French football fans assailed over 'hateful' banner
French police were trying to track down a group of Paris football fans who sparked outrage when they unfurled a banner during a match calling the visiting team "paedophiles" and "inbreds".
PARIS, March 31, 2008 - French police on Monday were trying to track
down a group of Paris football fans who sparked outrage when they unfurled a
banner during a match calling the visiting team "paedophiles" and "inbreds".
President Nicolas Sarkozy, who was attending the match when the 25-metre
banner was unfolded in the stands, condemned what he termed "inadmissible
behaviour" by football fans.
Police opened a criminal investigation following the incident Saturday
during the second half of the match between Paris St. Germain and Lens from
the industrial northeast at the Stade de France.
"Paedophiles, unemployed, inbreds: Welcome to the home of the Ch'tis
(nickname of people from northeast France)," the banner read.
On the orders of Sarkozy, who was in the stands with his son Louis, the
banner was quickly removed by security forces but not before the damage was
The president was "a dismayed witness to the unfurling of a hateful
banner," said a statement from the Elysee palace, adding that he had
immediately asked the president of the French football league to have it taken
Sarkozy invited Lens Mayor Guy Delcourt and leaders of the football club to
the Elysee on Tuesday to discuss the incident.
Police were viewing video footage from the match to try to identify the
fans who apparently smuggled pieces of the cloth banner into the stadium by
hiding them under their clothes.
"Pieces of the banner have been found and officers from the technical and
scientific police are examining them to see if any DNA traces can be found,"
said interior ministry spokesman Gerard Gachet.
Players, officials and politicians have roundly condemned the action with
Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe saying it had "spoiled what should have been a
celebration of football."
Both clubs have filed legal complaints as has the French Football League
authorities and the police inquiry could lead to charges of inciting hatred
The offending banner was a play on the recent box-office hit "Bienvenue
chez les Ch'tis" ("Welcome to the Land of the Ch'tis) which portrays
northerners as warm, big-hearted people in contrast to the usual image of
unemployed, suicidal and alcoholic folks prone to violence.
"I firmly condemn this isolated act which insults not only the inhabitants
of the north but also the values that are integral to Paris and its football
club," said Delanoe, the Paris mayor.
"I want to see the imbeciles responsible for this act brought to justice
Popular comedian Dany Boon, who directed and starred in the hit film also
expressed his revulsion over the incident.
"It's shameful, pathetic and I only hope that those responsible are hounded
out and punished," he said.
Paris St Germain have long had problems with some of its supporters
especially extremists among the "ultras" a loose association of around 10,000
They have been involved in numerous clashes with police and rival fans
especially concerning arch-rivals Marseille and often there have been
undertones of racism.
The club, which is currently mired in a desperate battle against relegation
from the first division, won the match against Lens 2-1 with an extra-time
penalty but now face heavy sanctions which could include fines, a docking of
league points or being ordered to play home games behind closed doors.
French members of parliament expressed outrage, with Socialist Christophe
Caresche demanding that a government commission take action to dismantle any football club found to have been involved in the banner incident.