THE HORRORS AT THIS YEAR’S CHAMPIONS’ LEAGUE FINAL.
Paris' ability to host a large sporting event in doubt.
The Stade de France hosted the biggest European final this year. Located in Seine-Saint-Denis, a neighborhood which has been adjudged as the poorest part of Mainland France and is notorious as a haven for gangs, with other deep-seated vices like hooliganism, banditry and radicalization.
Earlier before the match last Saturday, a notice that there would be an extension of the kick-off time by 37 minutes was displayed on the screens at the stadium, a decision which UEFA claimed was informed by the late arrival of fans.
However, the situation outside the grounds faulted UEFA’s position; There were reports that on Sunday morning, the local police had made 68 arrests around the stadium and this was further corroborated by widespread evidence of human rights violation and brutality online.
According to formal police reports, it was suggested that as many as 40,000 attempts were made to enter the stadium with fake tickets or no tickets. This eventually led to a huge build-up of fans outside the stadium as early as 3 hours before the match. However, the official reports ignored the ugly situation where as early as 2 hours before the match, stewards have stopped checking tickets in some sections of the ground, as security collapsed around the Stade de France.
The Paris 2022 UCL final was marred by gross incompetence of local authorities and negligence on the part of the security agents, and this has called to question the ability of French authorities to successfully manage large sporting events. The disorganization outside the stadium was so palpable that thousands of fans were kept outside waiting for between two to three hours just trying to access the venue. But this was not the only predicament fans were subjected to; reliable sources affirmed that criminal gangs roamed the vicinity of the stadium freely, inflicting injuries and unleashing terror on fans.
There were also reports that indited the Paris authorities of double standard. The arrangements made for the fans to get through to the stadium’s estate was reportedly done in a way that gave preference to Madrid fans. The Real Madrid’s fanzone was in Parc de la Legion d’Honneur, 1.5km away from the Stade de France. Supporters of the club arriving from the centre of Paris were asked to use line 13 of Paris’ Metro, alighting at Porte de Paris to the north of the arena. This arrangement, according to ‘The Athletic’, gave the Madrid fans a stressless access to the stadium.
However, the story was a lot different for the Liverpudlians. The location of the Liverpool fans zone was in Cours de Vincennes, to the east of the city centre. Signs outside the stadium suggested that it would take Liverpool fans about 17 minutes to walk there from the Stade de France metro stop on line B. And that’s just an estimated time-frame, for many others, it could take as long as 2 hours, given the large crowd thronging the zone. (about 20,000).
The geography of the Stade de France also did not help matters. The stadium is actually situated on an Island. The north and the east flanks are occupied by the water of a canal and at the south and west flanks is a dual carriageway with adjoining slip roads. Liverpool fans were reportedly left with no other options than to trudge along the very narrow 100m underpass. The way the police also parked their vans on either sides of the underpass reduced the already tight space. This eventually resulted into a long queue which was about 200m long.
It was also reported that the police initially did not assist the stewards in the validation of tickets. A scanning machine that was supposed to validate supporters with e-tickets was also unavailable. There were also reports that gangs of locals roamed freely within the queues and some fans got pickpocketed. Up till the kick-off time, thousands of fans were stranded outside the arena, those that eventually got access did so almost around halftime.
The situation worsened after the final whistle because a wide exit gate was closed and this forced thousands of fans to use a small entry gate, leading to another crush just as it had happened before the match. The narrow passageways through which fans struggled to navigate before the match were now badly lit, this gave the gangs that were already waiting there the freehand to pick off from the helpless fans. The police were reportedly indifferent to the situation, as they left the fans to suffer in the hands of the gangs.
At the Porte de Paris station, Real Madrid fans were reportedly attacked and that was when the police decided to finally intervene by talking with those in support of Liverpool. Despite some of the fans being obviously injured, the police were said to have shouted, “Bye, Bye. Nice to meet you”.
The global football community is asking a lot of questions; like why will the Gendarmerie (French national police force) decide to use the space in the underpass as parking lot for their vans? Why did they decide to use tear gas and pepper spray even on children? Why were they uninterested when fans were assaulted by the gang of locals? This botched champions league final has actually soiled the white linen of both Paris authorities and UEFA, they surely have plenty explanations and apologies to make and should not think of shushing up the whole matter.
Meanwhile, UEFA has launched an independent investigation into the matter, while the France’s interior minister has blamed it on ‘multiple ticket fraud’. UEFA has also reportedly hinted on compensating the 2,700 fans with valid tickets who were unable to watch the Champions League final.