Hooligans plan very different Champions League clash

  • Groups from both clubs had arranged to meet up for a brawl.
  • Parisians carrying knives were arrested on Tuesday evening.

Tuesday, just after 6 pm, Place de Linde in Anderlecht. Local soccer team flags billow in front of Constant Vanden Stock Stadium. In the parking lot opposite the entrance gates, highly visible police cars keep a watchful eye on the proceedings. In the square itself, further blue and white police vehicles are patrolling in search of “customers”, i.e. Anderlecht supporters who are banned from attending matches, and who are not supposed to be anywhere near the stadium the night before Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League encounter between the Belgian champions and Paris Saint-Germain. The game is viewed by authorities as a “high-risk” match-up given the hatred that the “ultras” of both clubs are known to harbor for each other.

In order to pre-empt any sort of unsavory incident, Eric Tomas, the mayor of Anderlecht, issued an exceptional decree. “It prevents all supporters who are banned from the stadium from being present in the municipality on the 22nd, 23rd and 24th of October,” says Pénélope, manager of the Hippo Mauve bar, with the document in question in hand. “They might even be placed under administrative arrest should they refuse to respect the measure.”

In the drinking establishment, well-known to police as a long-term regular meeting place of the BCS (Brussels Casuals Service), a hard-core group of Anderlecht hooligans, Luc (not his real name) is furious. “The police came to give me the document at my house. I’ve been a member since 1982 when the group was called O-Side, but I’ve never been banned from stadiums. I’m Anderlecht through and through, and they want to stop me from having a drink in my local bar. They’re taking things a bit far.”

“Our president was a CEO”

Beer in hand, Luc, a former Para Commando, justifies his descent into hooliganism by the “path I took in life. Punch-ups between supporters of two opposing teams are just part of soccer,” he states. “And I don’t know why such a big deal is being made of this particular match. During the last international match between Belgium and Wales, we also met up for a fight, and nobody even mentioned it!” 

In fact, the hatred between PSG and Anderlecht dates back two decades, to 24 November 1992, when the two teams met in the Round of 16 of the UEFA Cup at the Parc des Princes. That evening several thousand fans of the Mauves et Blancs had traveled to Paris to support their team. They were welcomed by a hail of broken seats in the stands while the windows of their buses were smashed by a barrage of stones. Since then, the BCS and PSG’s ultras have used any old excuse to fight each other. The brawls are arranged in isolated locations so as to avoid the involvement of the law. Simple rules apply during the fights: no weapons and no battering of any man lying on the ground. For Wednesday two spots have apparently already been chosen – one before the match and one after. No more information is likely to be forthcoming. However, the rules appear to be on the verge of being stretched, given that of the PSG hooligans arrested upon their arrival in Brussels on Tuesday evening, three had boxing gloves on them, and three others were carrying knives.

Another long-time member of the BCS, Hervé, who appears to be in his 50s, admits that he does not “understand pre-arranged fights. Although I have previously taken part in unplanned scuffles during certain matches.” Is there still such a thing as a “typical” hooligan, then? “Not anymore,” continues Luc. “We’ve got members who come from Genk and Charleroi. There are young guys and older men. There are even hooligan families, where the son follows in the footsteps of the father. There are blue-collar workers and white-collar suits.” “On top of that,” adds Hervé, “our president used to be a CEO.” 

FRÉDÉRIC DELEPIERRE

 

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