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France sports minister reacts to Nantes fan’s death, pitches ban on away fans

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France’s sports minister called for “a global and extraordinarily determined response” to violence in soccer after the death of a Nantes supporter over the weekend.

Speaking to France Inter radio on Monday, Amelie Oudea-Castera said preventing fans from traveling to away matches could form part of the solution when games present a risk of violence.

“For the time being we have to focus on fans’ travels. It’s essential that we now return to a less violent situation…we need a global and extraordinarily determined response,” she said.

The Nantes supporter was killed on Saturday following a fight between fans that took place before the club’s 1-0 win over Nice in the latest outbreak of violence to mar French football this season. The public prosecutor’s office has launched an investigation into voluntary manslaughter.

In France, traveling fans are regularly banned from “high-risk” games such as those pitting together bitter rivals Paris Saint-Germain and Marseille.

A blanket ban would certainly help authorities control crowds with more efficiency, but such a decision would likely be challenged by fans’ groups arguing it would breach their fundamental right to move freely.

“It’s just not possible that police forces are so overstretched, that private property is destroyed, that buses are stoned and people injured,” Oudea-Castera said.

There have been repeated incidents in French football since the start of the season following an upsurge of violence in stadiums over the past two campaigns.

In October, in Montpellier, a match was stopped in added time after fans threw a firework from the stands that landed next to Clermont goalkeeper Mory Diaw. The Senegal player had to be taken off on a stretcher, but was not seriously injured.

A few weeks later in Marseille, the bus carrying Lyon players was stoned by fans outside the Velodrome stadium. The Lyon coach then, Fabio Grosso, was left with his face bloodied. Supporters were also targeted, five police officers were injured and nine people placed in custody.

Another episode of violence broke out in Montpellier when a bus transporting Brest fans home was attacked as they left the southern city following a 3-1 win for the away team. Their bus was hit by rocks reportedly thrown from a motorway bridge.

Oudea-Castera said France is not the only country to struggle with soccer violence, citing clashes between law enforcement forces and supporters of Eintracht Frankfurt that left some 50 officers injured in Germany last month.

The death of the Nantes supporter brought back sad memories of the time when hooliganism was particularly acute among PSG fans. In November 2006, Julien Quemener, a member of the Boulogne Boys fan group, was shot and killed by an off-duty police officer after a UEFA Cup match against Hapoel Tel Aviv.

About four years later, PSG fan Yann Lorence died after being caught up in fighting before a match against Marseille, when about 130 thugs from Kop Boulogne charged their Auteuil rivals. Outside France, Toulouse fan Brice Taton was killed in front of a downtown cafe in Belgrade before a match against Partizan Belgrade.

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