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“The sanctions were never exemplary and we have passed the point of no return. There will come a time when the Professional Football League must intervene with a punch on the table, because it is never too late to address problems.” Pablo Correa, the foreign coach with the most matches in Ligue 1 history, still lives in Nancy, in the heart of the Lorraine region, from where he attends EL MUNDO. There is a certain perplexity in his tone. Only a few hours have passed since the LFP Disciplinary Committee punished Olympique Lyonnais “preventively” with a game behind closed doors after last Saturday’s incidents against Olympique Marseille. And even less since the 32-year-old ultra who threw a bottle at Dimitri payet was sentenced to six months in prison and five years without being able to enter the Groupama Stadium in Lyon. However, Correa still hasn’t come out of his stupor. At the age of 54, with more than 600 games of experience in the two highest categories of French football, the Uruguayan considers that the “lack of courage of the LFP, its lack of attention, its determination to underline that these are always sporadic cases “are the factors that have brought us here. “We must not forget that the LFP is led by the team presidents themselves. There are many interests at stake,” he adds.
On Tuesday, shortly after the fan’s conviction was known, those presidents referred to by Correa met in Paris with the Minister of the Interior, Grald Darmanin and the Minister of Sports, Roxana Maracineanu. It was the ninth summit in a country that, since 2016, boasts a law that regulates the relationship between high-ranking authorities and fans. An ambitious text, although insufficient to eradicate, once and for all, the stigma of violence. The sociologist Patrick Mignon, a professor at the Paris School of Higher Studies in Social Sciences (EHESS), has been addressing the origins of this scourge for decades. “There is a mixture of social and political reasons, to which must be added the peculiarities of our sports organizations. Among the most important causes are the crisis of trust towards institutions and elites, the loss of influence of political parties and socioeconomic uncertainty “, comments to this newspaper the author of La violence dans les stades: supporters, ultras et hooligans (INSEP, 1995).
“The current situation is the result of the inability to really address the problem and to define the responsibilities of the State and the LFP. We have suffered a worsening of tensions, without being able to implement a long-range policy,” adds Mignon. According to the official figures of the Federation (FFF), published annually by the National Observatory of Crime and Criminal Responses (ONDRP), the level of violence in French amateur football is similar to that of other neighboring countries. However, the data regarding professionalism is shrouded in haze. “It is very difficult to obtain something precise, because the LFP prepares studies, but does not make them public. Since 2009, the Ministry of the Interior has a specific police division for the fight against ultraviolence and produces annual reports, although it is also almost impossible. access them “, points Ludovic lestrelin, Doctor in Sports Sciences and researcher at the University of Caen.
The silence of the LFP
This newspaper has tried to contrast the version of the LFP and that of its president, Vincent Labrune. However, the agency reiterates its intention not to give any data to light and warns that after its recent interview with L’Equipe, Labrune will not appear again before the media. This stealthy caution contrasts, each week, with the noisy din of the stadiums. Already in January, the Commando Ultra 84 broke into the sports city of Marseille with firecrackers and flares, causing minor injuries to its defense lvaro Gonzalez. It was only the prologue, because after more than 15 months of pandemic and closed-door games, the return to the stands would be as catastrophic as expected. At the beginning of August, the radicals of Montpellier caused the momentary suspension of the duel against Marseille after throwing a bottle that hit him in the mouth of Valentin rongier. A month later, the Derby du Nord between Lens and Lille he had to be detained for an hour for altercations in the stands.
Paradoxically, since March 12, the Instance Nationale du Supportrisme, the group where the Ministries of the Interior and Sports, the FFF, the LFP, a group of sociologists and amateur groups work together, not even has returned to sit at the same table. “It is urgent that they meet again to see how this wave of violence can be contained. It is a shame that we ruined the work of several years to return to mere repression,” he reveals. Adrien Verrecchia, one of the authors of Ultra, mode de vie (La Grinta, 2017), initial journey of 530 pages starting at the Velodrome Marseille, the cradle of the ultra movement, and finishing in Paris, with the remembered expulsion of Virage Auteuil and Kop de Boulogne, the two historic rival factions of PSG.
The debate of ideas in favor of economic interests has been banished.
That negotiation led by the Royal Family of Qatar led to the return of the ultras to the Park of the Princes. Today, a decade later, both continue to show their muscle through the suffocating smoke of their flares. In light of these facts, it is necessary to address the thorniest of questions: Should a dialogue with the violent ones be given a letter of nature?
