Soccer

Paris Saint-Germain celebrations marred by violence

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The Canadian Press
5/14/2013 9:21:45 AM
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PARIS -- A ceremony at City Hall on Wednesday to celebrate Paris Saint-Germain's league title was cancelled after rioting marred festivities in the centre of the French capital, and France's Interior Minister responded to the public outcry by calling a top-level meeting to discuss what went wrong.

PSG players had been scheduled to raise the championship trophy aloft from City Hall's balcony on Wednesday evening, but those plans were scrapped Tuesday, the Paris mayor's office said.

"The day after the riots that sabotaged this great celebration of PSG's coronation, damaged Paris and deeply hurt Parisians, I would like to express my disgust and anger with regards to the surge of violence that several hundred thugs were responsible for," Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe said. "I ask the Interior Minister to step up the fight against this time type of phenomenon outside of the Parc des Princes stadium. Thugs won't have the last word in Paris."

Interior Minsiter Manuel Valls responded by summoning representatives from PSG, the French football league, the police department, the mayor's office, and anti-hooliganism officials for a meeting later Tuesday.

"I obviously assume my part of responsibility in this fiasco," French league president Frederic Thiriez said in a statement, referring to the fact that the LFP had given the go-ahead for the presentation to be held at the landmark Trocadero plaza, rather than at the far more secure Parc des Princes stadium this coming Saturday against Brest.

"The party was ruined and could have had dramatic consequences because of a bunch of thugs ... who have nothing to do with football but take advantage of it to take part in criminal activities," Thiriez added. "Paris didn't deserve this."

PSG's moonlit boat-trip along the Seine river on Monday night had also been cancelled -- but that was the least of the club's worries.

The celebrations Monday to honour PSG's first title in 19 years were cut short amid violent scenes that started at the Trocadero, near the Eiffel Tower, as fans fought with riot police. More than 30 people were injured -- including three police officers -- and 21 were arrested.

The rioting dealt a serious blow to the club's bid to restore its image following years of fan violence plagued the club.

PSG has not commented beyond a statement released late Monday night which said "today should have been a day of celebration for the city of Paris," but that "the party was spoiled by a few hundred troublemakers who have nothing to do with football."

A total of 800 officers were deployed to contain the supporters, and they took several hours to bring a situation under control that included the smashing of store and car windows near the Champs Elysees.

"All public demonstrations in public spaces surrounding Paris Saint-Germain are clearly not possible anytime soon," Valls said earlier Tuesday on Europe 1 radio. "Football is still sick. That's the case for Paris Saint-Germain and for other clubs."

Valls could find himself under pressure, as this is not the first time police authorities have been caught out this season.

Prior to PSG's Champions League home match against Dinamo Zagreb in November, about 100 hooligans from PSG and Dinamo clashed in the highly populated Bastille area the night before the game -- even though there was already a decree in place banning the opposition fans from attending the game. That led to 28 arrests.

Media reactions to the violence implicated former PSG fan groups in the violence.

But in a collective statement on Tuesday, these groups, known as Ultras, said they are angry at being associated with the violence because, even though some of them were present at the Trocadero they were not involved in the violence and had even tried to calm it down by making pleas over loud speakers.

Under former president Robin Leproux, PSG disbanded all known fan groups and radically changed ticketing policy following the death of a PSG supporter after vicious infighting between fans outside the Parc des Princes stadium in February, 2010. That followed the hooligan-related death of another PSG fan in November 2006 following skirmishes after a UEFA Cup match.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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