Le Mistral Club de Pétanque

page created: 2019-01-01
The oldest petanque club in the United States is (or was) Le Mistral Club de Pétanque, which was founded in Worcester, Massachusetts (near Boston) in 1958. Later, it evolved into the current Boston Petanque Club. The original founding members were French expatriates who emigrated from the Armenian community in Marseilles. The club is named after the famous cold winter wind that blows down the Rhone valley and through Marseilles. It is shown on the club’s logo.

Marcel Babayan, who passed away in 2004, was president of the club for 40 years and a major factor in the success of the club. Armenian members of Le Mistral dominated FPUSA teams to the World Championships between 1975 and 1987. Marcel Babayan represented the USA at three world championships; Albert Kallanian an incredible seven times.

Members of Le Mistral in 2006. Left to right — Carlo Testa, Albert Kallanian, George Bogosian (throwing) and Brian Walsh

Members of Le Mistral in 2006. Left to right — Carlo Testa, Albert Kallanian, George Bogosian (throwing) and Brian Walsh.

The web page for Le Mistral Club de Pétanque (lemistralclub.home.comcast.net) has vanished, although it is still accessible via the Wayback Machine HERE. In order to help preserve it, I have salvaged the historical photos and information from three pages of the site, from a 2012 snapshot. (Clicking on an image will often open a larger version.)

The Grand Masters of Le Mistral Club de Pétanque
Le Mistral Club is fortunate to have as members a cadre of highly skilled France-born players each with over 40 years of club, national and international experience. These are our treasured “grand masters”, teaching their techniques and strategies to newer members. Here we profile some of les Grands Maîtres du Mistral Club de Pétanque.

Pointeur and founder of Le Mistral Club de Pétanque
birthplace: Marseille, France

Albert, shown here with his son Jean-Pierre and his grandson Julian, is a skilled pétanqueur who has led USA teams competing in the World Championship a total of 7 times. The most memorable championship for Albert is still his very first one in Gent, Belgium in 1981. Of course, winning the 2000 F.P.U.S.A. World Championship Qualifier (where Albert made the final winning point) and thus giving Le Mistral Club the chance to go to the 37th World Championship in Monaco stands out as highlight in Albert’s long pétanque career.

Levon “George” BOGOSIAN
birthplace: Marseille, France

Levon is a pure “hitter” who is au fer more often than not. His most memorable moment was as tireur on Le Mistral Club team that won the World Championship Qualifier in 2000. “This was something I never thought possible with the competition we were up against”. Levon recalls the excitement of marching into the arena at the opening ceremonies of the 37th World Championship in Monaco “which gave me a chill that I will never forget”.

birthplace: Marseille, France

Raymond is a highly accurate tireur who throws the heaviest boules of any club member, a hefty 740 grams! He represented the U.S. at World Championships in Gent and Geneva. He is a longtime member who has won championships with his late brother Jean as far back as 1966, when they were on a triplette team that defeated teams from Trois Riviere, Quebec to win one of the earliest tournaments held in North America. That was even before the founding of the U.S. Federation of Pétanque. Raymond recently participated in the Qualification Tournament for the 2003 World Championship in Sarasota, FL.

birthplace: Marseille, France

A precision pointeur, Georges much appreciated the camaraderie of the club’s weekly matches. Georges was on Le Mistral Club teams at 3 different World Championships, his most memorable being the 1984 matches in Rotterdam. At the end of that concours he took some weeks vacations and drove all over France visiting family and friends in Bordeaux, Marseille, and elsewhere. C’était bien passé ce voyage-là!

