Dating back to the time of the Roman Empire, Valenciennes is named after Emperor Valentinian I and today serves as a sub-prefecture of the Nord department in northern France. Located around 15km from the Belgian border, the town boasts the distinction of lying less than 300km away from five different European capitals: Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, London and Luxembourg City.
Valenciennes's local economy was long powered by steel and textiles until decline set in during the 1970s, resulting in the closure of many factories. Nevertheless, the town has retained its expertise in those fields and various workshops and smaller factories, particularly in the automobile sector, still generate income for the region.
The centre of Valenciennes was partly destroyed by a huge fire during the Second World War and was rebuilt in a style combining concrete, brick and stone during the 1950s and 1960s. Visitors to the town are sure to appreciate its various monuments, including the facade of the town hall, the Basilica of Notre-Dame du Saint-Cordon, the Jesuit library and the Museum of Fine Arts.
The north of France is a veritable football hotbed, with an impressive number of clubs having competed in the country's higher divisions. In a region where popular sides such as Lille and Lens have enjoyed success, local outfit Valenciennes FC have also managed to hold their own, and were Ligue 1 stalwarts recently for a number of years. Several big-name players have passed through VAFC as well, including Cameroon legend Roger Milla, Argentina's Jorge Burruchaga, Carlos Sanchez of Colombia and French internationals Joseph Bonnel and Didier Six.