Paris is Earning, Part 1

Free Market Football in the City of Light
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Photo by Moacir P. de Sá Pereira

Paris has never had a soccer team befitting its image of itself as the center of the world. For 40 years, Paris Saint-Germain Football Club has failed to live up to the lucrative standard of the rest of the city. Despite underperforming teams and a largely working-class fan base, the club has always seemed like it should give its owners a license to print money. The question then: can you gentrify a team? PSG did what unscrupulous developers have done for decades: They changed the rules, preyed on fears of crime, and cynically played for a newer, richer kind of fan. The first of a five-part series examining what happens to a football club when everyone’s eyes have turned to €€. 

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Single page

“Don’t forget,” Pierre said to me as we walked into a match at Parc des Princes this February, “‘PSG’ means ‘Pas Sûr de Gagner.’” Winning, the joke goes, is surely not a given for the home team. That night, however, PSG did manage to defeat Toulouse FC, 2–1. But the win we watched was a faint light in a season of missed opportunities: PSG finished Ligue 1 four points adrift from the last Champions’ League spot, crashed out of a promising Europa League campaign in the Round of 16, and failed to defend their 2010 Coupe de France victory. Their vanquishers in the Coupe de France and eventual Ligue 1 champions were plucky LOSC Lille, who won their first domestic honors in half a century.1 Respectable, of course, this Parisian performance—top half of the table, qualification for Europe, exciting cup runs—but not quite what one might expect from the only professional soccer team in the capital of France.

This fall, though, the first thing Pierre said to me about PSG was, loosely, “I’m fucking sick of seeing all these fucking Pastore shirts.”

Things had changed at PSG over the summer, and these shirts that now dot the landscape feature the name of Javier Pastore, a 22-year-old Argentinian attacking midfielder prised away from Palermo for a sum of money of uncertain magnitude, but certainly larger than any transfer fee in Ligue 1 history.2 Pastore’s name was only the last and most expensive name added to a team that bought eight players during the summer for a total expenditure in the transfer market of €86.1m. The 19 other teams in Ligue 1, combined, spent €109.9m.3

Has the money been well spent? To the good, just before Christmas, the team was crowned “Champion d’automne” for finishing the first half of the season in first place, three points clear of Montpellier HSC. Of the 30 goals PSG has scored this season, 19 have come from players brought in over the summer: six from Pastore, three from ex-Roma midfielder Jérémy Ménez, one from ex-Juventus defensive midfielder Mohamed Sissoko, and nine from French international Kevin Gameiro, who left FC Lorient in Brittany to return to the region in which he grew up. To the bad, uneven play caused PSG to fail the seemingly simple task of qualifying for the knockout stages of the Europa League. Furthermore, the team’s Ligue 1 lead is softened by a three-game losing streak that featured a humiliating 3–0 drubbing away to arch-rivals Olympique de Marseille. The lackluster performance led to a winter break featuring the sacking of coach and former star Antoine Kombouaré in favor of the more high-profile Carlo Ancelotti, gossip about Pastore’s eagerness to play for a bigger team, and the resolution in the negative of the months-long courting of David Beckham. The winter break ended with PSG’s relying on an extra-time goal to squeak into the Round of 16 in the Coupe de France, edging out amateurs Locminé, who play in the fifth level of French soccer.

But the kickstart to the campaign this fall that has led to the surge in Pastore shirts on Paris streets is only one of two deep changes that PSG has undergone in the past two years. This particular change came rather suddenly in May with consequences—expensive players, world-famous coach—visible on the field. But the other change has had consequences visible off the field, in the stands. Where there used to be a raucous and even threatening atmosphere behind each goal at Parc des Princes, with flares filling the stands with smoke, giant banners stretching the width and depth of the stand, and incessant, tightly organized chanting, now the dispirited crowds are literally fragmented, reflecting both the state’s dissolving their fan associations and the various boycotts by the largely poorer former season ticket holders who are barred entry from the stadium unless they submit to security checks not required of those willing to pay more for their tickets. At a match these days, little more erupts from the crowd than, after each opponent’s name is read over the PA, a flaccid shout of “enculé!”—literally, “fucked in the ass.”

