by Noah Sdiri
Monday, 30
May 2022
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The uncomfortable truth about France’s ‘local youths’

Blaming Liverpool fans for the Champions League chaos is misleading
by Noah Sdiri

By hosting the Champions League final in Paris, Emmanuel Macron wanted to showcase France’s ability to organise major sports events in advance of the 2024 Olympic Games. But the game has since turned into a PR nightmare after the images of chaotic scenes at the Stade de France’s security gates were broadcast around the globe.

Many of the seats in the official Liverpool end of the ground remained empty 25 minutes after the scheduled start time. Kick-off was delayed twice while many Liverpool fans who held valid tickets remained stuck outside the security gates. Some Liverpool supporters were tear-gassed before and after the final whistle, while others were harassed, robbed, and beaten by “local youths” on their way to the stadium. Liverpool fans likened their ‘terrifying’ treatment in Paris to Hillsborough.

French authorities were quick to blame Liverpool fans for the chaos, with French interior minister, Gerald Darmanin, claiming that the mayhem was the result of “thousands of ticketless British fans” that tried to force their way into the stadium.

In reality, Darmanin’s statement is a misleading attempt to conceal what really unfolded in Saint-Denis. As journalist Rob Draper detailed, it was not just event’s terrible organisation and logistical failures — even if some Liverpool fans did indeed force their way in, the incidents were mostly the results of “local youths”.

“Local youths” has become a familiar PC byword in France for what the thinking class is actually referring to: minorities. Their presence was confirmed by BBC reporter Nick Parrott, who filmed groups of French Arabs and Sub-Saharan immigrants trying to force their way into the arena. This led to security closing a number of stadium gates and preventing fans with tickets from entering. Other groups of thugs were filmed storming the gates, while security forces were nowhere to be seen.

We don’t know all the facts on the ground, but the images shared by the BBC reporter certainly provide sense of who were — at least partly – to blame for the chaos. Anyone familiar with the sociology of the Seine-Saint-Denis, where the Stade de France is located, knows that this borough is a hotbed of crime and poverty, so much so that football legend Thierry Henry advised a rather clueless journalist from CBS Sports to never set foot there.

In 2001, dozens of young Algerian and black supporters invaded the Stade de France pitch during a friendly game between France and Algeria, forcing the game to be abandoned. More recently, 289 people were arrested in France following Algeria’s qualification for the final of the Africa Cup of Nations. Riots erupted in cities across France, with dozens of torched cars and injuries. Now, the relationship between France and the children of (North) African immigrants is so tense that it has become virtually impossible to organise any kind of sporting event related to one of France’s former colonies.

French authorities have developed a schizophrenic attitude towards this kind of crime and violence. On the one hand, they have vowed to be tough on crime but on the other hand, they quickly dismiss any claim that violence is on the rise in France. Minister of Justice, Éric Dupond-Moretti recently declared that the “feeling of insecurity” pervading France was a “fantasy” fuelled by “certain media” and even “Covid”.

Unfortunately, this is an all-too typical response from the French political class, in which incidents like Saint-Denis are either ignored or downplayed. As much as the French authorities may try to blame English fans for the chaos in Saint Denis, the sad reality is that France’s minorities were a likely component in the events that unfolded.

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Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 months ago

Ah yes, Xenophobic accusations against Liverpool fans OK. “Racism” against local youth not OK so a blind eye employed by politicians.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Though funny how Liverpool fans are always blameless – even for the deaths of the Italian fans. Always the fault of others.

Liam Brady
Liam Brady
2 months ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Ian – NO ONE ever said Liverpool were blameless re the tragedy at Heysel. In fact quite a few “fans” went to prison and English clubs were banned from competing in Europe in the aftermath.

Last edited 2 months ago by Liam Brady
JP Martin
JP Martin
2 months ago

It would have been more intelligent to build the Stade de France in France rather than the lost territory of Saint-Denis.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 months ago
Reply to  JP Martin

Sadly Saint-Denis also contains the great Benedictine Abbey/Basilica, perhaps the most important church in France if not the world. Not only the necropolis of the Capetian, Valois and Bourbon Kings and Queens, but also where the revolutionary idea of ‘Gothic’ architecture first took root under the brilliant Abbot Suger.*

In fact it is a real case of “look on my works ye mighty and despair “!
Yet know as you so rightly lament it has degenerated into a ghetto.

(* mid twelfth century.)

Last edited 2 months ago by ARNAUD ALMARIC
JP Martin
JP Martin
2 months ago
Reply to  ARNAUD ALMARIC

More than sad; it is a crime against our heritage.

Andrew D
Andrew D
2 months ago

It’s sad what’s happened to St Denis, it’s cathedral built by Abbot Suger the birthplace of Gothic architecture

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 months ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Sorry, I’ve just duplicated that because I failed to see your apposite remark! However it was not a Cathedral but a Benedictine Abbey, now often referred to as a Basilica.

Last edited 2 months ago by ARNAUD ALMARIC
Andrew D
Andrew D
2 months ago
Reply to  ARNAUD ALMARIC

Well, we’re both right. It was built as a Benedictine abbey, but is now a cathedral

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 months ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Never St Denis, but always Saint-Denis. Otherwise it recalls ‘The Beano’ or perhaps the splendid Denis Thatcher does it not?

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 months ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Well it is not Hagia Denis – the main mosque of North Paris yet.

Margie Murphy
Margie Murphy
2 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Matter of time.

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 months ago

The people storming the gates are not wearing red for Liverpool. Nor are they really wearing white for Real Madrid. They must be locals who are in the business of not missing out on great sporting occasions. Lookdown in concrete jungles probably meant some of them wanted the “correction” of attending the stadium atmosphere of a grand football final. They clamour to be mollycoddled, the seemingly well-dressed souls that they are. By that I mean all they have recreationally is football. Nothing else would delight them. (That may be down to inverse snobbery on their part). They’d probably invent football, at least, if football did not exist.

Marcia McGrail
Marcia McGrail
2 months ago

I find within football’s inane tribalism and obscene greed metaphors for a plethora of today’s cultural milieu – on the surface, a pleasant sporting day out but scratch the surface..

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 months ago

Why as the censor struck out the words Capetian, Valois and Bourbon?
Is this what is called ‘dumbing down’?

Margie Murphy
Margie Murphy
2 months ago
Reply to  ARNAUD ALMARIC

They haven’t.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 months ago

What Liverpool sowed at Heysel they reaped at Saint-Denis.