Paris to erect big screen for France – Nigeria clash

Paris's Town Hall has become sufficiently gripped by World Cup fever that it has decided to project Monday's last 16 showdown between France and Nigeria on a giant screen in the city. The move comes after the capital's fan park was cancelled this year.

Paris to erect big screen for France - Nigeria clash
Paris has decided to screen the World Cup clash between France and Nigeria on a big screen on Thursday. Photo: Bertrand Langlois/AFP

Paris's tradition of massive outdoor screenings of the World Cup looked like it was going to be broken this year, but the success of Didier Deschamps "Les Bleus" has kept it alive.

After the French have made it to the crucial knockout stages of the World Cup, the Town Hall has agreed to show the big game against Nigeria on the plaza outside Hôtel de Ville in central Paris. The game kicks-off at 6 pm Paris time.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo wants to "accompany Parisians in their mania for "Les Bleus" the Town Hall told BFMTV. 

The screen will stay in place if France continue to progress through the tournament. The Town Hall could not confirm if the other matches in the tournament will be shown live on the giant screen.

Budget cuts, hooliganism and lack of interest from the public had appeared to push officials to drop their nearly 20-year-old tradition of open-air screenings of World Cup matches. However, Town Hall left open a possibility it would change its mind.

“If Les Bleus qualify for the quarter finals, or maybe even before, which we hope for with all our hearts, then we may consider a public screening in Paris," an unnamed Paris Town Hall source previously told French sport magazine So Foot.

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Outbreaks of violence in previous years didn't do much to encourage city officials to keep fan park tradition going either. When France were knocked out of Euro 2012 the Hyundai Fan Park at the Trocadero witnessed clashes between fans and police.

Authorities in the capital also have bad memories of when Paris Saint-Germain's celebrations at winning the Ligue 1 title in 2013 turned into a riot at the same location. The violence left 32 people injured and saw fans run amok on the Champs-Elysées, causing a considerable amount of damage.

A privately-sponsored fan park had been under consideration in Paris, but fell through when Hyundai turned down an unnamed site the city proposed in lieu of the Trocadero location.

Paris won't be the only major French city without a town-sponsored fan park. City officials in Lyon told The Local on Wednesday they also have no plans to show the matches on a giant screen.

Sadly the lack of big screens is not the only obstacle for fans hoping to watch the World Cup.

French terrestrial TV station TF1 has sold the exclusive broadcast rights for 36 of 64 World Cup matches to the paid TV channel BeIN Sports, which is only available through subscription. 

A French lawmaker was so incensed by the deal he wrote a letter to the government saying it “deprived” the French people of the joy of watching matches. For now it looks like the pay TV agreement will stand.

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France plans to keep growing women’s game after World Cup disappointment

France faces the challenge of continuing to develop women's football after the bitter disappointment of elimination from the World Cup by the United States.

France plans to keep growing women's game after World Cup disappointment
France players after the defeat against USA. Photo: AFP

“Back to Earth” was how sports daily L'Equipe put it after the host nation lost 2-1 to the holders in a quarter-final played out before a feverish crowd in Paris.

L'Equipe talked of “the disappointment of a shattered adventure” because coach Corinne Diacre's team had dreamt of emulating the men, World Cup winners in Russia last year and also winners as hosts in 1998.

The team had been desperate to make it to Lyon, where the semi-finals and final will be played and where seven of those who featured for France on Friday play their club football for Europe's top side.

Instead, France find themselves out of a fifth straight major tournament in the quarter-finals. To rub salt into the wounds, Friday's defeat had the knock-on effect of denying them a place at next year's Olympics.

Diacre had been set the objective of reaching the final, which always looked a daunting challenge once the draw raised the likelihood of an early meeting with the USA.

Amid the dejection on Friday, Diacre stated her wish to continue, and on Saturday French Football Federation (FFF) President Noel Le Graet confirmed she would stay.

“She will be in charge until the end of her contract, if not longer,” Le Graet told AFP.

That means until Euro 2021 in England at least, and the aim in France is to keep developing the women's game to give them a chance of one day going all the way.

The FFF hope the number of registered female players will reach 200,000 next year, an increase of almost 10 percent from present figures, but far from the two million registered male players.

They have also promised to invest 15 million euros into a post-World Cup “legacy” fund.

The interest in the women's game is there, as shown by television audiences during the World Cup, with 11.8 million watching the USA game on terrestrial TV.

However, translating that to an increased following in the women's domestic league will be a bigger challenge.

France games have drawn sell-out crowds at the World Cup, but in general attendances in domestic competition are modest at best, even if almost 26,000 saw powerhouses Lyon beat closest rivals Paris Saint-Germain earlier this year.

“We cannot go from so much enthusiasm now to league matches on poor pitches with only 120 fans,” said Le Graet. “We all need to make an effort and we will.”

Matches are televised, but like elsewhere income remains light years from rights deals in the men's game — a new sponsorship contract for the 12-club top flight with chemicals company Arkema is worth one million euros per season for three years.

Average salaries are reportedly around 3,500 euros per month, although stars like Amandine Henry and Wendie Renard are believed to earn almost 10 times that at Lyon, who have won the Champions League in the last four years. Again, those sums are dwarfed by the wages often on offer to the men.

“We need to keep putting money in, keep professionalising, because other countries are doing it and maybe that's why they are ahead of us,” warned Lyon and France forward Eugenie Le Sommer.

“We have a good league but unfortunately not every team is professional.

“There are countries who are ahead of us and we must catch up. Even Spain are putting lots of money in and we need to make sure we are not left behind.”

READ ALSO: France coach laments 'failure' as hosts knocked out of World Cup