Paris braced for ‘civil war’ on the Champs-Elysees as France prepares to take on Morocco in World Cup semi-final tonight
- Local mayor has warned the Champs-Elysees will turn into a ‘battlefield’
- France has 1.5million Moroccans who have been celebrating their shock run
- 2,000 police will be deployed for the game and clashes are expected
Paris is bracing itself for ‘civil war’ on the Champs-Elysees tonight as France take on Morocco in the World Cup semi-final.
Officials say the famous avenue in the French city centre could turn into a ‘battlefield’ for the highly-anticipated clash to see who will face Argentina in the final.
France has the world’s biggest Moroccan population outside of the North African country with an estimated 1.5million people, and the countries have a testy history with Morocco a former protectorate of the European nation.
Each result of Morocco’s surprise run to the penultimate stage of the tournament has been met with jubilant scenes in the capital, with fireworks and flares lit, streets ground to a halt and riot police deployed to quell any potential violence.
Morocco fans celebrate their win against Portugal in the quarter finals of the World Cup in Paris on Saturday
Paris is mobilising 2,000 police across the city during the game but the mayor of the 8th arrondissement where the Champs-Elysees is located said it is not enough.
Jeanne d’Hauteserre told CNews: ‘When you want to celebrate victory, you don’t come with mortars. But these people are really only coming to smash with iron bars.
‘For Wednesday, everyone is afraid of a war, a guerrilla war, a civil war, and we do not want the Champs-Elysees to be transformed into a battlefield.’
On Saturday, Morocco stunned Portugal in the quarter finals and 20,000 fans descended on the iconic avenue leading to the Arc de Triomphe to celebrate the historic win.
Later, clashes broke out between supporters and riot police who fired tear gas, with 100 people arrested after shops were damaged and cars set alight.
Similar scenes are expected in London tonight, despite a far smaller population of around 70,000 Moroccans living in the UK.
Bikes are torched on the Champs-Elysees in Paris on Saturday night as celebrations turned violent
Each result of Morocco’s surprise win to the penultimate stage of the tournament has been met with jubilant scenes in the capital
Police dressed in riot gear have clashed with supporters, arresting 100 fans on Saturday night
France has the world’s biggest Moroccan population outside of the North African country with an estimated 1.5million people
Around half of France’s Moroccan community are dual nationals who have split loyalties for the semi-final clash, but many will be cheering on the underdogs who are the first side from Africa to reach the final four.
Residents say their ‘hearts swing’ and they are sitting ‘between two chairs’ as Wednesday’s match brings up multiple identities and sporting allegiances.
Team mates and friends will face each other on the pitch, including Mbappe and Achraf Hakimi who both play for Paris St Germain.
There is a sense of historical redress in Morocco’s journey in which they have knocked former colonial powers out of the tournament, including their own.
In the last 16 they beat Spain, which colonised part of the country in the 20th century and still controls the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, and now face France, which colonised Morocco until 1956.
Paris is mobilising 2,000 police across the city during the game but the mayor of the 8th arrondissement where the Champs-Elysees is located said it is not enough
On Saturday, Morocco stunned Portugal in the quarter finals and 20,000 fans descended on the iconic avenue
Fire is extinguished on the streets of the Champs-Elysees after Morocco beat Portugal
Morocco coach Walid Regragui was born in a rough Parisian suburb and said on the eve of the game: ‘I am a dual national. It is an honour and pleasure to play against France but it is just football… I’m here as a football coach and what interests me is to win.’
Some on the far-right in France are politicising the match and saying it is now a ‘test of loyalty’ for French citizens of immigrant backgrounds, according to Rim-Sarah Alouane, a legal researcher on discrimination and civil liberties at the University of Toulouse.
‘(Right-wing politicians) do not accept that France has evolved and that there is a new generation that is confident in their multiple identities,’ she said.
Following France and Morocco’s quarter-final victories, Eric Zemmour, a anti-migratn polemicist who won seven per cent in the first round of this year’s presidential elections, said that ‘one cannot be for one and for the other’.
Whatever the result, such is the huge support for both countries that Paris will turn into a sea of the red, white and blue of France or the red and green of Morocco tonight.
The local mayor said the Champs-Elysees should even be shut down to avoid any potential flare-ups on the avenue which has provided a backdrop for many of France’s most famous celebrations.
She said: ‘The only way is to create a perimeter and whatever happens from 8pm there should be no more access.’
Herve Moreau, a reservist gendarmerie captain, added: ‘On Wednesday, things will go badly for sure. Whatever people say, I can assure you there will be clashes and riots.’
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