“Of course the fan lives and suffers for the club, but I do not see with good eyes negotiating in the middle of the game, with 40,000 people in the stands. It is a phenomenon that comes from afar: giving the fans an importance that does not belong to them”, Apostille Correa, who during his two spells in Nancy (2002-2011 and 2013-2017) had to deal with the famous Saturday FC, installed in the Piantoni Grandstand at Stade Marcel Picot. “For me, that speech of ‘I get a ticket and I have the right to everything’ is not worth it. In a democratic society and increasingly open there are rights and duties. I do not want to stay with those people who think they only have rights,” ends the Uruguayan.
Verrecchia, on the other hand, is firmly in favor of the negotiated route. “At the head of the ultras there are not only disturbed people, but people with whom you can debate. The problem is that the dialogue is totally broken in some clubs. Of course, repressive measures are necessary, but some are completely useless, such as the parties behind closed doors “, adds the author of Ultra, mode de vie, where they also participated Bastien Poupat and Benoit taix, reviewing other simpler solutions, a priori. “Last August, in Nice, it would have been enough for the stadium bars to sell the bottles of water without caps. Now they will reinforce the fences there to prevent the invasion of the lawn. In France we have modern stadiums and we are already able to identify by means of cameras to those responsible. That is why I do not understand why we penalize entire stadiums for the behavior of a few “, concludes Verrecchia.
At this crossroads, in the midst of a spiral of violence that links it to Serbia, Russia or Poland, where the ultras are campaigning for their respect, France has to choose a path. “The pandemic exacerbated a perverse process: to banish the debate of ideas and the work of the fans in favor of the economic interests of the LFP,” says Mignon. After more than three decades of research, the author of The passion du football (Odile Jacob, 1998) maintains an idea for which he does not admit reply: “Even today, the French State is still in charge of football, so it must take the initiative”.
French society has always tended to diverge, although in recent years everything has deteriorated.
In his opinion, Republican political and social elites have always been “suspicious” of professional sports because of their propensity to betray “the values of fair play.” “Now we have to rethink the model: the clubs have to prevent violence by acting in their local environment, without forgetting the economic model, which should be oriented towards greater realism”, Mignon completes. “We have not been able to assume the increase, even if it was modest compared to England or Spain, in the popularity of this sport and its economic changes. Football seemed in a happy environment when it was reduced to small cities, with their players and sponsors. local, but it became much more difficult to administer since the 1970s, when it became popular in large cities, in a context of social unrest “, emphasizes the acclaimed sociologist.
Half a century later, the unrest Mignon speaks of seems to have been channeled into the yellow vest movement or the most recent demonstrations against the covid passport. “French society always tended towards divergence, although in recent years everything has deteriorated and there is no protest that ends peacefully. If violence is not exercised, it seems that there is no show of force. Football, unfortunately, it does nothing but copy this phenomenon in some way, “says Correa, a resident of the country since 1995.
The climate of polarization is exacerbated, as in the rest of the Western world, due to the advance of the extreme right. While Eric Zemmour and Marine Le Pen unapologetically challenge the model of Emmanuel macron, some groups amplify their hateful messages from the backdrops of the stadiums. In March 2018, UEFA accused the Lyon ultras of displaying Nazi symbols in the stands and assaulting a black man. And last year, the government identified the leaders of Ultras Populaire Sud, Nice’s most radical group, as part of Gnration Identitaire, a paramilitary militia that had lynched immigrants near the border with Italy.
Bad Gones and Ultra Sur
“Bad Gones maintain close ties with Ultra Sur and Lyon 1950, with Anderlecht’s Mauves Army”, clarifies Verrecchia, referring to the two peas furthest to the right of Lyon. “Of course this is one of the reasons for his rivalry with the far-left Commando Ultra 84, but be careful with mixing issues. I don’t think Payet was attacked because of the color of his skin. In fact, the racist motive did not stand up. in the trial against the author of the bottle. Without wanting to relativize or minimize, the Lyon Nazis do not have the strength of other teams in Eastern Europe. They are simply a reflection of the rise of the extreme right in our society, “says Verrecchia.
The coda to this worrying rise of the extreme right bears the signature of Mignon. “Of course, ultra-nationalist thinking has permeated many fans, not just the ultras. And many will vote in their favor in the spring presidential elections. The difference is that the ultras make more noise. And that clear partition that we see between ideologies, for example in the Park of the Princes, to be a risk in the future “.
Reference from elmundo