The Patriots pulled off the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history, and watching the team hoist the Lombardi Trophy for a fifth time was the perfect ending to whirlwind year. Watching more than 5,000 miles away in Marseilles, France, were members of the Fan Club Francais des New England Patriots – FCFNEP, who gathered for their first and only meeting of the season.
With members sprinkled around multiple French cities like Paris, Marseilles, Nice and Nantes, scheduling regular meetings prove tough for the only Patriots fan club in France. So club creator, Olivier Ferrari, chooses one big game a season, usually during the playoffs, for everyone to gather and celebrate the success of their team. During the 2015 he waited to see the results of the AFC Championship game against the Broncos.
"Unfortunately, we lost against the Broncos," Olivier said. "It's difficult to decide, [whether] it will be in Paris, this year it will be in Marseille, this year it will be in another town."
When thinking about locations for those meetings, Olivier is partial to his hometown, Marseilles. The club met there for the 2014 Super Bowl against the Seahawks, where the Patriots came away with a victory. When the Patriots took on the Falcons in Houston for Super Bowl LI, FCNEP returned to Marseilles relishing in the fact that the Patriots were, once again, World Champions.
"This year I decided to make the meeting in Marseille again because we are a lucky team in Marseilles," Olivier said.
Meeting together once a season and chatting together via Facebook helps to unite this fan club spread across the country. He wanted to create a space where French Patriots fans could find the latest news of the team and bond over it.
"When I think about this, I imagine different guys in different parts of France who are now friends. I think it's awesome," he said.
The popularity of American football is still growing across the world, and France is no different. Soccer is still one of the more popular sports in the country, so having the ability to share news about the Patriots with likeminded people helps to create a family of sorts for the members.
"It's different to be a Patriots fan in the USA because everybody knows the symbols on my cap, on my t-shirt," Olivier said. "So my friend doesn't understand when I watch the game on the TV at midnight or at 2 a.m."
Though his friends had some trouble understanding his love of football, they've come around.
"Now I have some of friends who watch the game with me who didn't love football in the beginning," Olivier said. "But now, they are a fan of the Patriots too."
Though FCNEP doesn't meet often, they've become a family. They talk about the Patriots and sometimes general NFL news. He wants to be sure that people don't stray from their original motive. Though they sometimes they venture offline and talk to each other on the phone, they ultimately return to Facebook where everyone can be a part of the conversation.
"I think it's become a real big family," Olivier said. "That's my important thing for me, my victory."