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Shirtless Ultras, Bribery, and Rangers: The Story Of The First Ever Champions League Final

Dylan O'Connell
By Dylan O'Connell
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Topless in a stadium of 64,000 people, Patrice de Peretti raised the Champions League trophy high into the air and rejoiced with the Marseille players, the team he supported all his life.

Nicknamed ‘Depe’ , this ultra was allowed to join in the celebrations as his team became the first French side to win the European Cup, and they did so after beating AC Milan 1-0 at the Olympiastadion in Munich.

Depe was so well known and revered in Marseille that the club’s then-president, Bernard Tapie, even offered him his commemorative medal.

The 21-year old had gone everywhere that season, he even went out topless for a group stage game against CSKA Mosow when the temperatures were -12 in the Russian capital. He was an ultra, who went beyond for his team, and the crowning glory for Depe was getting to hold the trophy in the immediate aftermath of the first ever Champions League final.

That was 30 years ago, and no French side has come close to replicating that achievement. PSG and Monaco tried and they ended up well beaten by Porto and Bayern Munich on both occasions. Marseille still stand as the only team from the country that birthed the European Cup to win the competition, and it is a feat well painted into the walls around the Stade Vélodrome.

Hundreds of stories behind Marseille's triumph

The story of their season, and the first ever the Champions League winners, doesn’t end in absolute victory as their success fell away to a decade of chaos that was brought on by financial irregularities and a bribery scandal.

This all came from the week before the final, when Les Olympiens were playing Valenciennes.


The club’s president and general manager Jean-Pierre Bernès contacted Valenciennes players Jorge Burruchaga, Jacques Glassmann, and Christophe Robert through Jean-Jacques Eydelie and asked them to underperform so that they would be refresher for the Champions League final.

Marseille won the game and went on to win the Ligue 1 title, and then travelled to Munich looking to win the first ever Champions League final.


This followed a campaign that began nine months previously at The Oval in Belfast. They faced Glentoran and hammered the Irish League side 5-0, and they finished the job with a 3-0 win at home. Dinamo București were disposed of in the Second Round and that put Marseille through to the next phase of the competition.


They were drawn into a group that included Rangers, CSKA Moscow, and Club Brugge. Marseille were thrown straight into fast lane as they blew a two goal lead at Ibrox during their opening game.

Rangers haunted that group, and they went to the south of France knowing that a win would have put through to the Champions League final. Franck Sauzée took it on himself to keep Marseille’s dream alive and he scored in the 18th minute. Rangers had to battle back from a goal down, while trying to play through the deafening sounds from the ultras led by a shirtless Depe.


It finished 1-1 and Marseille qualified for the final with a 1-0 win over Club Brugge.

It very quickly became one of the biggest cultural events ever to hit the city. TVs were rented out for the game and communities organised street viewing parties. People drove 1,200km from the city to Munich, and this helped fill one half of the Olympiastadion in blue and white.

The players were a lot more relaxed with the sense of occasion, they didn’t get out of bed until 10:30am on the day of the game and they went straight for breakfast at their base in Rottach-Egern.


In a few hours they would be facing a Milan team that was looking for their fifth star; and the majority of their players were veterans from the all-conquering team under Arrigo Sacchi in 1989 and 1990. Amongst those were Frank Rijkaard, Marco van Basten, and Paolo Maldini. They had just beaten Inter Milan to the Scudetto, and they wanted the double.

Once the game kicked off, they faced nothing but pressure as AC Milan dominated possession. Marseille had to bide their time, and when a chance came from a corner; Basile Boli headed in the only goal of the game.

Any sense of euphoria was quickly swallowed by the Valenciennes incident as it led to the league title getting taken off Marseille and they were not allowed to defend their Champions League title. They also couldn’t play in the Intercontinental Cup and UEFA Super Cup, AC Milan had to take their place in both competitions.

Marseille’s moment was over before it began. The real legacy became the defiant pictures of a shirtless Depe, the cracked murals around the city, and the hundreds of stories from those who travelled the continent in search of blue and white glory.




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