The face of football has certainly changed from what it was a decade ago.
Modern football provides a family experience rather than a hostile experience that you’d expect a few years ago. The lack of atmosphere led to suggestions that the stadiums have started turning themselves into some library.
But, it isn’t a sudden change. The lack of hostile atmosphere towards visiting sides is a result of sacrifices the footballing world made.
Deaths within French football
Deaths are certainly tragic – what is even more appalling as the lover of the beautiful game is the death of a fan who went to games trying to enjoy football. But, after a series of such deaths – a change was necessary. The switch led to the dismantle of Ultras throughout European football.
To go into details about the PSG Ultras, let’s rewind to early 70s. A section of young, passionate supporters seated in a relatively cheaper side of the stadium. The fans stayed at Boulogne stand – and called themselves Kop of Boulogne.
These fans were modeled after the famous Kop of Liverpool. They provided an ultimate British experience at the stadium. Singing throughout the match was a standard norm in the games, and they provided one of the most hostile environments in Europe.
Racism, Hooliganism – a downfall of Ultras
However much like the English hooliganism, things started to get ugly. Racism kicked in, and violence reached its peak. The reputation of Boulogne fans was negative throughout the country, and temporary bans were regular for the club.
A group called the Boulogne Boys were then established with the help of PSG establishment to tackle the issues of racism within the stand support. But, the hierarchy within the supporters group was mismanaged, and riots continued. This led to severe consequences for the club.
While the Boulogne Boys continued to have a negative feedback for their wrong approach, a new group of fans was formed. Auteuil turned it tails towards Italian style and offered friendlier atmosphere for the PSG fans.
Fight amongst the like-minded
This didn’t go well with the other half of PSG support, and the division seemed pretty obvious in Parc des Princes. PSG was divided into two halves – Auteuil and Boulogne.
When Canal+ – France’s premium pay channel – bought PSG, it started remodeling the club to suit globally. To do so, it felt necessary to tackle the hooliganism problem within the club. It proposed both the set of fans, a significant discount off their tickets to be seated in separate stands. However, Boulogne boys were adamant to concede and held their ground.
Auteuil fans though, were persuaded, and the drop in violence throughout the stadium was apparent.Parc des Princes underwent some sort of renaissance with the club more convivial towards diverse set of supporters.
With the better atmosphere within the club, the once damaged images were slowly being reinstated, and the stadium was no more deemed a war zone.
It was silence before the storm.
The storm continued
During a Champions League game against Galatasaray, a set of Boulogne fans attacked the visiting supporters resulting to a two match ban for PSG.
Likewise, the stadium placement of Boulogne and Auteuil fans in the same area ignited an appalling fight in a Coupe De France game.
Meanwhile, a Boulogne fan was killed by police during Tel Aviv game in 2006, and it didn’t stop.
On February 20, 2010, though, a downcast led to a complete revamp over PSG’s blindfold to the fan violence within the club. A PSG supporter, Yann Lorence was killed following a violent exchange between Auteuil and Boulogne supporters.
Changes were proposed
The incident led to the then PSG president, Robin Leproux to permanently revoke all season tickets and all the ultras were exiled from the club. The plan is famously known as ‘Leparoux plan.’
The supporters were relocated to various random seats and the march towards a better environment was carried throughout French football.
While the Ultras have been a culprit to one of the most tragic incidents in football, their support and passion, however, will never be questioned.
Unquestionable support and passion
Both the set of supporters carried their club through one of their rough patches – with sheer grit and determination. PSG legend Pauleta stayed at the club through their rough times due to his fervent attachment with the supporters.
The story of Ultras isn’t over. With the club supporting a recall to the Ultras group, the atmosphere at Parc des Princes may be back to its best in upcoming years.
The new owners have taken PSG to another level – as they are one of the richest clubs in the world.
Violence should always be away from football. But there should be extra incentives taken to accommodate the beautiful sport to working class people.