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France vs Morocco: Paris police on high alert over fears of violence in World Cup semifinal

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DOHA, QATAR: Head coach Didier Deschamps of France speaks during a press conference held ahead of FIFA World Cup 2022 semi-final match between France and Morocco in Doha, Qatar on December 13, 2022. (Fareed Kotb - Anadolu Agency)
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Dec 14, 2022 - 12:14 PM

PARIS (AA) – A 2022 FIFA World Cup semifinal pitting France against Morocco on Wednesday night will be more than just a football match.

In Paris, the Champs-Elysees is expected to be the place for celebration. It was the case last Saturday for Moroccan fans after the historic qualification of the Atlas Lions for the final four of the Qatar 2022. French supporters joined them to share their joy, delighted to enjoy the success of the Blues against England.

But the evening had ended badly and clashes with police officers led to more than 150 arrests, including 100 in Paris, according to police sources and the prosecutor’s office.

Fear of violent incidents

While many French and/or Moroccan supporters are expected on the Champs-Elysees for celebration after the match, Jeanne d’Hauteserre, a local Paris mayor, wants the most beautiful avenue in the world to be closed from Concorde to the Arc de Triumph.

D’Hauteserre thus wishes to avoid “an outbreak of gang war and civil war” as well as “moments of panic,” as she explained in an interview on news channel CNews.

“When we want to celebrate victory, we don’t come with mortars … Everyone is afraid and we don’t want the Champs-Elysees to turn into a battlefield!” she added.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin earlier decided to strengthen the police force, as 10,000 police officers will be mobilized, including 5,000 in the Paris region.

While most of merchants decided to close their doors early as a precaution for fear of repeating the last Saturday scenario after the qualification of the Moroccan and French teams.

Identity debates, old colonial wounds

Politicians, known for their anti-immigrant views in the country, linked the upcoming match to the immigration file.

Far-right National Front President Jordan Bardella believes that some Moroccan fans are inhabited by “a sense of revenge” against France, indicating that this issue leads to violence with security forces.

“We are paying the price for 30 years of failed immigration policy,” Bardella said in an interview on news channel BFMTV.

In addition, far-right Eric Zemmour described Wednesday evening as “a frightening matter for the police.”

“I would like to know how the king of Morocco and the Moroccans would react if thousands of French people celebrated their victory in Marrakesh?” he asked.

Similarly, Laurent Jacobelli, a member of the French National Assembly and spokesman for the National Rally, expressed his regret to see people holding French nationality but not supporting the French team.

Cold relationship

The World Cup semifinal between the two national teams will be played in a context of diplomatic tensions, including French President Emmanuel Macron’s courtship of Algeria and Western Sahara.

Also, Morocco is unhappy with Macron’s decision to reduce the number of travel visas issued to Moroccan citizens.

France, on the other hand, did not appreciate Morocco’s economic presence in West Africa as it considers Africa a natural extension of it.

In fact, the last few years have seen an inexorable deterioration in the diplomatic relationship to the point that a real falling out of love has set in between Paris and Rabat.

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