The Conference League match between Cologne and Nice on Thursday was marked by violent incidents.
The start of FC Cologne’s away UEFA Europa Conference League match against OGC Nice on Thursday night was delayed by 55 minutes due to violent incidents.
Hooligans from both clubs, as well as others, engaged in running fights within the stadium after visiting Cologne fans were assaulted outside the Allianz Riviera stadium, striking each other physically and hurling things, including fireworks, at them.
A total of 39 persons were hurt, according to the local police, including nine police officers and one man who fell from the upper deck and shattered many ribs in addition to sustaining a major head injury. The patient, who was initially rushed to the hospital in a severe state, is now in stable condition.
The mayor of Nice has threatened to issue FC Cologne a fee for some of the 10,000 or so visiting German supporters’ inappropriate behavior in the city center during the day. On the other hand, Cote d’Azur police and security have come under fire from Cologne supporters and the club itself.
The Group D match in Europe’s third-tier league eventually ended 1-1, with Andy Delort of Nice’s penalty in the second half canceling out Steffen Tigges’ first-half goal for Cologne. The backlash, however, has been entirely centered on off-field activities.
After the disastrous Champions League final in Paris in May, concerns are being raised about the policing of football matches in France once more. However, there are also concerns about the influence of violent hooligan elements in German fan culture, including connections between allied fan groups from various football clubs and countries.
Who was involved and what exactly happened?
Fans from Cologne said that local hooligans attacked them outside the Allianz Riviera stadium, which is 10 kilometers to the west of the city center on the edge of the highway and the river Var. At least one fan was reportedly stabbed, albeit not in a life-threatening condition.
About 50 of the more aggressive and hooligan-affiliated members of Cologne’s hardcore ultra groups put on hoods and balaclavas, left the away end, and then crossed the main stand in the direction of the main Nice section while lighting and then throwing fireworks as they went. Most of the stadium’s spectators had been there for more than an hour before kickoff when word of the attacks outside reached them.
The Cologne hooligans can be seen with hooligans and more violent ultras associated with German teams Borussia Dortmund and Rot-Weiss Essen as well as French team Paris-Saint Germain, with whom some Cologne fans maintain friendly relations, in a video taken from the away end.
Despite being barred from the Parc des Princes in 2010 as part of the so-called Plan Leproux, a new security concept implemented before Qatari ownership of the club, PSG fans from the Supras Auteuil continue to frequently attend Cologne matches.
The Supras officially attended a game in France as a group, with their banner, for the first time since their 2010 suspension, against Nice, with whom the Parisians have their own internal rivalry.
The fan who was stabbed may have been a member of the Supras, according to fans knowledgeable with the various fan networks, who told the German station Sportschau. This would have provided an explanation for the ensuing violence inside the arena.
Reaching the opposite end of the stadium, the hooligans exchanged blows and projectiles with Nice supporters and security personnel before retreating, with one of them falling from the upper tier in the process. The individual, who was identified as a French citizen and was sporting a balaclava in the PSG colors of blue, red, and white, sustained severe head and rib injuries but is now said to be in stable condition.
Paris Saint-Germain, on the other hand, denounced the violence and issued the following statement: “The club reiterates that the group Supras Auteil was dissolved by decree on April 29, 2010, and that its former members are not recognized as supporters of Paris Saint-Germain.”
Video captured the Cologne hooligans being attacked by other Cologne supporters as they made their way to the away end, calling them “a**holes,” “who the f**k are you,” and “what the f*** are you doing?” while yelling, “We are Cologne, not you!” Some people tried to take the balaclavas off the hooligans.
Following the French hooligans’ advance across the east stand in response to the hooligans’ sortie across the west stand, fights broke out in the north-west corner before police finally stepped in.
UEFA ultimately decided to postpone kickoff by 55 minutes till 19:40 local time on the condition that any additional disturbances would result in an abandonment despite reports in the French media that the game was about to be called off.
What have the local authorities, OGC Nice, and FC Cologne said?
Three separate investigations into the events of Thursday were launched by Nice’s local authorities on Friday morning: one into “mass violence inside the stadium,” another into “mass violence outside the stadium,” and a third into damage to the official OGC Nice club shop in the city center, where Cologne supporters had gathered all day.
German fans who had been drinking all day were called out by the local police commissioner, Bernard Gonzalez, for their “inadmissible behavior,” and Nice’s mayor, Christian Estrosi, expressed his “disgust.”
“It started well but then the degradations worsened as the day went on,” he said. “Our trams were graffitied, bus shelters were wrecked, a statue was damaged and there was litter everywhere. The damage hasn’t yet been properly assessed but it will be thousands of euros. I’ll be sending the bill to Cologne Football Club.”
One well-traveled Cologne fan responded to that evaluation: “That’s a little excessive. The city resembled the post-carnival ancient town of Cologne. There was some little graffiti and stickers that I noticed. There was absolutely no reason why this should have resulted in fans being attacked with firearms.”
Both clubs are now the subject of disciplinary actions by UEFA, and the German police have opened an inquiry. FC Cologne has also said it is in communication with the appropriate authorities, UEFA, and its organized fans groups.