The reasons given for the changes in the stands emerge from the same sack labeled “public safety” that has led to the uncountable daily invasions of our privacy perpetrated by our governments in the name of building a fortress to protect us from some enemy that remains never quite clear. Remember, of course, that this is (PSG fan) Nicolas Sarkozy’s France, which means it is like Bush’s and Obama’s America. But there’s a pleasant side effect to these invasions as well. Just as it does in Bush’s and Obama’s America, bending and breaking society in the name of public safety in France also makes someone very, very rich—a someone who is usually already very, very rich. And in this case, those someones are the brand new owners of PSG.

The new look to the stands and the new faces on the field are versions of the same story, one that fans of American sports, who have complained for years about bought championships and sport turned into mere entertainment, may suspect that they already know rather well. But it’s not just about cash ruling everything around Paris in the case of PSG, because the influx of cash is coupled with turning the stadium into a militarized zone. The new look provides, instead, an acute image of what neoliberalism in the US and European Union promises for our future. In brief, what’s going on at PSG these days not only shows us what’s messed up with sports, but what’s messed up with us. So now the story gets serious, and like most stories involving soccer, this serious story starts in England, with a politician named Margaret Thatcher and a soccer team named Liverpool Football Club.

This is Paris!

Liverpool, as any one of their billion fans in England, the US, and Asia will tell you, were the primary ambassadors of English soccer on the continent in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Their enthusiastic supporters brought back a fashion sense nicked from the finest boutiques in the soccer capitals of Europe, and it caught on as “casual” culture. But the trans-Channel trade was bilateral. Liverpool fans also exported a relationship of devotion to their team that was previously unknown in Paris.4

In 1976, in order to attract younger fans to the still new and unknown team whose matches were still frequented largely by opposition fans, PSG began offering youth discounts to section K. The “ten matches for ten francs” deal, worth less than $10 in today’s money, was a big hit; 500 youths named their part of the stadium, with a nod to most raucous part of Liverpool’s home ground, the “Kop K.” In 1978, the youth seats moved to the Virage Boulogne, so the Kop moved as well, becoming the “Kop of Boulogne.” The scousers took Head bags full of stylish French, German, and Italian sportswear back to England but left in their wake a foundation for the most infamous fans in France, the “kobistes.”5

Before moving on with the Kop of Boulogne, however, here is a brief description of Parc des Princes, PSG’s home ground.6 Though the site hosted various athletic activities for over a century, the stadium as it currently exists was completed as an all-seater in 1972. It is thus just about as old as the team who are its current main tenants, PSG having formed in 1970 from the merger of Paris FC and Stade Saint-Germain.7 The stadium lies just at the city limits of Paris. Behind each goal is a “virage,” or bend: the Virage Boulogne to the south and the Virage Auteuil to the north. Each virage is named after what lies behind it outside the stadium. Boulogne-Billancourt is a dense and economically mixed suburb to the south. Auteuil, on the other hand, is a swanky neighborhood in the 16th Arrondissement of Paris. Along the lengths of the field are the two “tribune” stands, the Tribune présidentielle Francis-Borelli and the Tribune Paris. The Tribune Paris faces the television cameras, meaning the huge permanent rooftop banner that features one of PSG’s most popular mottos, “ICI C’EST PARIS,” is occasionally visible onscreen. The Tribune présidentielle has the nicest seats, which can cost up to 20 times as much as a basic seat in the virage. Generally, throughout the stadium, the tribune seats max out at about six times the cost of the cheapest seats in the virages. Within the geography of Parc des Princes, money dictates where you sit. And where you sit dictates who you are. Or, at least, it used to.

