Paris, host of the Olympics, under the spotlight after the ‘fiasco’ of the Champions League

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Paris (AFP) – French authorities were questioned on Sunday over police tactics during the Paris Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid which descended into scenes of chaos before kick-off, with critics asking if the capital was ready to host the Olympics in two years. time.

Liverpool have called for an investigation into the treatment of their fans ahead of the match at the Stade de France in Paris on Saturday, which the club say has left thousands of ticket holders struggling to enter the stadium.

But European football governing body UEFA blamed a problem with counterfeit tickets, while the French government criticized the behavior of England fans.

Chaos outside France’s national stadium delayed kick-off by more than half an hour before the match was eventually won 1-0 by the Spanish side.

The scenes – which saw some fans successfully jump into the stadium while evading security and police using tear gas – were not what the French capital wanted two years before hosting the 2024 Olympics and a year before the same venue hosts the Rugby World Cup final. .

The French interior ministry said 105 people had been arrested, 39 of whom were arrested and remanded in custody, meaning they could face charges.

UEFA blamed “fake tickets that didn’t work in the turnstiles” for the 35-minute delay to the final.

But Liverpool said they were “extremely disappointed” that their supporters suffered an “unacceptable” breach of the security perimeter.

“We have officially requested a formal investigation into the causes of these unacceptable issues,” the club said.

Merseyside Police, who had officers deployed in Paris, said “the vast majority of fans behaved in an exemplary manner”.

UK Government Secretary for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis told Sky News that England fans were being “treated with a very aggressive approach”.

– ‘Complete failure’ –

But French Home Secretary Gérald Darmanin pointed the finger at Liverpool supporters, saying “thousands of British ‘supporters’, without tickets or with fake tickets, made their way and sometimes behaved violently towards the stewards”.

French Sports Minister Amélie Oudéa-Castera said “attempts to intrude and defraud thousands of English fans have complicated the work of stadium staff and the police”.

Yet political enemies of the government and President Emmanuel Macron said the scenes pointed to wider problems in France and brought shame to the country.

“The image it gives is lamentable and it’s also worrying because we see that we are not prepared for events like the Olympics,” far-left French politician Jean told BFM-TV. -Luc Melenchon.

He denounced “a complete failure of the police strategy… people were treated as they usually are during any kind of demonstration. We can’t go on like this.”

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen told RTL the world saw on Saturday that “France is no longer able to organize big events without things getting out of hand”.

French newspaper Le Monde commented: “The party which was to precede the final…was ruined and turned into real chaos.

“From celebration to fiasco,” said the main French sports daily L’Equipe.

Merseyside’s main regional newspaper, the Liverpool Echo, argued that poor organization and not Liverpool fans were to blame.

“UEFA’s brazen attempts to control (the) Liverpool narrative show they will never learn from Champions League disgrace,” he said.

Aurore Berge, an MP for Macron’s ruling party, said Paris had “barely three months” to prepare for the final awarded to it after Saint Petersburg was stripped of the event due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

– ‘Really stressed’ –

The police fired tear gas after several dozen people tried to step over the barriers, according to an AFP journalist on the spot, the security personnel having had to gather around twenty supporters who managed to clear the fence and to sink into the ground.

Thousands of fans, mostly from Liverpool, were still massed outside the stadium half an hour before kick-off.

UEFA said it was “sympathetic” to the fans concerned and would review the situation with the police and local authorities.

For Ronan Evain, executive director of the Football Supporters Europe network, the events “raise the question of France’s ability to organize events of this scale”.

“We continue to see the same organizational strategy that has failed in the past. There is a very strong need to modernize the approach to securing these events,” he told AFP.

Unlike the scenes outside the stadium, the Paris police noted that the proceedings in two large fan areas hosting thousands of supporters from both sides had taken place in a good atmosphere and without major incident.

Some 40,000 Liverpool supporters without a match ticket had gathered in their area in eastern Paris to enjoy the atmosphere. Despite the disappointment of the loss, they left the area without any problems.

Paris firefighters – who deal with all manner of emergencies – said the night was largely calm although they treated some supporters for the effects of tear gas as well as excessive alcohol consumption. alcohol.

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