Carlo “Charlie” TESTA
birthplace: Albano San Alessandro, Italy

Born in Italy, Charlie moved to Marseille, France when he was only 1 year of age. Moving between Italy and France while a young boy while his family attempted to cope with the privations of WWII, Charlie followed his sister’s footsteps and emigrated to the U.S. himself when he was 26 years old. A glazier by trade for many years, Charlie enjoys the weekly club matches and still recalls with emotion the thrill of seeing his fellow club members win the World Championship Qualifier in 2000.

birthplace: Marseille, France

A tireur who’s converted to mostly pointeur, Paul was also in Rotterdam in 1984 for the 20th World Championship. As the only left-handed player among the originals, Paul can exploit his port-sided spin to enter into the point away from the usual cluster of boules on the right side. Though he is wisely cutting back, Paul’s occasional cigar lends a fine aromatic addition to a chilly fall afternoon of pétanque.

birthplace: Marseille, France

After many years of living in Manchester, N.H., this longtime Le Mistral Club member now spends his retirement splitting his time between le département Gard in France, and Tampa, FL. Jacques played for Le Mistral Club team at the 37th World Championships in Monaco, and afterwards hosted his teammates at his home in France.

History of Le Mistral Club de Pétanque

Le Mistral Club de Pétanque was founded in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1958, making it one of the oldest pétanque clubs in the U.S. The original founding members are French expatriates who emigrated from the Armenian community in Marseilles, France, to start new lives in the United States of America. The members took the club name, Le Mistral, from the ill wind that frequently comes howling down the Rhone river valley and hits their native Marseille with such force that it rips windows off hinges, sends roman roof tiles flying, and is alleged to drive animals and people mad. In the 40+ years since the founding of Le Mistral Club, its members have served their new country in the armed forces, operated businesses, had successful careers, raised families, seen the birth of grandchildren, and have generally assimilated into the culture of their adopted homeland. And yet throughout the years, they have continued to meet regularly to play their beloved jeu de boules de pétanque.

Always there has been la pétanque. A drive to the countryside, a day at the beach, a family picnic, a niece or nephew’s birthday party … on any occasion where a quorum of pétanqueurs were present, out of the car trunks came the boules and a game commenced on whatever suitable terrain could be found. These two photos show Le Mistral Club matches from the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Armen Kopoyan has identified this photo as circa 1958; the filename suggests the 1960s. In the foreground, the man on the left holding a boule and wearing a white shirt is Raymond Kopoyan, Armen’s father. The man on the right without his shirt is Raymond’s brother (and Armen’s uncle) Jean Kopoyan, both of Worcester. Armen says that La Mistral used to play in Green Hill Park in Worcester, which looks like the backdrop in the photo. Click photo to enlarge.

Though their numbers have thinned through the years, a core group of les Marseillais continue. Albert, Levon, Georges, Raymond, Jean, Carlo, Jeannot, Pierre, Jacques, Marcel and others. For these grand masters of the game, first names suffice, like the national soccer team of Brazil. You can find them each Saturday and Sunday on the club terrain intensely competing, as they have done now for so many years. Challenging each other, measuring distances, and debating strategies in their Sud-accented French as they have done since they were teenagers in Marseilles.

Over the long history of its existence, Le Mistral Club de Pétanque has sent teams to the World Championships of Pétanque a total of 7 times! The picture at right shows Le Mistral Club members competing in the 17th World Championships of Pétanque held in Gent, Belgium in 1981. From left are: Albert Kallanian, Raymond Kopoyan, Jean Onanian.

This picture shows Le Mistral members marching during the opening ceremonies of the 18th World Championships of Pétanque held in Geneva, Switzerland in 1982. Le Mistral Club President Albert Kallanian is 3rd from the right.

Most recently, Le Mistral Club sent a team to the 37th World Championships of Pétanque held in Monaco in 2001. Le Mistral Club, representing the USA after winning the National Qualification tournament in 2000, reached the 16th final against some tough international competition. Once before a team from Le Mistral Club also qualified for the 16th final – the 23rd World Championship in Algeria in 1987 – which was, in fact, the first time that any USA team had ever gotten that far! In the photo at right are Le Mistral Club members (from left to right): Albert Kallanian, Jacques Azadian, and Levon Bogosian, shown here with visiting family from France who stopped by to provide some support.