The Kop of Boulogne grew to encompass the entire Virage Boulogne, and separate gangs started to form within it, united under a logo painted on bomber jackets paying respect to the KoB’s English inspirations: a bulldog’s head on a tricolor map of France. Eventually, the most high-profile of these groups will be the Boulogne Boys, who formed in 1985. But rival groups, like the Gavroches and Rangers, considered themselves tougher than the Boys. Then there were even smaller, more radical groups, reducing all the way down to the “indépendants,” autonomous agents so far right that they refused to be part of any association. Though never as monolithic as the press made it out to be, the Kop of Boulogne certainly entertained a share of right-wing demagoguery and a penchant for racist chants, signs, and Nazi salutes. But as long-time kobistes assert in news articles, and as social scientists who study the phenomenon in Paris like Patrick Mignon and Nicolas Hourcade point out in their articles, right-wing politics was only one part of a much larger phenomenon of class resentment. Young men (and the KoB was exclusively young men) went to the stands to watch some soccer, support their team, and get lost in the mass, not be recruited by the Front National. All the same, the violence in the KoB and the media’s fascination with it only got worse and, apparently, more racially motivated over time.

Now this gets tricky… SO FOOT’s dossier, which interviews several kobistes, shows the violence as part of a larger process involving respect for themselves and their team, not merely race-based hatred or psychotic chaos. Police provoke them on an awayday in Tours? They will take their revenge when they come back the next season. Scholarly work similarly tries to understand the underlying motives of the violence without writing the youths off as psychopaths, racists, and/or fascists. Yet, considering that a popular story about soccer hooliganism does not exist without at least one anecdote about how the informant was up for getting down to a malenky bit of ultra-violence, it’s important to note that the violence changed over time—as did the targets and the media response. At first, the violence was against fans of rival teams who sat in the KoB. Then, the rival fans were moved across the field to the Virage Auteuil, prompting the kobistes to form away parties that sneaked through the stands to cause trouble.

But the violence in the stands only turned into “hooliganism”—into an occasion for social and moral panic—after the Heysel Incident in 1985.8 Despite PSG’s winning its first championship in 1986 and coming in second in 1989, attendance was falling annually from the steady levels it had enjoyed during the first half of the 1980s. In the press, the violence at the stadium was considered the culprit. In 1991, while the team enjoyed its worst attendance record since making it to the top flight and floundered financially, PSG was bought by Canal+.9 That fall, the front office moved the away fans’ section to the corner of the stadium and subsidized supporters who, sick of the chaos in the KoB, were willing to move across the field. The exodus sped up in 1994, in the wake of the 1993 match against SM Caen, in which ten CRS (riot police) officers were injured in 20 minutes of rioting following a supporter’s leaping to the field to get his shoe. Fans in the Virage Auteuil, disinterested in the violence inherent in casual culture began instead to consciously stylize their support on the Italian “ultra” model of apolitical fan culture with impossibly giant banners, flares, chants and other expressions of “tifo”—organized and choreographed support of the team.

Leading into the new millennium, then, the supporters were (uncleanly) cut along ideological and cultural lines. Didn’t care much about the match, liked some camaraderie, and were up for a fight every once in a while or a racist chant, even against your own players? Boulogne was for you. Wanted a multi-cultural and hierarchical supporter association with intricate performances throughout the match that showed how loyal you were to your team? Turn right toward the Virage Auteuil. Not really excited about either prospect? Neither were the majority of the people in the stadium, who sat in the tribunes. And if you’re at the stadium, who are you, anyway? In his 2002 report, Mignon provides some statistics on the early 90s. The average crowd is effectively entirely male and mostly youths from the entirety of greater Paris. Ethnic and racial numbers are unavailable—this is France, after all—but immigration statistics suggest that the crowd is very multi-ethnic.10 Mignon writes that the two groups that seemed most obviously under-represented in comparison to greater Paris as a whole were women and people of North African origin.

