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France on Trial as Parisian Final Match Turns into a Razzia by Hélène de Lauzun

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France on Trial as Parisian Final Match Turns into a Razzia

The Stade de France on the outskirts of Paris hosted the Champions League final match between Liverpool and Real Madrid on Saturday, May 28th. 

The match was originally scheduled to take place in St. Petersburg, Russia. UEFA had decided, after the announcement of the Russian aggression in Ukraine, to boycott the country that hosted the previous World Cup in 2018. Since then, Russia has also been excluded from the next World Cup, to be held in Qatar in 2023. By depriving St. Petersburg of the match, UEFA as a consequence lost Gazprom’s financial sponsorship, a significant financial loss, since the energy giant had previously been one of the Champions League’s major partners. According to Bloomberg, the advertising contract was valued at €40 million per season.

Paris was chosen to host the match by UEFA president, Aleksander Ceferin. The French capital was preferred to Budapest, Lisbon, Porto, Berlin, Munich, and Rome. Three Gulf countries had also put forward alternative bids, but Aleksander Ceferin preferred to give priority to the country holding the presidency of the European Union. This was a conscious political choice, redolent with symbolism. But it would prove to have serious consequences. 

When it was announced that the match would be held at the Stade de France, the French player Thierry Henry took the liberty of ironically commenting on this decision: “the stadium is in Saint-Denis, not in Paris,” calling attention to an important distinction. Saint-Denis is the capital of the department of Seine Saint-Denis—the department with the highest percentage of populations of immigrant origin in France. 

The long-awaited match between the two prestigious teams turned into a disaster both in terms of organisation and security. The match, scheduled to start at 9 p.m., could only start at 9:36 p.m., forcing fans, the public, and journalists to wait. 

But the real horror of the event occurred during an outburst of violence for which thousands of people paid the price. The sporting match turned into a huge looting and racketeering operation. 

Since Saturday, the web has been buzzing with accounts, each one as terrifying as the next. Photos have been circulating of young British and Spanish fans, crying, bruised, prevented from entering the stadium, and robbed. 

The words used by those who recounted the events were staggering in their violence: “What I saw, I didn’t think humans were capable of that. Ultra-organised suburban gangs and groups of ultra-aggressive migrants were massacring people on the ground,” said Arnaud in the sports programme After Football on the RMC channel. 

Julien, a policeman present on the outskirts of the Stade de France, also testifies: “All the fans were targeted, attacked, and robbed in all directions, from grandparents to children. It was phenomenal.” All the testimonies taken from members of the police force reconfirm widespread, relentless infractions. Police have since reported sexual assaults as well.

Regardless of the police reports, French authorities stubbornly denied the facts. Already that evening, messages in the stadium accused British fans of being late and responsible for the chaos—even though it was noticed they were there from 5.30 p.m. After the match, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin also blamed the British fans from Liverpool, causing a wave of indignation across the Channel. He also pointed the finger at an alleged mass issue of “fake tickets,” which would have hampered the validation of entry tickets and caused an unexpected influx of people at the venue, preventing access to the stadium for spectators with valid tickets. Gérald Darmanin put forward the very unrealistic figure of 40,000 fake tickets, vigorously denied by the supporters’ associations who denounced a manipulation of political communication—a version of events that Spanish people present on site also dispute. 

The reality that emerges from observers on the ground is that the Stade de France was the prey of a sort of razzia—a type of destructive raid carried out in North Africa—the responsibility for which falls largely on the hordes of people from the suburbs, who are of immigrant origin. There was a coagulation between the immigrant populations living in Seine Saint-Denis and the migrants living a few steps away, at Porte de la Chapelle: this high-tension meeting was not anticipated. The newspaper Valeurs actuelles reveals, according to police sources, the origin of the people incriminated. Out of 81 people arrested, only 14 were British and 1 was Spanish. As for the 48 people taken into custody, only 2 were British and 0 Spanish. The vast majority were French people with African or North African sounding names, or illegal immigrants. One policeman does not hesitate to speak of “blédards,” a slang word that comes from the word bled—i.e., the Algerian village. 

President Emmanuel Macron did not wish to comment on the events. Lawyer Philippe Bilger highlights the personal responsibility of the president in the columns of Causeur: “The president of the Republic, after Saint Petersburg’s ostracism, had brought his influence to bear so that France would host this European Cup final within a very short period of three months, whereas in general it takes at least a year, or even more, to prepare such an event. It is clear that no one was up to the task and, of course, no one will be sanctioned.” 

Éric Zemmour pointed out in Valeurs Actuelles both the shame and the dishonour that now stains France as it persists in stubbornly denying the facts.

The Liverpool-Madrid fiasco raises fears that things will be even worse for the Olympic Games to be held in Paris, 2024.

Hélène de Lauzun studied at the École Normale Supérieure de Paris. She taught French literature and civilization at Harvard and received a Ph.D. in History from the Sorbonne. She is the author of Histoire de l’Autriche (Perrin, 2021).