French city of Marseille bids final farewell to 'the boss' Bernard Tapie
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French business tycoon Bernard Tapie was laid to rest on Friday in Marseille, "the city of his heart", with supporters of the OM football club joining family members and politicians in a typically maverick funeral ceremony mixing spirituality and applause.
A funeral mass was held on Wednesday in Paris, the city where Tapie was born and where he died last Sunday after losing a four-year battle to cancer.
But final mass was held on Friday in the southern port city of Marseille, in line with Tapie's wishes.
"We're taking you home," his son Stephane Tapie confirmed on Instagram Wednesday.
"The gladiator is finally resting," said former minister and long-time friend Jean-Louis Borloo in an emotional speech at the Cathedral of Saint-Marie Majeure.
Samia Ghali, deputy mayor of Marseille and former Socialist senator, said: “He went and got us the star,” in reference to OM's victory in the Champions League in 1993 during Tapie’s long tenure at the head of the club, from 1986-94.
You were "as strong as a lion, as cunning as a fox, but human, resolutely human", said Renaud Muselier, head of the region.
"You seemed invincible."
OM supporters who didn’t manage to access the cathedral listened to the tributes to the man they called "the boss" via loudspeakers on the forecourt.
Thousands had walked behind the funeral procession earlier Friday from the Vieux-Port (Old Port) to the cathedral, some holding smoke bombs.
Tapie was a maverick and his funeral reflected that. Supporters cheered and applauded as pallbearers carried the coffin down the aisle, as they did when Tapie’s grandson Rodolphe told anecdotes about young family members cheering for Manchester against Paris Saint-Germain.
Seventy-two-year-old OM supporter Mireille Brechard told French media in front of the cathedral: "It's very important for me to be here, to pay tribute to the man who made Marseille and OM what they are today.
"Don't talk to me about VA-OM, it wasn't his fault," she said, referring to the 1993 match-fixing scandal which stained his reputation and cost him 65 nights beyond bars.
'Not a saint'
Father Pascal, a priest from Guadeloupe, spoke of Tapie's deep Catholic faith and how he had accompanied him during his final days.
Most of the speakers avoided mentioning the tycoon's dark side and his convictions for fraud.
But the Archbishop of Marseille – who led mass – rendered the complexity of the man who had multiple careers in business, politics and acting.
"Bernard Tapie was no saint, far from it," said Archbishop Jean-Marc Aveline, recalling that Tapie had "been to the heights as well as the depths, to the corridors of power as well as to prison cells".
However "he loved this city because it was like him: popular and free, proud and rebellious, tender and violent at the same time".
Bernard Tapie will be buried in the Mazargues cemetery, close to OM’s Velodrome stadium.
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