The Covid will not have finally got the better of the “fan zones”. While they had become French habits during the last international football competitions, the still precarious health situation and the strict protocol to be respected (seated and masked supporters, distancing, curfew at 11 p.m.) have cooled most of the participants. municipalities, who preferred to wait for the lifting of the last confinement constraints, on June 30, to allow these gatherings.
The city of Saint-Denis (Seine-Saint-Denis), however, took the plunge for the first match of the France team in the Euro football, Tuesday, June 15, against Germany (1-0): close 400 people gathered on the lawn of the velodrome.
Bron (Rhône), in the metropolis of Lyon, had also decided to set up a space which finally accommodated 900 people. The selection of Karim Benzema, the child of the city, was the trigger. “It gets people out despite the covid, that’s good”, appreciated Henri Popart, from the city’s sports department.
The number 19 on the jerseys
Here, in the jerseys game, it was of course number 19 who won. That of Karim Benzema, who made the eyes of young and old shine in the stands of the Pierre Duboeuf stadium. “We are very proud that he is in the team”, launches Florian, near his band of friends from the city college, visible from the stadium.
For Nassim Benboudaoud, 21, his return to the France team was “A great joy”. “It has been a long time since he should have come back”, believes the young man, his eyes focused on the large screen installed below the stands, ready to leap at the slightest action.
“In his district of Terraillon, the little ones know Karim through their fathers, who were friends or at school with him”, tell educators from the local football club. “For us, seeing him again in the France team is huge! “ One says that the football prodigy signed a jersey for his son on a recent return to Bron; another’s eyes sparkle as he remembers that his leukemia nephew also got his autographed jersey, along with a video of the player. “For children, Karim is ready for anything, he has his heart in his hand, he’s a great guy”. And ” an example “, they add.
In the group of college students, two of them drew the player’s initials in blue-white-red on their abs. “It gives us some feelings in the belly”, slips one, admirer.
Songs, clappings, jumps, howls … and bird names
“We are waiting for his return to Olympique Lyonnais now, smiles a few rows away Chalva Ivanishvili, 24. I believe in it, he must come back! “ Next to him, his friend Sheima Fadhlaoui, 25, seems to believe it less. But she, she is not really there for the football, rather for the atmosphere: “It feels good to meet up, to see people, to hear the crowd screaming. We find a humanity that we had lost lately. “
The two allow themselves not to wear the mask, like many indeed. “Seeing people’s smiles again, it’s nice”, says Sheima, who received her first vaccine dose. And smiles, there were some in the ranks, with songs, clappings, jumps, howls… and bird names against the referee, who refused a goal to Benzema at the end of the match.
But in the end, whatever, the main thing was elsewhere. “We are all together and it clearly feels good”, approves Esther Descamps, 22, who came with her two roommates. In their trio, each has their own player ” always “, but, this time, it is not Benzema, which they like all the same. “He goes to train at Fort Bron all the time. A friend has already crossed paths with him there. I go there every day to meet him, but it never happened ”, Esther laughs.
“A way for people from the neighborhood to meet”
On the velodrome of Saint-Denis, Despite some smoke, the atmosphere was less reminiscent of the kops of supporters than that of a neighborhood party, where the children would have released whistles and shirts of the France team. And for good reason: it is the association “7 Dreams”, established in the neighboring city, Salvador-Allende, which was responsible for organizing the event.
“I had never been to a fan zone, I come for the association more than for the match”, Imen confides, her daughter on her knees. In front of the “giant” screen of 8m², the parents seem less attentive to the victory of the Blues than their children, particularly sensitive to the exploits of the striker Kylian Mbappé, to the point of exulting for a long time during his goal, finally canceled. for offside.
On the edge of the lawn are ” the old “ of the neighborhood, as they call themselves, “Just come for a walk before going home”, assures Brigitte. But not completely indifferent to the entry into the running of the French in this Euro. “When we can see them outside like today, football matches, we watch them”, guarantees Marie-Thérèse, before Zohra, the last of the trio, adds: “The moment is convivial, it is also a way for the people of the district to meet. The sanitary protocol does not bother us, we are used to wearing the mask ”.
The real football fans are located a little further away and are called Tierno and Fares. One supporter of LOSC, the other of PSG, they traded in the rivalry between their two clubs all season long in the league to wear a French jersey. They are used to fan zones. “In 2016, for the Euro, I went to see matches at that of the Eiffel Tower, remembers Tierno at half-time in the match. Here, it’s a different atmosphere, more family, calmer. ”
Next meeting, Saturday
A calm undoubtedly relative in the eyes of the organizers, forced at each French incursion into the German camp to curb the enthusiasm of the young supporters and ask them to remain seated, as the health protocol requires. A protocol nevertheless widely respected. Enough, in any case, so that the ten police officers mobilized do not stand out.
The next two group matches of the Blues, against Hungary and Portugal, must once again allow this meeting in the fan zone. “The idea will then be to move the event to the city center of Saint-Denis, when the sanitary constraints will be less, to welcome more people. “, explains the socialist mayor of the city, Mathieu Hanotin, who came to inaugurate this fan zone on a human scale.
The city of Bron also intends to repeat the experience on Saturday, for the next Blues match. Tuesday evening, the game barely over, the stands were wisely emptied, just before the 11pm curfew and after “A little moment of happiness”, summarizes Louis Jomier, 23, who had reserved places for his parents, his brother and his girlfriend, “Football fans”.