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'Treated as criminals': Some football fans in France want freedom

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Press Trust of India Paris
Paris shivered in the cold but a big group of bare-chested fans, holding a banner that read 'Treated as Criminals' and singing gruffly, dancing barely and hooting, didn't.
The fans, "emblematic" of a peculiar problem facing French football, want freedom, freedom to watch a game at peace, far away from the suspicious gaze of authorities and their heavily-armed forces.
They want the liberty to enter stadiums with crackers, and burst them too, at will, despite an official ban on it. They also want to move across stadiums in cities all over France without worrying about detention.
The temperature hovered around 3-4 degrees celsius and as they brandished the Paris Saint-Germain flag, they may have said something about repression of football fans in France.
Onlookers said they were typically them during a Women's Champions League round-of-16 game between Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea on Thursday.
While the relentless backing did raise hopes of a rejuvenated PSG overturning a two-goal deficit from the first leg, the crowds that occupied one of the Jean Bouin Stadium, did everything they are not supposed to.
"Now that they lit firecrackers during the game, which is not allowed, the club, PSG, will have to pay the penalty, a fine," an official involved with French football league said.
But they don't care.
At least as a far as matches involving PSG are concerned, things weren't like this in the past.
But a lot changed nearly a decade ago when, during a home game of France's most renowned team, violence broke out in the stands between two support groups of the same club, leading to death of one fan.
That incident led to the formulation of 'Leproux Plan', named after the club's then president Robin Leproux, under which those fans were banned from entering the stadiums for PSG's home matches.
The dust settled over time, and the ban was lifted a few years ago, much before the completion of 10 years.
"The ban has been removed but they are not supposed to burst crackers as per rule."

"For long they are being seen as trouble-makers. The other day, in the first leg game in London, none of these guys were allowed to enter the stadium as they were drunk and not in a position to watch the match," an official said.
But they don't care.
Leproux is the man who came up with the plan to pacify and restore image of the PSG.
"That was the only way then, but that perception of these fans has lived on and the police are on guard now all the time."

"Moreover a lot of French love to get involved in protests even without reason. They want to move freely across cities and stadiums all over France. They are not quite able to at the moment," the official quipped.
One of the few selected fan groups allowed entry across stadiums is known as CUP (Collectif Ultras Paris), seen here as the only group tolerated by PSG's president, Nasser Al-Kheleifi.
They are the PSG Ultras. But why only they are allowed entry? Apparently because they have promised to never criticise the club's Qatari owners.
"Nor to question the Gulf state's political decisions, it goes beyond football," a loyal fan said.
Meanwhile, Chelsea Feminines rallied to beat their PSG counterparts 3-2 on aggregate, and advanced to the semifinals of the Women's World Champions League semifinals.
Maren Mjelde scored a dramatic injury-time goal at Paris Saint-Germain to send Chelsea into the last four.
The game looked set for extra time until Mjelde latched on to Karen Carney's cross to seal a 3-2 aggregate win.

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First Published: Mar 28 2019 | 1:40 PM IST

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