It was embarrassing, farcical and outright alarming to see an international staged in France abandoned due to crowd trouble.
The international friendly between Jonathan Kodjia’s Ivory Coast and Senegal had made it to the 88th minute before a group of spectators scaled the stadium fence.
Security & Police were unable to contain the intruders, who ran amok on the pitch, disrupting the game and even Rugby tackling Lamine Gassama.
The game featuring also featured familiar faces such as Wilfred Zaha, Liverpool’s Sadio Mane & former Villa midfielder Idrissa Gueye.
There is previous between the two countries with a full blown riot breaking out between the sides as the Ivory Coast secured victory in the 2013 African Cup of Nations. The last debacle saw missiles, fireworks and projectiles thrown with fans injured:
Whilst clubs might reasonably worry about things like injuries to their players whilst on international duty [Seamus Coleman being a prime example], it must be the minimum standard that basic player safety is a given.
The fact that “supporters” outside the ground managed to evade security, jump the perimeter and then subsequently enter the field of play is alarming. It’s actually completely unacceptable.
It is also particularly dismal that a player was then also wrestled to the ground, with little or no competent response to stop it happening.
One wonders what the wider media and football governing bodies’ reaction would have been had this occurred in England? FIFA, hardly the barometer for investigating and issuing consistent penalties is reportedly investigating. So don’t hold your breath.
*UEFA fined Arsenal €5000 for a pitch invader at The Emirates during their game against Bayern Munich in March 2017.
**FIFA fined English FA £35,000 for displaying poppies on England shirts on Armistice Day in November 2016.
The chaos that ensued at the end of the Ivory Coast/Senegal fixture forced Villa’s own Kodjia to run to safety.
Just consider that for a moment.
An international game of football, played out in the outskirts of the French capital and they were unable to deliver on basic security of the players.
The “what ifs” are endless. What if they had a weapon? What if they had intent other than to disrupt the game? What if those intentions had been more sinister?
Whilst the meaningless nature of the game inevitably means that this hasn’t picked up much more serious wider debate, it serves to illustrate just how vulnerable certain fixtures remain (for those who attend & play) at a time of heightened risk and threat in Europe.