Club: USA Perpignan
Founded: 1902 (as AS Perpignan)
Home: Colours Blood and Gold
League (2013/14): Top 14
USA Perpignan: A Brief History and Introduction
Perpignan is a few kilometres inland from the Mediterranean, on the French side of the border with Spain that is marked by the Pyrenees. Just over 100,000 people live there.
Historically, the town was part of Catalonia until it was ceded to France under the 1659 Treaty of the Pyrenees that ended the French-Spanish war. Ties to the Catalan identity remain strong. Everyone speaks French, but about a quarter of the population also speaks Catalan, and nearly half understand it. At Stade Aime Giral the signs are bilingual, although this is more of a marketing ploy to target would-be investors from Barcelona and its region than because anyone might get lost without them.
Perhaps the most obvious cultural link for any visitor is the Catalan flag, which can be seen waving everywhere in the region, but particularly at rugby games. To the uninitiated these flags look red and yellow; in fact the colours are blood and gold. Legend has it that Wilfred the Hairy, Count of Barcelona, was lying wounded after fighting against the Saracens in the siege of Barcelona. King Louis the Pious came to visit him, fresh from the hard-fought victory. Seeing Wilfred’s golden shield next to the bed, Louis dipped his hand in the valiant soldier’s blood and drew it down the shield as a mark of honour that would be remembered by future generations. This romantic story is almost certainly apocryphal, but it remains a powerful part of the Catalan identity: the symbol of the rugby club is a diamond with four blood-coloured stripes on a field of gold.
The club was founded in 2002 as AS Perpignan, renamed US Perpignan in 1919 and adopted its present name in 1933. The club is known as USAP, Union Sportive Arlequins Perpignan. Originally there were two clubs in the town: Union Sportive Arlequins and Union Sportive Perpignan. The two merged in 1933, bringing an end to a bitter rivalry. In 1923 then had fought each other to a standstill in a 0-0 draw. There was blood on the grass and ten players were sent off.
Perpignan promote their Catalan identity feverishly, have a partnership with soccer giants Barcelona and adopted a Catalan motto, Sempre Endavant, which translates as “Always Going Forward.” The club’s home kit bears the Le Sang et Or (Blood and Gold) of the Catalan flag.
Sadly for their rabid supporters, the motto has held up off the pitch, but not always on it. So when they ended a 54-year title drought by beating Clermont in the 2009 final it sparked huge celebrations.
Updated October 2013
Copyright Miles & Miles Publishing 2013