nice defender). Not today, I don’t think it’s in the habit of players who rather use their personal social networks and who, in my opinion, wouldn’t be advised to express themselves in forums.

Have any new feature plans?

We are going to create a new version for laptops. The interface needs to be improved. I take care of it as well as my work. This is a true priesthood. I think it will be ready for this summer.

You don’t want to drop it?

I never wanted to shut everything down or throw it away. In addition, I still post it regularly.

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