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French World Cup celebrations turn ugly

Celebrations in Paris after France's World Cup victory on Sunday turned ugly. While winning the event should have been good for the country's morale, the riots that followed suggested otherwise.

Published: July 16, 2018, 8:12 am

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    France’s World Cup triumph turned violent in the French capital as skirmishes broke out between fans and law enforcement, despite its football team being composed of mostly African players. France has no less 14 players with roots on the black continent. The squad include players originating from Algeria, Angola, Congo, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo.

    Black and Arab youths clashed with riot police around the Arc de Triomphe in Paris after France beat Croatia 4-2 in the World Cup final.

    Troublemakers from immigrant neighbourhoods flooded the festivities on the Champs-Elysees, breaking the window of a major store, throwing bottles and temporary barriers at riot police. BFM-TV reported that the store on the famous avenue was pillaged.

    Police tried to drive back the looters with water cannons and tear gas. Some 4000 police in riot gear had been deployed along the avenue, Associated Press reported.

    The violence echoed the remarks by French striker Antoine Griezmann, who told a news conference two days before the final, televised on BFM TV, that pride in country was lacking. “We say it so little… We should be proud to be French,” Griezmann said.

    Africans however, massively backed France in the World Cup tournament. As French scholar Grégory Pierrot pointed out, “the black players of France are also black players for the entire black world.”

    Gérard Araud, France’s ambassador to the United States, tweeted angrily in response to claims of France being “the most African team,” that “all these players are French born and are as French citizens as I am too so what? A problem with the colour of their skin? Why do you endorse the narrative of the far-right?”

    Reuters also reported that youths had clashed with police, damaging businesses and properties along the Champs Elysees. Celebrations in Lyon and Marseille were also marred by violence.

    Police clashed with about 100 youths who had climbed on top of a police vehicle at an open-air showing of the match in the city centre of Lyon. They fired tear gas to disperse the rioters who responded by throwing objects and setting rubbish bins on fire.

    In Marseille news crews filmed rioting migrant youths vandalising a bus and starting fires in the street. Similar violent incidents in other cities were noted in Grenoble, Rouen, Le Havre, Nice, Cannes, Strasbourg and Nantes as chaos took hold throughout France.

    1News Europe correspondent Joy Reid from New Zealand was covering the aftermath of the French World Cup win. Speaking from Paris, Reid said that she and her colleagues were recovering from being exposed to tear gas: “We realised police had only just cleared the area and only minutes before had sprayed the roads with tear gas. We ran the last 100 metres to our hotel with our eyes stinging and throats burning. We could barely see as our eyes were watering so much and it was difficult to keep them open.

    “We were returning to our hotel which was only 400 metres from where we had been broadcasting into Breakfast from a point above the Champs-Elysees.”

    Reid saw from a rooftop how the water canons were moved into place as “festivities” became increasingly “chaotic”.

    France’s soccer victory may not be enough to heal the growing cultural divide in the country. “There’s such a chasm between what — in general — the media and the large part of the political class, and what people are saying, what people feel,” Robert Ménard, mayor of Béziers in southern France, noted during a recent TV interview.

    “And I can see it in my town. What do they say? They say that immigration is unbearable. That they don’t want it any more. That they want to stop mass immigration,” he said. Voters feel “enough is enough, because it causes insecurity for everybody” he added.

    “If you walk around Porte de la Chapelle [Paris metro station], you can see the immigration, if you walk in Béziers, you can see the immigration, and it isn’t a discreet immigration. It’s an immigration, in fact, that’s intrusive and obtrusive.”

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