Well into the midst of a second season, the Le Ballon football league continues to bustle in brilliant places. From football passions to a lifeblood to the French game, we caught up with co-founder Jack Whelan, having just returned from a trip to Clairefontaine - the capital of French Football.

Le Ballon is back and well into the season now, how's it going second year in?

"We’re excited to be back for another year. We were fortunate enough to be able to keep Le Ballon going for another instalment leading up to the Euros. The season itself has been going well, we’ve been able to play games at our usual home in southern Paris as well as Stade Bauer (the spiritual home of Red Star Paris) and now, Clairefontaine. The teams are taking it seriously too. After last year’s fun and games, they’re in it to win it for season two - it’s pretty cool to see."

Have you made any changes to the league at all? The teams kits are certainly looking on point.

"There have not been many changes to the league for season two as we wanted to improve on the formula we had last year. Each team has a couple more players (from 12 to 14), and we have added home and away fixtures so we’ll now play 14 games each rather than just the 7. This was something that the guys really wanted, but it adds a lot of organisational complications. We play every other game at our home at Stade Elisabeth, but the other 7 games are played as a road-show in and around Paris (Stade Bauer, Stade Emile Antoine, Clairefontaine, etc.)."

"As for the kits, they were a big thing for us - we have a league full of awesome artistic talent, but we were limiting their skills to just the logos. This year, we let them design whatever they wanted on the template of NIKE’s stock kits using a sublimation process from a factory that we found in Bobigny in the outskirts of Paris. The stuff they came up with was awesome, especially Bled FC and River Dubplate’s efforts. The reaction was so positive that we had loads of requests, so much so that we’ve been selling the shirts around the world from our (shameless plug) online store."

"As for the logos, we had them produced by the best company in the world, Avery Dennison, and we couldn’t be happier. Seriously, some of the technology in those badges (which sounds weird to say!) is unbelievable - especially the 75ers one designed by Steven Harrington from LA. Some of the teams were able to find sponsors for their teams for the year as well which has helped them create some cool side projects which keeps the fire burning."

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You got to play at Clairefontaine recently, how did that come about?

"Clairefontaine was magical - it always is. We've had the dream of playing at Clairefontaine, the home of French football for a little while now, and when we called them and our partners at NIKE to get the ball rolling, they were surprisingly responsive. There weren’t many windows of opportunity left seeing as the complex is now shut down in preparation for the French team arriving before the Euros, so it was awesome to be able to squeeze in there before they shut the doors. We owe a lot of thanks to Nicolas at the FFF for helping us sort everything from changing rooms and a tour of the facility to some panini and beer after the games! Merci!"

What was the set up and what was the objective, so to speak, of your visit there?

"The setup at Clairefontaine is incredible - it has to be seen to be believed. The facilities for the players are second to none, and the pitches are like bowling greens. Then, you have the chateau, which has all the hotel rooms that are named after every player of the 1998 winning squad (even our coach from last year, Bernard Diomède!) and is steeped in history. For the guys to be able to get changed in the same rooms as the pros, play on the same pitches, and then go for a beer in the huge reception room in the chateau was unforgettable for them."

"As for the objective; we wanted to continue to provide our players with what we genuinely feel is the best amateur football experience that can be had anywhere in the world, whilst telling an interesting story. We interviewed some of the players and filmed the games in order to make a short film about the complex which should interest even those that have never heard of Clairefontaine."

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The significance of the place, can you describe what it was like to have gone from idea in the early days of Le Ballon right through to playing at the French symbol of footballing excellence?

"Back in 2014 when we had the bar for the World Cup, we would never have dreamed of getting a league together, and for it to have taken off in the way that it has, yet alone ending up at Clairefontaine with the likes of Steve Marlet and Edouard Cissé. When we first had the idea for the league in October of ’14, we were scrambling to find a format that people would enjoy, and a stadium to play every week - luckily things fell into place and we have been able to do some pretty cool things."

"I think for the guys in the league this is probably the cherry on the top of the cake - for French people, Clairefontaine really does have mythic qualities. In England we’re less accustomed to the idea of a centre of excellence, but for the lads over here, they really have been able to live out a childhood dream. To see guys that have led interesting and mostly powerful lives behaving like kids was a real treat."

Could you feel the enormity of the place when you were there?

"The place really is dripping with history. The photos, the names on the doors, the giant World Cup trophy on the lawn when you arrive at the facility - everything really lets you know that you’ve arrived. Added to that, is the fact that you’re in the middle of a forest with a low-slung fog at almost all times - it looks like you’re in Saving Private Ryan! The unbelievable stillness coupled with the piercing white flood-lights does send shivers down your spine. Even a stiff-upper-lipped Englander such as myself was pretty moved by the whole occasion."

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There's been talk of a brick and mortar store and the return of the Le Ballon Bar, how's the future looking?

"The future is looking quite bright for Le Ballon FC on the whole. Bright, but busy! We will indeed have a bricks and mortar store in the Marais, just across the road from Galerie Perrotin that we are really looking forward to. We are looking to make it a real cultural event space with exhibits, installations and interactive sights as well as a retail space. As for the bar, we are working on numerous venues throughout the tournament in Paris, but as for a return of Le Ballon bar itself, it is still TBC. Once the Euros are in full swing, we will want a place to drink for free, so fingers crossed!"

Euro's are creeping closer, is the excitement starting to simmer in Paris?

"People are definitely getting excited here. Posters are starting to go up around the town and in bars about places showing the game, and generally supporting Les Bleus at all times. The new FFF shirt will come out soon, and that will blow peoples’ minds as well. I think the attacks in November have dampened the spirits somewhat, which is understandable. You cannot have a conversation about the Euros without people worrying about security or ‘what if?’ At the same time, everyone is trying to stay positive, and they are all confident that they will throw one hell of a party. If World Cup 2014 was anything to go by, I’d say they’re absolutely right!"

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Keep up to date with all things Le Ballon, here. Euro’s on the horizon, we’re on our way.

Photography: Studio White for Le Ballon FC