By Tony Attwood
An issue within one club does not mean there is an issue throughout football. An issue within one country does not mean there is an issue in other countries. But… an issue in one club can be a warning sign which other clubs may need to take note of. As the imaginary old saying goes, “eternal vigilance is the price we pay.”
Which is where the problem of the refusal of the English media to carry football news that doesn’t fit their “if it’s not English we’re not interested” agenda comes to the fore. Because what happens in another country one day can happen in England tomorrow.
Take for example the issues surrounding Paris Saint-Germain Féminine – something worth considering as Arsenal’s women’s team is playing tonight.
Until last weekend the PSG Women’s team (the current champions) led by German international Sara Däbritz had not lost a game this season.
But then suddenly they lost 6-1 to Olympique Lyon. Which was something of a shock – although not as much of a shock as the fact that the following Wednesday, the Versailles regional police took PSG player Aminata Diallo into custody – a story widely covered in Europe (although not in England of course), and with details below taken from the report in SZ
PSG then confirmed that this was in response to “an attack on a player of the club last Thursday night.”
L’Équipe reported that the assault victim was Diallo’s teammate Kheira Hamraoui. After a team dinner on November 4, two masked men allegedly approached the car as they were driving home in together. One of the men allegedly dragged Hamraoui out of the car and hit her several times with an iron bar, focussing the assault on her legs. Which suggests that the act was intended to make her unable to play for PSG. Diallo is said to have been held down by the other man during the attack – but remained unharmed.
The police and the prosecutor in charge, Maryvonne Caillibotte, initially focused on Diallo, who plays in midfield in France’s national team and with Hamraoui at PSG. They saw a possible motive in the women’s sporting rivalry – which would be slightly odd, since the word is the two women are friends.
But even so, Diallo was held in custody until Friday morning, and they also questioned a man also now in custody, who media reports said was an acquaintance of the players. He is said to have been calling PSG players anonymously since October, talking about revenge against Hamraoui after a failed relationship. He has denied making the threatening calls and Diallo has also denied any involvement.
After Diallo’s release, a statement from her lawyer Maître Battikh was posted on the internet saying Diallo regretted the “completely artificial suggestion of a rivalry between her and Kheira Hamraoui that was being used as an explanation as to why she would target her teammate.” This theory, she said, does not correspond at all to “the true nature of their relationship.” She said she would like the judicial authorities to continue the investigation as quickly as possible, in order to prove her “complete innocence.”
Which now starts to explain why the English media won’t handle the story – explanations for the attack were simply media inventions. Who’d have thought it?
On Tuesday, Maître Battikh appeared on the BFM TV channel saying that he was very happy that his client was no longer a suspect, while calling her retention in police custody “dishonourable, scandalous and incoherent.”
Eric Abidal, 2006 World Cup runner-up with the French national team and former member of the FC Barcelona team, is now the focus of attention in the investigation. A sim card in Hamraoui’s cell phone was used to establish a connection to the 42-year-old. Le Monde then reported that it had emerged that the chip was in Abidal’s name – which means that a closer connection between the two is possible.
It seems that Abidal worked as FC Barcelona’s sporting director from 2018 to 2020, during which time Hamraoui played for the club, winning the treble in 2021. According to Le Monde, PSG players have stated that Hamraoui spoke to Abidal on the phone after the attack. L’Équipe claims to have learned that the Hamraoui asked Abidal during the conversation whether his wife could harm her. “He will be questioned soon,” prosecutor Caillibotte is quoted as saying.
Of course just because something like this blows up in France does not mean it will happen in England, but it does remind us of the tensions within football, at all levels of the game, and how there is always the potential for them to boil over at any moment.
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