Monday, May 13, 2013
PSG's title celebrations marred by fan violence
PARIS -- The celebration to honor Paris Saint-Germain's first French league title in 19 years was cut short Monday following fights between fans and riot police in which 30 people were injured.
Paris police commissioner Bernard Boucault said three police officers were among the injured from the clashes, a huge embarrassment to a club that has been trying to restore its image following years of fan violence. Police made 21 arrests.
A total of 800 officers were deployed to contain the fans, Boucault said, but it took several hours to bring the situation under control after store and car windows were smashed near the Champs Elysees.
"The conclusion you can draw is that there won't be more any more events like this in a public place for Paris Saint-Germain," Boucault said.
The website of sports daily L'Equipe mirrored the despondent mood, with a headline reading "Quand La Fete Tourne Au Fiasco" (When The Celebration Turns to Fiasco).
"Today should have been a day of celebration for the city of Paris," PSG said in a statement late Monday. "The party was spoiled by a few hundred troublemakers who have nothing to do with football."
Tens of thousands of fans waited patiently for the players, who arrived more than an hour late at the landmark Trocadero plaza. Dressed smartly in dark suits, the players -- David Beckham among them -- drew loud cheers from the fans. Some in the crowd stood on rooftops, lighted flares and climbed scaffolding.
But there was not even time for a speech from coach Carlo Ancelotti or captain Thiago Silva, who held the trophy aloft with defensive partner Mamadou Sakho. After only a few minutes, the players were led away by security officials.
Small groups of riot police started to move forward, with the mood turning more menacing. Fans threw stones and other objects at the police, who replied by firing tear gas canisters.
"There were fireworks, flares and a bit of (tear) gas flying about," PSG defender Zoumana Camara said. "But you can understand that a bit because they (the fans) have been waiting for so long."
This was PSG's third league title and first since 1994. The violence comes three years after a PSG fan was killed in fighting outside Parc des Princes stadium -- the second hooligan-related death at the club since 2006.
PSG had serious problems with hooliganism from 1985 to 2010. The club then took measures to combat the problem and radically changed its ticketing policy.
Former PSG player Ali Bernabia, who played for PSG from 1999-2001, questioned the location of the ceremony, saying it was an open invitation for fans to converge and making it difficult for police to control crowds.
"You can't expect everything to suddenly change and to host a trophy presentation at the Trocadero," Bernabia said on BFM television.
PSG also chose the Trocadero to present the signing of Zlatan Ibrahimovic last August, an event that brought some fighting among fans that day.
Sporting director Leonardo did not attend the ceremony after being hospitalized overnight, reportedly for a stress-related ailment. He was released Monday afternoon.
Leonardo argued with Ibrahimovic after Sunday's match, with television images showing the club's top scorer shouting at the sporting director in the locker room after the game.
The 1-0 win at Lyon on Sunday night clinched the championship for PSG with two rounds remaining.