In the virages, the numbers trended in predictable directions: even more male, more suburban, and much younger. But the picture here is not very surprising, and there is simply not much we can say about the supporters as a whole or even about the most ardent of them, casuals in Boulogne or ultras in Auteuil, except that the former were exclusively “white” and the latter not.11 So when Franklin Foer, in his infuriating tome on soccer and globalization, writes about picking a European team if one has “liberal politics and yuppie tastes” and adds that PSG can be immediately struck from the list because it’s a team “with a cloud of virulent racism trailing after” it, it rings incomplete and unfair.12 To my mind, Foer already tips his hand by mentioning “liberal politics and yuppie tastes.”13 But let’s consider his qualification a road marker suggesting our eventual destination. We still have some ground to cover.

The Kop of BoulogneThe Kop of Boulogne

Average attendance at Parc des Princes soared to a (then) record high in 1992 and started a persistent trend upward during the decade, peaking in 2000. Nevertheless, the violence continued, with injuries and arrests especially following the annual Classique between PSG and arch-rivals Marseille. And when there were no Marseille fans about, the fans from the two virages started fighting against each other. But three months after the American investment firm Colony Capital bought the team from Canal+, things began to fall apart.14

After being humiliated by Hapoel Tel Aviv in a Europa League match, 4–2, on November 23, 2006, upset PSG fans took to the streets. One fan of the Israeli team, Yaniv Hazout, was surrounded, threatened, and harassed by anti-Semitic chants from PSG supporters. A police officer of Antillean origin in plain-clothes, Antoine Granomort, went to help out Hazout.15 He then tear gassed the crowd and discharged his firearm once at a sixty-degree angle while getting up from the ground.16 The shot seriously injured Mounir Boujaer and killed Julien Quemener, a member of the Boulogne Boys. Veteran journalist Philippe Broussard, also on the scene, reported that Granomort was racially harassed while protecting Hazout and added that it was a good dozen minutes before the police arrived to calm the situation.

The mainstream press and politicians denounced the hooligans, but soccer fans across France—not just PSG—resenting police presence at their matches, now had a martyr. They held vigils and demanded a full inquiry into Granomort’s claim of self-defense.17 Sports daily L’Équipe, on the other hand, demanded to know why the match was not considered high-risk by the police, despite the obvious opportunity for provocation granted by playing a team from Israel. Le Classique features 2,000 officers to keep the peace, but there were only a third of that number out that night.18 The paper offered two reasons for the negligence: budgetary restrictions and political friction/jockeying between the police department, who were still reeling after the massive civil disruptions around France the previous year, and the French interior minister. The interior minister at the time, who was among the loudest to denounce the violence? The “over-stimulated police chief,” Nicolas Sarkozy.

On March 29, 2008, PSG met RC Lens, a team from the economically depressed north of France, at the Stade de France in the Coupe de la Ligue final. During the match, a 30+-meter-long banner was unfurled in the upper decks for at least five minutes reading “PÉDOPHILES, CHÔMEURS, CONSANGUINS : BIENVENUE CHEZ LES CH’TIS,” or, “pedophiles, the unemployed, the inbred: welcome to the land of the Ch’tis.”19 The response was again swift and reprimanding from the media and the government, whose representative, Nicolas “Président Bling-Bling” Sarkozy, was present during the match. The incident was blamed on the Boulogne Boys, and they were dissolved by the government within three weeks. Though not the key incident in their demise, the scandalous banner was the final gesture that spurred the state into action. The Boys appealed the ban to the European Court of Human Rights, but their appeal was judged inadmissable earlier this year.20

Meanwhile, antagonism between the Kop of Boulogne and the Virage Auteuil had grown worse, with newer supporter associations in Auteuil now willing to react violently to the kobiste provocation.21 On the last day of February, 2010, it was time for another edition of Le Classique on the heels of a disappointing series of performances that saw PSG slip to 12th place, and this day would be, in the words of one witness, “the point of no return.” Marseille fans, protesting their treatment by the police in Paris, had decided to boycott. No matter, as the KoB and Auteuil fans turned on each other before, during, and after the stunning 3–0 loss, leading to around 20 arrests and hundreds of stadium bans.

