SC Bastia are a French club based in Bastia, situated on the island of Corsica, which is located southeast of the French mainland. Despite the club playing in Ligue 1 in 2017, they now find themselves plying their trade in the Championnat National 3 (French 5th division). This was enforced by the French Football federation, following the club’s financial difficulties. The club’s current plight is an antithesis to the success of the Corsican club’s golden period in the late 70s, when they reached the UEFA Cup final, eventually losing out to Dutch side, PSV.
Unsurprisingly, most of Bastia’s fans are Corsicans- they often display their independence. For some in overly adverse ways. Many Bastia fans booed La Marseillaise (French national anthem) before the 2002 Coupe de France final. There seems to be a divide between the Corsicans and mainland France.
This divide, and a history of struggle can be seen through the club’s badge. The current version depicts a moor’s head with a white bandage (or necklace) wrapped tightly around the forehead, tied together by a knot below the temple. Behind the moor’s head is an outline of a castle, which is surrounded by blue. The castle represents the Castello di Bastia, but what is of more significance is the iconic moor’s head. This same head can be found on the badge of Bastia’s neighbouring clubs, also found in Corsica- Gazélec Ajaccio and AC Ajaccio (as well as that of Cagilari FC, found in Sardinia, displaying the close links Corsica has to Italy). Whilst there may be a competitive rivalry amongst the three French teams to be able to claim that the each is the dominant football team of Corsica, it seems as if they are more united with each other more than with mainland France. The answer for this lies in the history of Corsica. In 1729 the Corsican Revolution began, in an attempt to break free from the rule of Genoa, Italy. Directed by Luiggi Giafferi and Giacinto Paoli, and then by Paoli’s son, Pasquale Paoli. In 1755 the Corsican republic finally claimed it independence, and it remained such until 1769, when the island was once more conquered, this time by France. In 1760, General Pasquale Paoli ordered the necklace to be removed from the head and the blindfold raised above the eyes- the position of the necklace now. His reason, reported by his biographers, was that: ‘The Corsicans want to see clearly. Freedom must walk by the torch of philosophy. Won’t they say that we fear the light?’. Paoli was issuing a call for Corsican defiance and freedom, something that still rings true to this day. There is even a militant group- the National Liberation Front of Corsica (FLNC), which pushes violent action for Corsican nationalism.
The moor then is clearly important for Bastia in the way it represents freedom and independence for the island- it has featured on the SC Bastia badge since the 1980s, and one would think it is not going anywhere soon.
Recently, the club has found itself in trouble with the French Football Federation. In 2017 ultras invaded the pitch during a home game against Lyon, where several of the visiting team’s players were attacked. As a result the team were handed an automatic loss, the club’s supporters were banned from travelling for Bastia’s next three away games and Bastia’s director Anthony Agostini was suspended for six months. Significantly, this happened in the home game following Bastia playing behind closed doors, as Nice’s Mario Balotelli was subject to racist abuse. Whether this is an ill-mannered and barbaric call for Bastia and Corsica’s independence, or just the mindless act of a minority of ultras, there seems to be a deep divide between Bastia and France, one that can be traced back to the rebellious image of the moor’s head fixed on Bastia’s badge.