Blame game follows PSG fans’ rampage in Paris

Locals, politicians and the management of Paris Saint-Germain have begun pointing fingers after a group of the club’s supporters went on the rampage in the French capital, burning and looting property during a celebration of PSG’s first French league title in 19 years.

Blame game follows PSG fans' rampage in Paris
A Paris police officer oversees the clean-up of a destroyed shopfront on Avenue Kleber, near Trocadero, Paris in the aftermath of rioting by PSG supporters on May 13th. Photo: Le Parisien

Residents and business-owners in the vicinity of Trocadero, close to the Eiffel Tower, were left with a massive clean-up on Tuesday morning, after a group of PSG supporters went on the rampage during a celebration – organized by the club – of the Paris side’s first French title in a generation.

PSG’s management have condemned a small, unrepresentative group of fans, while locals criticized police for their handling of the riot, and opposition politicians called for the resignation of France’s interior minister.

“Today should have been a day of celebration for the city of Paris, for the club, our supporters and partners,” PSG said in a statement on Tuesday.

“The party was spoiled by a few hundred troublemakers who have nothing to do with football and even less with those that fill the Parc des Princes on match days with such passion and enthusiasm and in total security,” the statement continued.

Despite distancing the club from the hard core of “ultras” who appear to have been behind Monday night’s chaos, however, PSG has been banned from holding any more public celebrations.

“The conclusion you can draw is that there won’t be any more events like this in a public place for Paris Saint-Germain,” Paris police commissioner Bernard Boucault announced on Monday.

One woman at the scene of the destruction expressed her disbelief to French daily Le Parisien. “What’s happening? This is shocking. Where am I? What century am I in?”

“The police left! There was a lot of violence, and the police left. Then these youths came, they had projectiles, and they started setting fire to things,” she added.

Another was in no doubt as to the performance of the CRS riot police on Monday evening. “The police presence here was clearly ineffective,” she told Le Parisien.

For at least one opposition politician, the blame lies with Interior Minister Manuel Valls.

Paris deputy for the centre-right UMP, Claude Goasguen accused Valls of “amateurism” and “inertia” and called for his resignation on Monday night.

“The safety of people, supporters, players and journalists was not assured,” he told French TV TF1. Directing his ire at Valls and Boucault, Goasguen claimed their preparation for Monday evening’s event had been severely lacking.

“It wasn’t complicated to see by the afternoon that there were gangs arriving to riot,” said Goasguen, who is also deputy mayor of the 16th arrondissement.

Valls himself laid the blame elsewhere.

"On this evidence football is still sick," he said. "This is the case for PSG".

The minister said he would be meeting with PSG chiefs in the coming days to review the violence.

Paris police made 21 arrests for destruction of property and looting amid Sunday night’s celebrations, in the immediate aftermath of PSG’s decisive, title-clinching victory over Lyon.

Riot police square off against PSG supporters in Paris on May 13th. Photo: Samson/AFP

Comparisons were also made in the French media and on Twitter between the way fans of Manchester United and Barcelona celebrated their own league title triumphs to how fans in Paris behaved.

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OPINION: Mbappé’s title, but PSG need to breathe new life into Qatari project

After being the star of France's 2018 World Cup triumph, Kylian Mbappé has been the standout player for Paris Saint-Germain in a Ligue 1 title-winning campaign that has been slightly marred by the manner in which they limped over the line.

OPINION: Mbappé's title, but PSG need to breathe new life into Qatari project
Photos AFP

PSG finally wrapped up the title on Sunday after second-placed Lille failed to beat Toulouse, having not won any of their previous three games when the opportunity to confirm a sixth French crown in seven seasons was there.

The Qatari-owned club can still make it a domestic double, with the French Cup final to come against Rennes next weekend, yet this will not be remembered as a vintage year.

While Neymar once again went missing due to injury at the crucial point, Edinson Cavani has struggled with fitness too, and coach Thomas Tuchel has regularly lashed out at the lack of depth in his squad.

The 5-1 capitulation at Lille a week ago was the worst league result for PSG since Qatar Sports Investments bought the club in 2011, and the first time they had let in five in a league game since 2000.

A record-breaking 14-match winning run with which they started the season now seems like a long time ago, the latest Champions League failure clouding Tuchel's first campaign in charge.

Mbappé, at least, has been a constant, revelling in his status as a World Cup winner and hardly ever being rested. He only turned 20 in December, but has now won three Ligue 1 titles in a row.

Mbappé has 36 goals in 40 games this season, with 30 in the league. And, frighteningly, his team-mate Daniel Alves told RMC recently that “he doesn't realise how good he is, he can go much further”.

He is also not used to losing, and may have upset some of his teammates with his assessment of last week's defeat at Lille. “We played like beginners,” he said.

Hollow ring

To be fair, they have usually been exceptional domestically. However, the problem is that as long as they keep failing in the Champions League, domestic success for a club backed by a Gulf state will continue to ring hollow.

The title has effectively been in the bag for some time, but their season has been winding down ever since their exit against Manchester United in the last 16.

That, combined with being knocked out in the League Cup quarter-finals, means Tuchel in his first season has actually done worse than Unai Emery, his unloved predecessor.

Paris Saint-Germain coach Thomas Tuchel has actually done worse than his predecessor, Unai Emery
However, according to sports daily L'Equipe, Tuchel has agreed to extend his contract to 2021. Thoughts have already turned to the future, with new signings needed at the Parc des Princes.

The costly Neymar experiment cannot be said to have succeeded until he stays fit for the games that matter, and there will always be speculation about his future.

“We have a contract, we're not even halfway through that contract,” Neymar's father pointed out to RMC Sport.

Time for a clear-out? 

Mbappé is the one man they really cannot afford to lose, but is it time for a clear-out elsewhere?

Some of the excitement of the early part of the decade has gone, replaced with a staleness. The days of Thiago Silva, Edinson Cavani and Marco Verratti are maybe ending.

Youri Djorkaeff, a World Cup winner for France and a PSG star in the 1990s, offers a frank assessment, suggesting real change is needed higher up.

“If you're not great in every compartment, from the bus driver to the girls who clean the shirts, you will go nowhere,” he told Ligue 1 Podcast, 'Le Beau Jeu'.

“Paris Saint-Germain, after many years without success, have to rebuild everything, restart from scratch, because the foundations are not good. You cannot expect to one day win the Champions League without these foundations.”

The Qatar project needs a breath of fresh air, and all eyes will be on president Nasser al-Khelaifi and sporting director Antero Henrique.

UEFA's Financial Fair Play rules remain a problem, though, with PSG said to have a hole of around 100 million euros and the need to present a balanced budget by the end of June. The next few months will be interesting.

By Andy Scott/AFP