Grenoble, France, 1988/89 season. At just 21, the first year I lived away from Uruguay left me with many anecdotes, but this one I’m about to tell you will stay with me for the rest of my life.
Lost in the middle of France
In the depths of winter, we had to play away in Orléans, a city located five and a half hours from Grenoble by bus. To give you an idea, Orléans is near Paris, whereas Grenoble is in the south east of France, in the middle of the Alps.
We kicked off at 8 pm and went straight home after. Halfway into the journey, our driver decided to take a shortcut through the mountains, and we ended up completely lost. You have to remember that back then there was no satellite navigation or mobile phones.
We stopped to look at a map, and the driver, the manager, an assistant and a player who knew the area, all set about finding the way between them. Let’s call it a “strategic meeting”.
In the end, the journey lasted 7 hours.
Train first then sleep? Or sleep first then train?
The delay meant that we arrived at the training centre just after 5 in the morning. Just when I was getting ready to go home to bed, the coach called us all into the changing rooms and asked us whether we wanted to go home and come back at 10 am to do the warm down, or do it there and then, and come back on the Tuesday.
What you may not know is that in France, it’s normal to do light training on a Sunday after the game and have Monday off.
Now, before I tell you the results of the vote, I should probably mention the 50 cm of snow on the ground (after all Grenoble is in the Alps) and the fact that fatigue had set in from the match, and from the 7 hour bus journey.
Cold, tired and angry!
On top of that, the result of the vote, by a large majority, was to train at 6 in the morning. I wanted to die.
If you had told me back then that I would be running continuously at 6 in the morning, before sunrise, wearing layers upon layers of clothes to combat the cold, then I wouldn’t have believed you!
We trained for about 40 minutes, had a shower and went home.
Obviously, none of our families, girlfriends or wives knew what had happened or why we hadn’t arrived home at around 3:30 am, as we didn’t have mobile phones and the club offices were all closed.
Imagine when I got home, and I had to explain to my wife (recently married) that the driver got lost in the middle of France and we had to train at 6 in the morning. No one believed me!