French Minister of Sport Roselyne Bachelot declared Wednesday that all French football games were hereafter to be stopped in the event of audience jeering the national anthem, as occurred at Tuesday's France-Tunisia football match.
France’s Sports Minister, Roselyne Bachelot, announced the decision to suspend all football games where the French national anthem is booed by supporters, after insistent jeers were heard during Tuesday’s friendly win over Tunisia in the landmark Stade de France in Paris.
“Every game during which our national anthem, the Marseillaise, is booed or jeered at will be immediately suspended, and members of the government will leave the stadium,” declared Bachelot, adding that France will also suspend future friendly games with the home countries of the insulting supporters.
The announcement came after an unscheduled meeting between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and French Football Federation president Jean-Pierre Escalettes, hastily summoned after the game. Bachelot and the Ministerial Secretary for sports and former rubgy trainer Bernard Laporte were also present. “President Sarkozy wanted to underline his indignation following these scandalous incidents,” said Bachelot.
Escalettes acknowledged the decision, but underlined the “security risk” posed by cancelling a game with tens of thousands of spectators. “We can’t just send 50,000 angry spectators to the street without providing the necessary security precautions. The government has guaranteed it will take responsibility for the decision,” he stressed.
Penal sanctions for supporters
In addition to the announced suspensions, French Interior Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie called for harsher sanctions against the offenders. She has asked the Prefect of Seine Saint Denis, who oversees the Stade de France jurisdiction, to officially report the authors of insults against the national anthem to the regional prosecutor, adding that “the investigation can use the videos filmed during the game by the surveillance cameras” installed for that purpose under her ministry. Insulting the national anthem is considered a criminal offence in France.
Earlier, on Tuesday, Laporte had suggested on radio RMC that “France should stop handing out the stick used to beat it, therefore stop scheduling games at the Stade de France with countries whose citizens insult France.” His appeal was widely criticised, though, including by people from his own party.
“I don’t agree with my colleague’s suggestion to re-locate games against certain nations in smaller towns and stadiums. Although it probably stemmed from a good intention, I believe it would be a mistake,” said Fadela Amara, ministerial secretary for urban affairs, herself the daughter of Algerian immigrants. She agrees with Alliot Marie’s initiative to identify the offenders and sanction them. “These youths must understand that you just can’t do that in France, that their attitude will not be tolerated.”
Immigrant unrest ?
Many of Tuesday’s 60,000 crowd were French citizens of Tunisian descent. Friendlies against North African sides traditionally attract widespread support from sizeable immigrant communities in and around the French capital.
Some booed when the names of the French players were read out over the PA system before kickoff, reaching a crescendo for Hatem Ben Arfa, born in France to Tunisian parents and who opted to play for the country of his birth despite overtures from the Tunisian Federation.
The whistling which had accompanied the playing of the French national anthem before kickoff was reminiscent of that which also occurred prior to friendlies with Algeria in 2001 and Morocco in November last year. In 2002, former President Jacques Chirac momentarily left the Stade de France’s presidential box when the Marseillaise was booed by Corsicans in a Lorient-Bastia game. This history has prompted some to claim that the measures announced by the government amount to hot air.
“Just calling their attitude scandalous won’t fix anything,” believes Marie-George Buffet, leader of the French communist party, adding that she prefers to focus on what she sees as “the cry of people who are suffering, who don’t feel at home in France.”
Date created : 2008-10-15