The French are football-mad and none more so than the Marseillais. And Olympique de Marseille (OM for short) is central to the city's cultural landscape. Its local fan base is enormous and it regularly clocks up the highest match attendances in France.
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In fact OM has even named one of the stands at the Stade Vélodrome, where the team is based, after one of its most enthusiastic supporters, the first time ever a fan has been so honoured.
Patrice de Peretti - affectionately known as Depé - became a legend after pledging to attend every match stripped to the waist, whatever the weather: he watched OM play in Berlin during temperatures of -12 degrees Celsius / 10 degrees Fahrenheit. He died in 2000 at the age of 28 of a ruptured aneurysm.
The two long stands to the east and west of the pitch commemorate French athletes from the early 20th century, who both also died young, a runner (the Tribune Jean Bouin) and a cyclist (the Tribune Gustave Ganay).
Local fans sit in the curved stands at the north and south ends of the pitch: the Virage Nord named after Peretti and the Virage Sud, also known as Chevalier Roze after a nobleman who distinguished himself during Marseille's plague epidemic of 1720.
Built in the south of Marseille in 1937, the Stade Vélodrome is thus named because of the cycling track which encircled the pitch until 1971.
The Vélodrome is now officially known as the Nouveau Stade Vélodrome. It has been dramatically renovated and expanded in preparation for the UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) Euro 2016, when the stadium will host six matches.
The seating capacity has been increased to 67,395 and the stadium equipped with a spectacular (and very much needed) wave-shaped roof to shield fans from bad weather.
The whole structure looks really stunning, inside and outside (its grand, swirling contours are magnificent viewed from above, say the terrace of Notre Dame de la Garde), and is even more dramatic when illuminated at night.
The Tribune Gustave Ganay has been fitted with a roof and a VIP room. Its seating has been reconfigured and enlarged (23,000 places) to bring it in line with UEFA standards and the rake adjusted to improve the spectators' view of the pitch.
The two Virages now have enlarged seating, greater leg room and roofs. And the Tribune Jean Bouin, has been razed and rebuilt from the foundations up.
The new Vélodrome, pictured, opened its doors in 2014, and the project has been controversial. The renovation was financed via a public-private partnership and the high cost - 270 million €uros - has left the city heavily in debt.
Olympique de Marseille was asked to pay an annual rent of a whopping eight million €uros a year, plus a percentage of the gate take.
OM refused point blank, saying it could not afford this rent and that it would bring the club to its knees. It even threatened to reschedule the entire 2014-2015 season as away matches. The fans, needless to say, were furious.
A compromise has since finally been struck, with OM paying a greatly reduced rent and an increased proportion of the gate take until the end of the 2017-2018 season.
It's hoped to boost income by hiring out the stadium for concerts and other sporting events, such as matches of the RC Toulonnais (Toulon Rugy Club), whose own Stade Mayol is too small for major home fixtures. A name sponsor is still being sought for the Vélodrome stadium.
It's possible to take a guided tour of the Nouveau Vélodrome. This lasts around an hour and takes the stands, as well as areas you won't see when you come to a match, such as the dressing rooms, dug-outs and (unless you're a corporate guest) private function rooms.
Note: Tours of the Vélodrome have been discontinued during the launch of the new stadium. They resume towards the end of 2014 and you should be able to book one on the Nouveau Vélodome website.
It must be said that, while the stadium itself is finished, the surrounding area is still very much a building site. Also being developed around the Nouveau Vélodrome are a hotel, apartment blocks, a shopping centre and a sports clinic, while the adjacent Stade Delort (a smaller stadium for rugby and athletics) is still being renovated. It's unlikely that the whole package will be ready much before 2017.
Founded in 1899, OM - whose motto, "Droit au But", means "Straight to the Goal" - is the most decorated club in French football history and still remains the only French team ever to win the UEFA Champions League, in 1992-3, when Olympique de Marseille beat AC Milan 1-0 in Munich.
Its reputation was blighted in 1994 by a dramatic match-fixing scandal involving the club's then-President Bernard Tapie, but OM has long since bounced back and in 2010, 2011 and 2012 won the Coupe de la Ligue, or French League Cup.
To buy tickets for a home match - ideally against OM's arch-rival, Paris Saint Germain, a traditionally lively confrontation usually referred to as "Le Classique" - visit the Olympique de Marseille official website (you will need to register first).
If you are already in Marseille, you can buy match tickets at the Vélodrome itself of course, and also in the city centre at the OM boutique, 31 rue Saint Férreol, 13000 Marseille, tel: (+33) 4 91 59 90 78 (note that the OM boutique at 44 La Canebière does not sell tickets).
Alternatively, there is a premium phone line (within France): 3229. Tickets for the Virages are available on subscription only and are extremely hard to come by.
Olympique de Marseille has a generous allocation of spaces for disabled fans (357 seats, in all areas of the stadium) and the largest club in Europe especially for them, Handifan Club OM. Its volunteers will meet fans at the car-park areas reserved for wheelchair users, guide them to their seats and remain available in case of need until the match is over.
Handilib is a company offering a taxi service for wheelchairs (reserve at least two weeks before the match). Tel: (+33) 4 91 11 41 00. Anyone not needing to drive is strongly advised to travel to the stadium by public transport (see below).
If you can't get your hands on a ticket, watch the game at one of Marseille's many football bars. Right on the Old Port, the OM Brasserie (pictured) has 13 television screens and the atmosphere there will be almost as electric as at the stadium itself. You will need to reserve a table in advance.
Many sports bars all around the city also screen matches live: look out for the blue and white OM sticker in the window and the words transmission en direct. In 2013 another new football bar, the OM Café, opened at Marseille airport (Terminal 4, ground floor), so you can even keep tabs on a game while you're waiting for your flight.
It's also possible to watch the OM squad in training at La Commanderie (aka the Centre Robert-Louis Dreyfus) on the outskirts of the city. According to officials at the stadium, you can just turn up at the Commanderie without a reservation. However, local fans strongly recommend booking in advance, as space can be tight. The sessions last around two hours and there is no entrance fee.
Where: The Stade Vélodrome, 3 Boulevard Michelet, 13008 Marseille. Tel: (+33) 4 91 71 40 50; La Commanderie (aka the Centre Robert-Louis Dreyfus), 33 traverse de la Martine, 13012 Marseille.
Where to stay: Book a hotel near the Marseille Stade Vélodrome
How to get to the Vélodrome: Metro line 2 (stop Rond-Point du Prado), then a short (550 metre / 600 yard) walk.
If your seats are in the Tribune Gustave Ganay area of the stadium, travel one stop further to the last stop on the line, Sainte Marguerite Dromel.
The Vélodrome has around a thousand parking spaces but, given that road traffic will be heavy on match nights, it is not advisable to take your car.
Access to the stadium has changed following the renovation work. Click here for a detailled access map.
How to get to the Commanderie / Centre Robert-Louis Dreyfus: Metro line 1 (stop La Fourragère). Then bus 10 (direction Les Caillols Hôpital; stop Les Liberateurs). From there, it is a 20 minute walk to the training centre.