French riot police in Paris

Robberies and fear after the Champions League final: Saint-Denis the proof of France’s failed integration policies

The incidents that took place on the day of the Champions League final in Paris, with dozens of organized groups mugging visitors to the match and generating fights, have put the French capital, host of the next Olympic Games, in the spotlight.

The sense of profound insecurity has brought the debate to the institutions and the testimonies of the thousands of Real Madrid and Liverpool fans affected leave no doubt of the hell that was experienced in the vicinity of the Stade de France in Saint Denis.

People falling to the ground, others running, others crying; knifings, fights, robberies… that’s all you could see. These were not fights between the fans of the different teams. Both fans were being attacked by organized gangs of 30/40 people each.

Thierry Henry said on English television. “Be careful, Saint-Denis is not Paris”. In France, the phrase did not go down well, but the facts have shown that the former French footballer’s warning, regarding the venue chosen for the Champions League final, made perfect sense.

After the final between Madrid and Liverpool last Saturday, all hell broke loose: “There were armies of robbers on the hunt for the fans.” The organizational disaster provoked a wave of robberies and aggressions against those who minutes before had enjoyed the match. For dozens of fans, the Champions League final in Saint-Denis will forever remind them of a horror movie.

Hours later, the French government set up an emergency cabinet with the organizers of the Champions League final to analyze and seek explanations for the organizational chaos. But it seems that the authorities are more concerned about what happened at the gates of the stadium than about the robberies suffered by the fans during the night.

The Île-de-France is known as the Parisian region and is located around its capital, Paris. It is huge: more than 12 million inhabitants. It is the most populated and densely populated French region. Part of it is the department of Seine-Saint Denis and within it is Saint-Denis, 9 kilometers north of the center of Paris. It is a residential locality, inhabited in great part by Muslim immigration coming from Africa.

The world knows Saint-Denis because it is home to France’s national stadium, the Stade de France, which was built to host the 1998 World Cup. It was chosen for the Champions League final after UEFA crossed out the name of St. Petersburg following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Liverpool and Real Madrid fans, like tourists visiting the Paris of the Eiffel Tower, did not really know what Saint-Denis is. It is a neighborhood inhabited mainly by immigrants, mostly from the former French colonies in Africa and Latin America.

The mayor of Saint-Denis, the socialist Mathieu Hanotin, is very clear. After Thierry Henry said “be careful, Saint-Denis is not Paris”, Hanotin responded on Twitter by agreeing with him, but reminding that the town has one of the highest poverty rates in France and that, consequently, insecurity is enormous.

And last but not least, a look into the future: in two years, Paris will host the Olympic Games, with Saint-Denis as the star venue (hosting the opening, closing and athletics events, among others).

-Thailand News (TN)


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