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Stade de France prepares for first match since Champions League chaos


Paris (AFP) – Less than a week after the chaotic scenes that marred the Champions League final, the Stade de France in Paris will be the centre of attention again as the French national team play Denmark on Friday before an expected capacity crowd.

The pictures of Liverpool fans massed outside the stadium gates and of police firing tear gas at peaceful supporters waiting to get in to the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid have raised questions over the capacity of Paris to host the Olympic Games in 2024.

France’s Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin has faced accusations of lying after he blamed the chaos on massive ticket scams, and has since admitted that the organisation around the final could “clearly” have been better.

The Champions League final kicked off 36 minutes late due to the problems before Real Madrid beat Liverpool 1-0.

“What happened last Saturday at the Stade de France was an embarrassment for our country, for our region and for our capital that is preparing to host the biggest and most watched event in the world in the Olympics and Paralympics,” said Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo on Thursday.

Yet organisers are calm about Friday’s UEFA Nations League match at the stadium, when 1,400 Danish supporters are expected to be among the sell-out crowd of about 80,000.

A spokesman for the French Football Federation told AFP that there will be 1,270 security staff on duty at the stadium, a number decided before last week’s incidents and that is fewer than the 1,650 stewards who were mobilised then.

“This is a totally normal match, the like of which we have organised numerous times over the last 20 years,” Mathieu Hanotin, the Socialist mayor of the northern Paris suburb of Saint-Denis where the stadium is located, told AFP.

“In terms of controlling the flow of people this will be a normal match with normal security measures.”

France have not played at their national stadium — which was built for the 1998 World Cup — since June 8 last year, when they beat Bulgaria 3-0 before a limited crowd due to Covid restrictions.

There has not been a France national football team game at the Stade de France without crowd restrictions since November 2019.

Like last weekend a strike has been called on one of the two suburban railway lines that, along with the city’s metro, ferry fans from central Paris to the ground, situated a few kilometres outside the French capital itself.

– ‘I find it sad’ –

Incidents at matches in France in recent weeks have not been limited to the Champions League final.

Last Sunday riot police confronted supporters with tear gas after an angry pitch invasion followed Saint-Etienne’s defeat by Auxerre which led to the 10-time French champions being relegated from Ligue 1.

“I find it sad because people come to the stadium to support us and we play for the supporters,” France’s Bayern Munich defender Benjamin Pavard said on Wednesday.

“I understand the frustration, at Saint-Etienne for example, but that is a bad example for children who sometimes don’t understand everything.

“Unfortunately I can’t change much but I would like things to be calmer,” added Pavard, who insisted he had “no fears” about Friday’s game.

World Cup holders France begin their defence of the Nations League title against the Danes.

They won the second edition of the tournament last year, beating Spain in the final in Milan.

Denmark were semi-finalists at Euro 2020 and will be at the World Cup in Qatar later this year, and in the same group as France.

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