French officials unite to condemn soccer violence

None | ByAssociated Press, Paris
Nov 24, 2006 08:40 PM IST

Police said a plainclothes officer shot at the PSG fans, killing a 24-year-old man.

French officials were united on Friday in condemning the racially based violence that led to a shooting death after 100 Paris Saint-Germain fans had attacked a rival supporter for being Jewish.

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Police said a plainclothes officer shot at the PSG fans, killing a 24-year-old man and wounding a 26-year-old man, when he went to the aid of Hapoel Tel Aviv fan after a UEFA Cup match late on Thursday. "They were shouting 'filthy Jew' and when they saw our colleague, who comes from the Caribbean, they also yelled, 'filthy black, we're going to get you," said a police union official, Luc Poignant.

Police said the two men shot were both members of PSG's far-right fan base that has a notorious violent and racist history. Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said some of the PSG supporters had shouted "Death to the Jew" as they attacked the Hapoel fan. The officer first responded with tear gas, but was knocked to the ground by a blow to the head and kick to the stomach, Sarkozy said. He then drew his gun and opened fire.

"Two men fell to the ground, of which one died from his wounds, while the other suffered a lung injury," Sarkozy said. Paris prosecutor Jean-Claude Marin said the PSG supporters has also made Nazi salutes and shouted, "Le Pen, president," a reference to Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the extreme-right National Front party.

Police said the officer shot just once and that the two men may have been hit by the same bullet.

The Paris prosecutor's office and the National Police General Inspection unit, which probes incidents involving law enforcement officers, were investigating, police said.

Tougher punishments for hooligans have failed to solve the problem in France, despite repeated vows by Sarkozy and other politicians, while Britain has had considerable success in eradicating it.

Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe said he would contact the capital's police chief and PSG president to discuss new measures. "The seriousness of this event confirms the absolute necessity of fighting racism and anti-Semitism among PSG fans," Delanoe said in a statement. "I want to make sure that Paris' image and values are respected under every circumstance, there is no room for the slightest form of intolerance."

French Sports Minister Jean-Francois Lamour denounced the "climate of tension and violence at certain soccer matches" and said the incident was "unacceptable and tainted the image of sports."

Overt racism has become increasingly common at PSG's Parc de Princes stadium, with insults and monkey chants often directed at black players. Hooligan gangs also often look to fight black and Arab members of multiethnic rival gangs at the stadium during games. Violence has also affected other clubs. Marseille will host Auxerre on January 24 in an empty stadium after a firefighter lost two fingers picking up an explosive that a fan threw on the field on October 29.

Hapoel won Thursday's Group G match 4-2 against PSG.

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