In 2008 there was an ugly incident at the now-demolished Vicente Calderón when Marseille ultras faced off with the Spanish police. One of them, Santos Mirasierra, was arrested and detained in Madrid, which handed him brief and lamentable celebrity status. Michel Platini, then-president of UEFA, did not react well to the situation, and neither did the majority of French media: a reflection of the old Black Legend. I decided to travel with Atlético to the return game and there I found out that Marseille, whose president at the time I can’t remember the name of, had no fewer than seven ultras groups, making up half of the stadium’s capacity, and who competed among each other in barbarity.
Platini’s skewed understanding, and that of many others, towards the arrested hooligan (who had his collar felt for throwing a chair at a policeman) was the breeding ground that heralded the rise of a malodorous space in French football, one that is now under threat in the same way as in Argentina due to widespread idiocy. So far this season 11 games in Ligues 1 and 2 have been halted or suspended. Embarrassing images are broadcast regularly across the world of fans misbehaving. Perhaps the record goes to the pitch invasion by around 300 Nice ultras during the match against Marseille, something that hasn’t been witnessed in Spain even in lower-division games since the days of black and white.
Ultras tarnishing France's image
Each club incubates its own nest of vipers, in an aberrant anthropological experiment that consists of gathering together the most beastly elements in a specific area of the stadium where they are free to embolden one another. The ultras are used to add colour and also for other matters, such as applying pressure to their own players when contract renewals are on the table (this is one of the reasons that Kylian Mbappé wants to leave PSG: he feels threatened by the Parc des Princes ultras). It seems unfathomable but France, patron state of The Enlightenment and, in sport, inventor of the Olympic Games, is now allowing its image to be tarnished by the hand of a collective of thugs.