Before the match, 200 members of the Kop of Boulogne attacked supporters from the Virage Auteuil. The kobistes chased their adversaries toward their entrance into the stadium, and a 38-year-old member of the Kop of Boulogne–aligned group Casual Firm Paris was left in the wake, severely wounded. In the French press, the man, identified at first as only “Yann L.,” was a victim of a “lynchage.” The original reports from the press gave a spin sympathetic to the Kop of Boulogne: while peacefully leaving a bar, Yann L. had been attacked, Agènce France Presse claimed, by youths from the Virage Auteuil.22 But, now presented with a case of Auteuil violence against Boulogne—that is, black-on-white violence—the response took on a new racial component, perhaps most notably in the daily newspaper Le Parisien, which quoted an “expert in stadium violence” who asserted that though the Kop of Boulogne are not “saints,” they have a “code.” The expert added that in the past few years, however, “we have seen, in Auteuil, the appearance of more and more youths from the ghetto [cités] whose sole objective is fighting under any pretext and without respecting the existing rules among the universe of supporters. A man lynched by 20 others! The members of Boulogne would never have done that!23

After two weeks in a coma, Yann Lorence died, throwing PSG into turmoil.24 The government, whose police force had again failed to keep the peace, was still eager to denounce the state of affairs, with Secretary of State for Sports Rama Yade warning that the future of PSG was in jeopardy. The front office immediately cancelled plans for awaydays and refused to sell tickets to away matches indefinitely. Furthermore, the upcoming three PSG matches, both home and away, under the orders of Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux, were to be played “huis clos”: closed to spectators. Hortefeux continued the government crackdown by dissolving five official or de facto PSG supporters’ associations at the end of April: Commando Loubard and Milice Paris of Boulogne, Supras Auteuil 1991 and Paris 1970 la Grinta of Auteuil, and, finally, les Authentiks of Tribune G (beside Auteuil).25 As with the incident in 2006, there was blame returned at the police, with Christophe Uldry, the spokesman of Supras Auteuil, saying that the dissolutions helped evade questions of the effectiveness of the police to handle the violence and racism around the stadium.

The Virage Auteuil

But under pressure from the government and the media, PSG President Robin Leproux felt that PSG needed measures to match those of the state. It needed its own crackdown, its own flushing out. The front office started secret work on a “Plan antiviolence.” Details of the plan began to leak, chief among them the cancelation of all season tickets in Boulogne and Auteuil. Responding to the leaks, a thousand peaceful supporters, organized by three groups from Auteuil—Lutèce Falco 1991, Kriek Paris 1999, and Karsud—descended on Parc des Princes on May 15, 2010. “PSG is attacking the 10 to 15,000 supporters who support it the most. It’s a complete purge,” a spokesman for Lutèce Falco said. As “For the survival of the people’s stands,” a pamphlet calling for the protest asserts, “under the pretext of combating violence, the directors of PSG are arranging for our transfer. Worse—our retirement.” The protestors planned on staying at the stadium as long as possible after that evening’s season-closing match against Montpellier, calling Parc des Princes “our second home.”

Freelance journalist and 12-year Auteuil season ticket holder Sami Battikh went even further in his criticism on the news website Rue 89. For him, Lorence’s death was very convenient in that it allowed Colony Capital to do what Sarkozy had earlier promised to do after a young boy from the “banlieues” (here, “rough suburbs”) was killed by a stray bullet in 2005, mere months before the same banlieues erupted in civil unrest: clean this place out with a Kärcher pressure washer.26 “To make sure you’ve cleaned and ‘kärcherized’ the Parc well, what works better than getting rid of the season ticket holders?” asks Battikh, especially when these season ticket holders are the types who “wear their baseball caps backwards.”27 After all, the media initially pounced on the Lorence tragedy in part because it was an incident where the scary, ethnic youths from the banlieues had attacked, en masse, a white fan from the 16th Arrondissement of Paris. PSG would get out their Kärchers over the summer and (white)wash Parc des Princes in order to create a clean space like a “Paris without its banlieue.”

