by Carla Occaso
MONTPELIER — A batch of misprinted soccer shirts has led to a new international friendship and lots of good feelings — right here in Montpelier. On Sept. 14, Philippe Saurel, mayor of Montpellier, Mediterranee Metropolis, France, sent an email to his counterpart in Montpelier, Vermont, to offer the local high school soccer team some shirts.
Dear Mayor (John) Hollar,
I’m writing to you from Montpellier, south of France. The starting point of our story is that both our cities have almost the same name.
You have already heard about the story of the soccer shirts on social networks, there was a mistake during the printing, and now Montpelier spelled as the name of your city is writing on the shirts of the soccer team.
We would be very delighted with M. Laurent Nicollin, President of the Soccer Club of Montpellier, to offer the shirts with the name of your city to your school’s soccer team.
M. Mayor Hollar do not hesitate to tell me if you agree with this gift, in that way we will write together a great story.
Moreover, I also hope to meet you one day, I will be very pleased to welcome you in Montpellier.
Mayor of Montpellier
President of Montpellier Mediterranee
Mayor John Hollar responded:
Dear Mayor Saurel,
I am writing to express the great appreciation of our City for Montpellier’s generous offer to donate the jerseys from your football team to our schools’ soccer teams. We are a capital city of about 8,000 residents, and I believe I’ve heard from almost all of them about how much your gesture means.
We are aware of the popularity and skill of your Ligue 1 team, and now we in Montpelier are HSC’s No. 1 fans. Our soccer players will be truly proud to wear the HSC jerseys and follow the team’s success at the Stade de la Mosson.
At a time when the international news can be discouraging to follow, I thank you for allowing our City to join Montpellier in bridging an ocean, reminding us that what we share is much deeper than any divisions. Thank you for letting us write this great story together.
Mayor of Montpelier
“We still don’t know when they’re coming or how many,” City Manager William Fraser told The Bridge Sept. 15 by phone. “It was nice of them to reach across the ocean and do something kind and generous. It was a nice solution on their part. A nice gesture.”
Fraser said the Montpelier High School soccer team will get some shirts, and they may — though it has not been decided — send shirts to the other cities in the United States named Montpelier.
Though Fraser said he did not know whether we would get 20 or 200, he hopes to send at least one tee shirt to the other Montpeliers in the United States.
Other states that have Montpelier as a city name include Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Indiana, California, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, North Dakota, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia.
Why does Fraser think Montpelier, Vt received the gift? “We are the largest Montpelier in the United States,” he said. He said it was nice for the mayor of Montpellier to do something for the kids. Also, maybe the shirts can be used as a fundraiser to raise money for the Booster Club.
Mayor Hollar also posted news of the gift on his Facebook page, stating, “the donation of misprinted Montpellier France Soccer Club jerseys to Montpelier has generated more national news for our city than I’ve seen in a long time … Merci Mayor Saurel!”
Comments from the public on Mayor John Hollar’s Facebook page included this from Susan Becker, “Hi John-I heard the story this morning on NPR. How absolutely wonderful! We are a great city and I love living/working/being a part of our sweet little Montpelier.”
And from Alexandre Bastide, “Bonjour from Montpellier — FR”
Also, from John Snell, “One “L” of a difference between the two cities. Maybe we should send them some maple syrup?”
(The editor thanks John Snell for the headline idea. As part of a note from Assistant City Manager Susan Allen as she forwarded a copy of Montpelier Mayor John Hollar’s letter to the Mayor of Montpellier (France) she said that Mayor Hollar is planning to translate his letter into French.)