The légion d’honneur of Le Mistral Club appearances at the World Championships includes the following:

Championship Location
& Year
Le Mistral Club team #1 Le Mistral Club team #2
17th Gent
Albert Kallanian, Jean Onanian, Raymond Kopoyan Marcel Babayan, Bernard Savona, George Alachoyan
18th Geneve
Albert Kallanian, Jean Onanian, Raymond Carato Marcel Babayan, Raymond Kopoyan, George Alachoyan
19th Tunis
Albert Kallanian, Raymond Carato, Marcel Didier-Jean [none]
20th Rotterdam
Albert Kallanian, Jean Onanian, Marcel Didier-Jean George Alachoyan, Paul Dersain, Camille Pontois (Detroit club)
21th Morocco
Albert Kallanian, Jean Onanian, Raymond Carato [none]
23th Algeria
Albert Kallanian, Jean Onanian, Fernand Hampartzoumian Marcel Babayan, Joseph Acchiardi, Bob Morrison (former FPUSA President)
37th Monaco
Albert Kallanian, Levon Bogosian, Jacques Azadian [none]

Le Mistral Club at the World Championships in Monaco 2001

Possibly exploiting the home court advantage at Green Hill Park, but nevertheless defying the odds makers, the cold rain and not the least the formidable talent of the opposition, a team comprised of longtime Le Mistral Club members stunned a field of entrants from across the US to win the F.P.U.S.A. World Championship (Seniors) Qualifiers in August 2000. Click here for a first-hand account of this exciting qualification match, played that year on Le Mistral’s newly-built terrain in Green Hill Park.

That victory gave Le Mistral Club the right to represent the USA at the 37th World Championships to be played in Monaco in 2001, making the 7th time that Le Mistral Club co-Founder Albert Kallanian has led a USA team in the World Championship. This championship would prove to be especially memorable for a number of reasons, both positive and negative. Sadly, the Monaco tournament took place just a few weeks after the horrific events in the US on September 11, casting a pall over the event. A tribute was paid in acknowledgement on opening night when a minute of silence was observed during the opening processional by the thousands of spectators and players upon the entry of the US team from Le Mistral Club.

Pictured here is the USA team from Le Mistral Club at the opening of the 37th World Championships in Monaco 2001, from left: Levon Bogosian, Louis Toulon (alternate 4th player from California), Albert Kallanian, and Jacques Azadian. “I will never forget the emotion of that moment of silence when we entered the boulodrome”, said Albert. A sobering start to the event. But still there were some positives. Albert, Levon and Jacques, longtime residents and naturalized citizens of the U.S., are native sons of La Provence, and they were going home. The would see old friends and relatives in Marseilles, revisit the places of their youth, and have the opportunity to compete at the highest levels of the game they love.

Le Mistral Club is shown here at right playing against Denmark in the first round. Ahead 11-0 at one point, Albert, Levon and Jacques had to withstand a ferocious come-back by the Danes who scored 4, 3 and 2 points in successive ends to pull within 11-9. The viewing stands were filled with cheering red-shirted Danes, who grew increasingly louder as their countrymen closed the gap. However, Le Mistral Club withstood the Danish pressure and gained their 2nd win, earning a spot in the 16th finals.

In the 2nd round, Le Mistral Club lost against tough triplettes from Senegal and Mali, and thus were bumped into the Coupe des Nations tournament for the consolantes . Le Mistral Club managed a couple of more wins against teams from Ireland and Australia (shown at right), before losing to eventual quarter finalist Mali.

In the end, it was a great showing by our U.S. representatives from Le Mistral Club with wins against some fantastic teams from countries where pétanque is played much more widely and at a higher level of competition. Reaching the 16th final was a great achievement – and the 2nd time Le Mistral Club had gotten that far in its 7 appearances at the World Championships. This photo shows the entire USA delegation consisting of (from left to right) Louis Toulon, Jacques Azadian, FPUSA President Mike Norton, Levon Bogosian, and Albert Kallanian. [photo courtesy of PétanqueAmerica.com]