Monday, April 7, 2008

PSG Supporters Don't Play Nice

During the French League Cup Final on Sunday, March 30th, contested between Paris Saint-Germain and Lens, some PSG supporters made the brilliant decision to unfurl a banner which described people from northern France as unemployed, inbred paedophiles.

The rest of the sad story of racism in French football after the jump.

Look closely at that map and you will find that Paris, umm, is in northern France. However, PSG supporters do not trifle with mere facts of geography, and choose to ridicule anyone outside of the Ile-de-France, despite the fact that Lens, in the Pas-de-Calais, is a mere 200km (124 miles) from Paris. This is a bit like people from New York City making fun of people from Yonkers.

(side note: I was born and raised in NYC, and my family in France lives relatively close to Paris. Apparently, this makes me an asshole.)

I could understand, perhaps, the insinuation that people living in the more northern areas of France (i.e. anyone outside of Paris) are lower-middle-class (i.e. "unemployed" to the PSG supporters) and rural (i.e. "inbred" to the PSG supporters), but "paedophiles"? Really? Living outside of Paris qualifies one as deserving of a visit from Chris Hanson?

Although both PSG and Lens have filed complaints about the behavior of these fans with the Ligue de Football Professionel (and a hearing is scheduled this Thursday), this is far from the first (or worst) incident of xenophobic and offensive behavior from PSG fans. In the first years of the club back in 1972-1973 (after the club split from Paris F.C.), the management made the conscious decision to try and replicate the atmosphere of the kop at Anfield (see? I blame Liverpool!). Unfortunately, this resulted in the creation of a beast beyond their control, as far-right fans seized the ooprtunity to adopt a football club and form a "firm" in the tradition of English hooliganism. What followed was decades of neo-Nazi, racist propoganda and violence.

After losing a UEFA Cup group match against Hapoel Tel Aviv, 4-2, in Paris, the fans in the Stand of Boulogne (i.e. the "kop" end) responded with violence, attacking a French supporter of the Tel Aviv club. When a black policeman came to his aide, both were met with a shower of racist chants and projectiles. After firing several canisters of tear gas, the policeman opened fire, killing one PSG supporter and wounding another. The Stand of Boulogne was closed for two months.

However, lest one think that it is only my childhood club of PSG that is responsible for deplorable behavior, it should be noted that racist violence has reared its head throughout Ligue 1 (and even Ligue 2 - who says they can't compete?). In a game between Metz and Valenciennes, which Metz won 2-1, a far-right fan group known as "Identity Youth" made racist comments throughout the match towards Valenciennes captain Abdeslam Ouaddou. After the match, as Metz players threw anti-racism T-shirts into the stands, the "Identity Youth" members further solidified their stupidity by responding with Nazi salutes (although they have yet to sit in the stands in the shape of a swastika - we're not in Croatia, people!).

What can be done about this nonsense? Fear not, I'm assuming that Michel Platini will find the solution after he is done curing cancer.

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