The only crime the vast majority of Auteuil and Boulogne season ticket holders had committed was of buying the cheapest tickets to the stadium. And yet, “We, you, the soul of this club, have been expelled from Parc des Princes by the corporate managers and underlings of an American pension fund,” as the Auteuil supporters continue in their pamphlet. They criticize Colony Capital and its representatives’ caprice in contrast to the long-term, unwavering support of the men in the virages who had continued to buy season tickets even when the team was playing poorly. Their protest did not succeed, and the “Plan antiviolence” was officially announced later that week. In addition to eradicating season tickets in Boulogne, Auteuil, and nearby sections, tickets for the virages would now be sold blank, with placement determined randomly, by a computer. Associations were annihilated at Parc des Princes, and all that remained, scattered randomly between the two virages, were individuals. Simply individuals.

  1. Though the game of soccer is rather straightforward, the larger structures of the game veer toward the far more opaque. In France, the best 20 teams—the top flight—compete in a league called “Ligue 1,” where each team plays each other twice, home and away. A team gets three points for a win, one for a draw, and none for a loss. At season’s end, the bottom three teams by points are sent (relegated) to Ligue 2, which sends its three best teams up (promotes) to Ligue 1. The top three teams in Ligue 1 qualify to play in the prestigious UEFA Champions’ League, which features the best teams in Europe. The next few places earn qualification in the less prestigious UEFA Europa League. In addition to the above leagues, there are two cup tournaments in France: the Coupe de France, which is open to all teams in France, and the less prestigious Coupe de la Ligue, which is features the 44 professional teams in the country. Winning either cup can also qualify a team for the Europa League, so figuring out who qualifies for Europe can often get tricky. These competitions all happen simultaneously from August to June. Additionally, the preceding, it must be noted, is a simplified summary of the situation. “UEFA,” incidentally, is the European organization that organizes European soccer. It makes up part of FIFA, which is the global organization.

  2. Players typically change teams in European soccer during two “transfer windows,” one in the summer and one in January. First, the teams negotiate a transfer fee that the new team will pay the old. Second, the new team negotiates, separate from the transfer fee, a wage structure with the player that is usually reported in terms of a weekly salary, though it can also include any number of complicated bonuses and clauses. Thus there are three parties that must consent to a transfer: both teams and the player. The situation can be further complicated because of “third-party ownership,” which means that a corporate entity has a stake in a player’s success and owns a portion of his rights. There exist also, as in US sports, agents who advocate for their players, convince them they should be making more money at a more prestigious team, and take a cut of the wage package. And it is Pastore’s agent, current person of interest Marcelo Simonian, who may have extorted half of the estimated transfer fee that was supposed to be paid to Palermo by PSG.

  3. These huge sums still do not even include what each player earns, which in top leagues is usually a multiple-year contract that pays from tens of thousands of euro a week and makes up a huge chunk of the expenses of the team. The money quoted above is already startling, and this is in midsize-time France. In England, Spain, Italy, and now Russia, transfer fees and wage packages have reached levels that could cause many a one-percenter to regret his career choice. Carlos Tévez, for example, has no role at his current team, but no other front office is willing to pay his transfer fee or his more than £140k/wk. wages. Similarly, Anži Maxačkala, who only won promotion to the Russian top division in 2009, is paying Samuel Eto’o €20m a year to live in Italy, train in Moscow, and play in provincial Maxačkala, on the shores of the Caspian Sea.

  4. Peter Hooton, lead singer of The Farm, tells a story of going to Paris for the 1981 European Cup Final, in which Liverpool beat Real Madrid. Tourism took a back seat to finding a rumored “Adidas Centre.”

  5. Most of my history of PSG supporters comes from three sources: a 2007 “dossier” on the Kop of Boulogne published by SO FOOT (reprint) and two scholarly articles about hooliganism in France, “Une autre exception française : un football sans hooligans ?” by Patrick Mignon and “Hooliganisme, ultras et ambigüités en France” by Nicolas Hourcade. My history here is intentionally breezy: the goal is to sketch out how PSG reached the events of 2010 so that it is interesting and illuminating.

