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Soccer Violence in France Highlights Sociological Problem
The New York Times, November 29th, 2006 4:35PM



France has a soccer problem: the sport is plagued by violence and hate, and something needs to be done. In recent years, Ligue 1 has become a breeding and testing ground for a group of fans who call themselves "The Ultras." They're racist, rightwing, anti-Semitic and violent, and they use the stadiums of Ligue 1 as a forum for espousing their particular brand of rhetoric. Police and soccer officials largely standby and watch as opposing groups of ultras fight each other during and after games. They claim there's little they can do to stop the violence, though now, after a recent outburst in Paris resulted in the death of an ultra at the hands of a police officer, government and soccer officials have decided they have some soul-searching to do. Nicolas Sarkozy, the interior minister and a presidential hopeful, has responded by vowing to clean up the Parc des Princes, the stadium of Paris Saint-Germain, thought to be the most hostile in France. "We prefer to see stands that are empty than full of unwanted people," Sarkozy said after meeting of officials and supporters' groups on Saturday. "We no longer want racists, Nazi salutes, monkey noises in stadiums," he said. "Soccer is not war." The problem, one French sociologist believes, comes down to France's poor education system. Indeed, many of Ligue 1's ultras are unemployed school dropouts who have few options ahead of them. This is coupled by the fact that law enforcement officials have been lax in handing out fines and banishments from the Paris stadium. As the New York Times story points out, the problem is similar at several clubs across Europe, citing numerous examples. Read the original story...

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