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Amateurs in name only - Quevilly set for Cup final
This Saturday's French Cup final will be a veritable David versus Goliath affair as third-tier minnows Quevilly take on Ligue 1 giants Lyon at the Stade de France.
France's national knockout competition is no stranger to giant-killing, with Calais famously going all the way to the final in 2000 before losing to Nantes.
Quevilly -- who hail from a suburb of the Normandy city of Rouen -- have a proud history in the competition too, having lost to Marseille in the 1927 final and also reached the last four in 2010, where they lost to eventual winners Paris Saint-Germain.
This year's run has been nothing short of remarkable, with Quevilly beating Marseille 3-2 after extra time in the quarter-finals and then eliminating another top-flight side in the last four in the shape of Rennes.
Now Lyon -- a club with an annual budget of 130 million euros ($172m) -- stand in the way of Quevilly -- budget 1.9 million euros -- and a remarkable final triumph.
After being promoted from the fourth tier of the French game last season, Quevilly currently sit 13th in the Championnat National, the semi-professional third division.
With five games of the campaign remaining, they are not yet certain of avoiding an immediate relegation.
Quevilly have always been proud of their amateur status, but many of the current squad were brought up in the academies of professional clubs and do make a living from the game.
John-Christophe Ayina learnt his trade at Paris Saint-Germain before making headlines with a brace in that quarter-final defeat of Marseille while Zanke Diarra -- younger brother of OM and France star Alou -- also came through the ranks at PSG.
There may be more than a whiff of cup romance about Quevilly's achievements in going as far as they have, but this is not some rogue selection of bakers, postmen and milkmen.
Of Quevilly's 26-man squad, 17 are paid to play the game, including 14 who are on full-time federal contracts.
Goalkeeper Yassine El Kharroubi is on loan from second-division club -- and 2009 Cup winners -- Guingamp, while captain Gregory Beaugrard and fellow defender Kevin Giboyau have contracts as youth coaches.
Coach Regis Brouard, a former Montpellier player who has become one of France's most coveted young managers, oversees daily training sessions and makes sure the day-to-day running of the club is just like that of a top-tier outfit.
"We have to watch what we eat, make sure we get enough sleep...it is as it should be, we are paid to perform and you cannot be at your best if you eat pizzas or kebabs for dinner, or go out every night," says striker Joris Colinet.
Brouard adds: "In terms of the work we do, we are no different to any professional club. We work hard!
"But we don't have the budget nor the infrastructure of a profesional club, we just have to take things day by day."
Things are improving behind the scenes, and Quevilly already invest in youth development.
In addition, they will have two artificial training pitches completed this summer, although for the moment Brouard oversees sessions on local municipal fields.
Journeys to away games are undertaken by bus, and the players must pay for physiotherapy themselves.
And while the majority of Quevilly's players are technically professional, the best-paid of those takes home 3,200 euros ($4,224) a month.
Meanwhile, Lyon's biggest earner, Yoann Gourcuff, pockets a cool 450,000 euros ($594,000) a month.
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