We’ve been in love with her for ages. Soccer, or ‘Foota’ as she is known in my part of the hills. Throughout the world, it’s called the Beautiful game.
But not so any longer it seems. Soccer fan violence raises its ugly head time and again, in all those places which love football, it seems.
This week, we’ve seen terrible stuff going on in France. Yesterday, Sunday, in the latest episode of fan violence in French soccer, supporters of Saint-Etienne stormed the field Sunday and attacked players with flares. They were reacting to the fact that the once-mighty club lost to Auxerre and hence could not make it to Ligue 1.
It had been a great match. Saint-Etienne was hosting Auxerre at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard in the second leg of a relegation/promotion playoff. A nail-biting 2-2 draw that went to penalty kicks. Auxerre goalkeeper Donovan Léon made a save on Ryad Boudebouz, Birama Touré converted a penalty to win the shootout, 5-4, for Auxerre and moved that club into Ligue 1.
Touré and his teammates had barely begun to celebrate when a large number of Saint-Etienne fans ran onto the pitch. Saint-Etienne players hurried to the locker room tunnel, but some appeared to be injured before they could make it to safety. Police reportedly used tear gas to push fans off the field.
Sunday marked the end of a French season that has been plagued by violence. Saint-Etienne was ordered to play its final regular season game behind closed doors after a loss to Monaco was interrupted by flares and other unruliness from the stands at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard. For similar reasons, Saint-Etienne had to host Clermont in November in front of empty seats.
The French League isn’t the only tournament riddled which incidents of fan violence. Earlier this month, fans of host Marseille and Dutch side Feyenoord had a brawl that required police intervention ahead of a Europa Conference League semifinal.
Before the Saint-Etienne and Auxerre match on Sunday, UEFA said it would review security measures in the wake of a chaotic scene Saturday at the Paris-area Stade de France, where Real Madrid topped Liverpool in the Champions League final.
French officials blamed the pregame skirmishes, which were met by police with tear gas, on Liverpool supporters who had traveled from England only to discover they were holding counterfeit tickets.
Sad, isn’t it? The beautiful game is being marred by ugly supporters!