Paris Saint-Germain, one of the world's least loveable clubs, is at the centre of attention over here, less for their exploits on the field - they were humiliated 4-2 at home to Hapoel Tel-Aviv on Thursday in the UEFA Cup - than for the violence of some of their racist fans. One of the notorious Boulogne Boys was apprehended by a plainclothes police officer trying to lynch a Hapoel supporter (French Jewish incidentally) and was shot dead by the officer, who, irony of ironies, was black. There are plenty of ready-made moral tales to be drawn from the incident, given the racial make-up of the personages, and for the first time in living memory the French left are on the side of the police, but what the episode demonstrates best is the horrific indulgence of fascist elements by the PSG executive. I was at the UEFA Cup game against Derry City in September and it was marred by constant Nazi salutes coming from the Boulogne end. It would be quite easy to eliminate this, as has been done in England, Holland and elsewhere, but PSG choose to do nothing, while claiming, risibly, that they are the most pro-active club in France in the area of fighting racism. PSG's solution is to cordon the Boulogne end off from everybody else, man the section with fellow die-hard racists and pocket the cash.
Though I have a loathing for PSG that cannot be matched by any other team on earth, they have many good fans, white, black and even Arab (though most Parisians of Arab descent support Marseille). The club do not deserve these supporters, who go to games week-in week-out and put up with the same poisonous racism all the time. One big difference between France and Britain is that black people are far more visible in stadia in France. And this is the treatment they receive for their loyalty. As an expat in Paris who loves the city, I would love also to support a local team in the top flight, but PSG, in their tolerance of racist fans, their absurdly favoured status in the French media, and their overall mediocrity, are not it, and never will be. If PSG do nothing about the racist element that sully their name even more, the best thing would be to wind this prefabricated club (established only in 1970) up and start anew with something else that Parisian football people can be proud of.
Meanwhile, a club not too different from PSG, Rangers, played out a 2-2 draw in Auxerre on Thursday night and some of their charming fans sought out a known Celtic bar in Paris to stand around hassling people. A friend of mine had the displeasure of serving them all afternoon, and having put up with their sectarian abuse for long enough, she told them that her mother was a Scottish Presbyterian (which is true). The answer she got was "well we won't trash your bar then". The Billy Boys pass through town.