  6. I had hoped for a more whimsical history to the name of the stadium. France, after all, did not hesitate to put the Little Prince on the 50-franc note. Alas, the princes the stadium is named for are literally pre-Republican princes who used to hunt in the area.

  7. The first season of the French top division, 1932–1933, had four teams from metropolitan Paris. But by the 1960s, the only way to get big-time soccer in the capital would be by merging a virtual Parisian side with a side already in the top flight. The 1970 merger between Paris FC, which was a team that only existed theoretically, and their second-division neighbors two turns of the Seine to the west, in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, offered a breakthrough. Backed by Parisian money, the team won promotion in its first season but then split into two teams, Paris FC (again!) and PSG. Paris FC merged with AC Montreuil and remained in the top flight, while PSG was demoted to the third division. Still filled with talent, PSG fought its way back up through the divisions by 1974 and has never looked back. Paris FC, on the other hand, was relegated the same year. A season ticket to third-division Paris FC starts at €50. It tops out at €150. PSG season tickets for 2011–2012 start at €230 and top out at €2140.

  8. On May 25, 1985, Liverpool met Juventus in the Heysel Stadium in Brussels for the European Cup Final. Liverpool fans rushed the Juventus supporters, and 39 Juventus fans died. As indicated in the punishment for the disaster—banning all English teams from all European competitions indefinitely—the simple explanation is that the Liverpool fans were out of control psychopaths. Even the UK government reacted this one-sidedly, with the Prime Minister calling, as the first order of business in the aftermath, for legislation that “makes it an offence to be drunk or to possess alcohol on football coaches, on entry to grounds and in most areas of grounds.” This scapegoating ignores that Heysel was falling apart, that the tickets were misallocated, that the police were not prepared, and so on. After all, it’s easier to just say a person or group was “insane,” “the embodiment of evil,” or “a few bad apples.” If a manichean approach to outliers and limit cases is your speed in social histories, you’re reading the wrong article.

  9. Similar to Rupert Murdoch’s Sky, Canal+ (or “Canal Plus”) is a cable company that features a family of premium channels with original and imported dramatic and sports programming. Watching sports in France without a subscription to it gets pretty tricky, and like motels in the US advertise HBO, two-star hotels in Paris will have the Canal+ logo in their window. Finally, the final consonant in “Plus” is pronounced, meaning that the channel’s name rhymes with the 1984 movie in which Kevin Bacon is legally forbidden from dancing until, against the backdrop of the crumbling American farm, he teaches Chris Penn to do so to the beat of “Let’s Hear It for the Boy.”

  10. In France, it is illegal for the state to collect data or make lists based on race or ethnicity. Anyone who recalls the opening of Inglourious Basterds can guess why this is not a terrible idea. And so while the system is under attack and may soon change, like a reporter covering the RNC, I still have to rely on indirect evidence when asserting the diversity of the crowd at Parc des Princes. I might as well say, “trust me.” So, well, trust me.

  11. Mignon points out that Boulogne was “white” because of the “ideological commitments of some [certains] of its occupants.” A handful of racist bullies set the tone for a quarter of the stadium.

  12. The whole pick-a-team exercise unsurprisingly lands on “Barca”[sic], which “elegantly fills this vacuum” of being a team for the snooty set by having “self-consciously announced its sophistication” over the course of its history. Of course, when Foer decides to release a new edition of the book, he should have a chat with Real Madrid’s Marcelo about Barça’s reputation regarding racism.

  13. This is too easy, but it bears noting: Foer sets his petard for later hoisting by asserting, a mere five pages into his book, that “In the end, [he] found it hard to be too hostile toward globalization.” This makes him, and those who share his ideology, incapable of considering what has happened to Parc des Princes in the past few years a Bad Thing.

