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How France has become gripped by Women’s World Cup fever

The Women's Football World Cup is in full swing in France, and while some teams have already been knocked out and gone home, off the pitch it's all smiles for the most successful tournament ever.

How France has become gripped by Women's World Cup fever
Fans at the France v Brazil match in Le Havre. Photo: AFP

There were cheers all round on Friday as France advanced to the quarter finals of the first Women's World Cup to be held on home soil.

Les Bleues will now take on the USA on Friday at 9pm after the current title holders beat Spain on Monday night.

But off the pitch its has been a win all round for the game, with the highly successful tournament sparking an unprecedented level of interest in women's football.

READ ALSO Five things to know about the Women's World Cup in France

 

FIFA announced last week that already a million tickets have been sold with another two weeks of the tournament to go.

Fourteen of the 52 matches in the tournament have already sold out and it is expected that the semi finals and final will also be a sell out.

Games featuring the French team have generally proved popular, as would be expected for the home nation, but matches featuring the USA – currently ranked as favorites to win – have also proved popular.

The spike in viewing figures is not just in stadiums – TV viewing figures have also been at record levels.

The opening match of the tournament – France v South Korea – brought in 9.8 million viewers, or 44.8 percent of the audience share.

That's twice as many people as tuned in for the men’s Euro 2020 qualifier against Andorra the night before.

And this has translated into money – French TV channel TF1 started the tournament asking for €62,000 for a 30 second spot, thanks to higher viewing figures it is now charging €95,000 or €115,000 for a slot at half time, according to Le Parisen.

Sponsors are also pleased with the increasing profile of the sport, with Coca-Cola describing the tournament as a “great gathering moment” in France.

And it's not just among the corporate world that enthusiasm is mounting – more and more shops in France have begun decorating their windows with tricolores and messages of good luck to the team, while fan accoutrements such as wigs, face paints, flags and jerseys are on sale in an increasing number of places.

“You can feel this surge of momentum behind the sport – the TV viewing figures are staggering,” said Virginie Bachelier, a sports correspondent for Ouest France.

“Six months ago, if a women’s football match got one million TV viewers, that would be considered good. But now 10 million viewers are tuning in on the basis of the team’s skill and performance.

“People want to watch them because they are world-class players. And in football, you have to get into people’s living rooms for it to count.”

Friday's match should prove a key clash as both France and the USA have been fancied to win. It takes place at the Parc des Princes in Paris at 9pm and will be screened on TF1.

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FOOTBALL

French prosecutors demand jail term for Russian accused of leaving England football fan with brain damage

French prosecutors on Friday called for a 15-year prison sentence for one of two Russians accused of beating a British supporter during Euro 2016, an attack that left him with brain injuries.

French prosecutors demand jail term for Russian accused of leaving England football fan with brain damage
Russian fans light flares at the match against England in 2016.. Photo: AFP

One prosecutor, Christophe Raffin, asked for the “legal maximum… between 14 and 15 years” for Pavel Kossov, who is accused of throwing the first punch at 55-year-old Andrew Bache.

Bache was injured in the violence that broke out before England played Russia in the southern French port city of Marseille on June 11th, 2016.

The second Russian on trial in Aix-en-Provence, Mikhail Ivkine, stands accused of throwing a chair at the victim, with prosecutors asking for a potential suspended sentence of up to five years.

He has claimed he was defending himself.

“No, it wasn't legitimate self-defence, it was illegitimate use of force against Andrew Bache,” Raffin said of the violence.

 

Police give emergency aid to Andrew Bache following clashes in the city of Marseille. Photo: AFP

The prosecutors said the Russians were part of a group of about 150 men, many with martial arts training, who wrought havoc in Marseille.

Bache, from Portsmouth in southern England, has no memory of the events and is too frail to attend the trial.

His son Harry, who nurses his father, is representing him in court.

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