[NEW ORLEANS] Rebel fans from around the country descended upon New Orleans for the Allstate Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, but none of them traveled more than Valentin Joanny. Joanny, a 28-year old dog trainer from a Parisian suburb, is the owner of the Twitter account Ole Miss France (@FranceRebels). His account, which at the time of writing has 2,513 followers, reports every score and major update of Ole Miss sports teams and has become a mainstay of “Ole Miss Twitter.”
Joanny arrived in New Orleans after a 16-hour flight from Paris, just in time to meet some fellow Ole Miss enthusiasts and catch the Rebels take on the Baylor Bears. According to a December tweet, “maybe 50 people” offered to buy him a drink while he was in town, but he was only able to meet about 20 of his Twitter followers by halftime on Saturday. “I can’t meet everybody, but someone gave me this shirt, brought me here, gave me some food, some drink…Everyone has been very kind, I feel very welcome.”
Many Ole Miss fans have a family history of loving Ole Miss Football, but Joanny’s passion for all things Ole Miss began in 2014. College football first came on his radar during the 2012 season, during Johnny Manziel’s first Heisman-winning season, but Joanny’s sights shifted to Ole Miss after watching “The Blind Side” and, soon after, the Ole Miss victory over then-undefeated Alabama. “It was like a revelation for me. Dr. Bo, Treadwell, the upset, the uniform, I immediately (fell) in love.”
Joanny may think he’s “the only one in Europe who’s an Ole Miss fan,” but he’s not the only one who stays up late for Saturday matchups. “We have a little community of college football fans in France,” which he supports through the CFB podcast he co-hosts, “The Trick Play France.”
After building a community of college football fans in France and strengthening international ties to Ole Miss fans in the US, Joanny decided to finally make the trip to see his Rebels in person. Valentin launched a GoFundMe to pay for his flight to New Orleans and hotel while in town. Launching at 7:22 p.m. CST (2:22 a.m. in Paris) on Dec. 8, he exceeded his goal of 2,200 euros ($2,500) in less than 14 hours. As it currently stands, Joanny has raised €2,900 with exactly 100 donors.
In addition to attending the Sugar Bowl, Joanny was able to attend the Saints-Panthers game on Sunday and the Pelicans-Jazz game Monday night. When asked how he felt being in New Orleans, the “French-est” city in America, Joanny said “I don’t see a lot of people speak French, only one or two people I’ve met. I was in the park today with my friends, and I said to them ‘I think I’m the only European in the city.’” He even tweeted a picture of the famous New Orleans landmark, the French Market, captioning it “Not really French but ok it’s cool aha.”
After a trip across the Atlantic Ocean, Valentin Joanny finally was able to be a part of the “Ole Miss experience.” His last experience in America, however, was a little less sweet: sitting next to two Baylor fans on the way home.