  14. The following stories are neither representative nor isolated. That is, they are three of the highest peaks on a wave of racial violence and intolerance that has characterized elements of the PSG fanbase for decades. In fact, when discussing this article with a fan who used to sit in the Virage Auteuil, still carrying scars from getting rushed by kobistes, he wondered why I did not also include the 2001 fighting between visiting Galatasaray supporters from Turkey and PSG supporters, which caused the match to be temporarily suspended. Hopefully my examples will suffice, but this Wikipedia page also has near year-by-year reports on violence for those with extra-prurient interests.

  15. “Of Antillean origin” is among the legalistic French euphemisms for “racial minority.”

  16. The angle is important because ballistic tests found that the gun was actually fired horizontally, corroborating the story about Granomort’s firing his weapon while standing as an aggressive, not defensive, move. Nonetheless, the case against Granomort was dismissed and appeals were not granted.

  17. Further fueling the ire of the supporters, on June 2007, Granomort was dismissed from his post for fraud, having invented a story about a ransom in order to use his stepfather’s ATM card.

  18. Broussard, don’t forget, in supporting Granomort’s version of events, still notes that it was a dozen minutes before even a second officer arrived to back up the attacked policeman.

  19. The second part of the sign is the title of the top grossing French movie of all time, Danny Boon’s winning comedy about a post office manager transferred from his comfortable life in Provence to the frightening, unknown north, where the locals, the Ch’tis, speak an incoherent dialect called “Ch’ti.” The movie was released a few months before the match, and in one scene, the manager’s subordinates take him to see RC Lens, where they sing the miner’s anthem “Les Corons.” In English, the movie is available as Welcome to the Sticks, which is how the offensive banner is often translated.

  20. A year ago, five men were found guilty of “provoking hatred or violence during a sporting event” and had various fines and suspended sentences awarded in penalties. They all earned stadium bans of at least three years.

  21. Scuffles between the virages had been largely limited to awaydays, and the Kop of Boulogne groups first targeted Tigris Mystic, which dissolved in 2006 in consequence of the attacks. The violence reemerged in this fateful season after a kobiste unfurled a flag with a Celtic Cross among Auteuil supporters during a trip to Bordeaux, and this time the kobiste ire was trained on the Supras Auteuil, who responded in kind.

  22. “Yann” is the Breton form of “John” and is, hence, rather common in France. “Yannig,” then, is analogous to “Johnny” and often Frenchified to “Yannick.”

  23. This outrageous quote from the unnamed “expert” was righteously attacked separately in contemporary blog posts by SO FOOT’s Paul Lurcenet and Action Antifasciste Paris. Both posts assert the falsity of the original, reported story of Yann L.’s attack while leaving a bar and insist, instead, that he was at the head of a group of kobistes terrorizing members of Auteuil.

  24. Five men were immediately detained, representing three of the supporter organizations which would subsequently get dissolved by the state, but only one, Jérémie B, a forklift driver and part of the Auteuil-friendly tribune group Authentiks, was not immediately released. A year later, the investigation had stalled, and I have been unable to find any new developments as we approach the second anniversary of Lorence’s death.

  25. Hortefeux additionally dissolved a supporter association of OGC Nice and one of l’Olympique lyonnais. This brings the total up to 9, if we include 2006’s victims, the Boulogne Boys and FC Metz’s Faction Metz. All of the associations were dissolved because of violence.

  26. Kärcher was not exactly excited about the free publicity, and sent, as the New York Times reports, letters to all 12 French presidential candidates in 2007 asking them not to use the brand name when discussing what should be done in the French suburbs.

  27. In December 2009, during the farcical debate on “National Identity” used by Sarkozy’s party to shore up right-wing support in advance of the regional elections, Secretary of State for Families and Solidarity Nadine Morano said at a town meeting that what she yearned to see of a young French Muslim was that “he love his country, he find a job, he not speak ‘verlan,’ and he not wear his baseball cap backwards.” Verlan, like the aforementioned cap, is a reversing, but this time an argot of reversed syllables.

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