Chelsea fans spark new football racism storm

Cyril Touaux and Tom Williams in London
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A video grab taken from footage obtained from Guardian News & Media Ltd on February 18, 2015 shows Chelsea football fans packed onto a Paris Metro train pushing a passenger to prevent him from boarding the carriage on February 17, 2015

A video grab taken from footage obtained from Guardian News & Media Ltd on February 18, 2015 shows Chelsea football fans packed onto a Paris Metro train pushing a passenger to prevent him from boarding the carriage on February 17, 2015 (AFP Photo/)

Paris (AFP) - French and British police on Wednesday launched a hunt for self-proclaimed "racist" Chelsea football fans who pushed a black man off a Paris metro train.

A new storm of controversy over racial abuse in the sport erupted after amateur video footage emerged showing fans preventing the man from boarding and then chanting: "We're racist, we're racist, and that's the way we like it!"

British Prime Minister David Cameron called the events "very disturbing".

French politicians demanded "sanctions" over the incident in central Paris before Chelsea's 1-1 Champions League draw against Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday night.

English Premier League leaders Chelsea called the affair "abhorrent" and distanced themselves from the supporters who repeatedly pushed back the man as he tried to get on the packed carriage, in footage obtained by The Guardian newspaper.

A black woman is later seen leaving the carriage as insults are shouted inside.

French prosecutors said they have opened an investigation into "deliberate racial violence on public transport".

London police said they would assist the French investigation.

The footage was filmed on the platform by Paul Nolan, a Briton living in Paris. He told The Guardian he was "completely appalled" by what he saw at Richelieu-Drouot station in central Paris.

Mitchell McCoy, a Chelsea supporter who claimed to have been on the train, told British media the black man had only been pushed away because the carriage was full and denied there was any racism.

But the images brought quick condemnation from the football establishment and political leaders.

British prime minister Cameron said the incident was "extremely disturbing and very worrying" and "potentially a criminal offence" as he vowed assistance from British police.


- Criminal action -


Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo expressed "indignation" at the events and said "such an expression of stupidity and hate cannot be tolerated in Paris, least of all on the fringe of a sporting event meant to honour the values of sharing and respect."

Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, deputy leader of France's conservative opposition UMP party, said in a Twitter comment that "sanctions are essential".

In a statement, Chelsea called the incident "abhorrent".

"We will support any criminal action against those involved," the club said. It added that the culprits could be banned from matches.

Paris Saint Germain president Nasser Al-Khalifa slammed what he called "an intolerable act of discrimination."

"This problem concerns all club leaders and calls for us to be vigilant and show solidarity to solve it," said the Qatari businessman.

European football's governing body UEFA said it was "appalled" by the fans' behaviour, but could do nothing as the incident occurred away from a stadium.

Sepp Blatter, president of world governing body FIFA, wrote on Twitter: "I also condemn the actions of a small group of Chelsea fans in Paris. There is no place for racism in football!"

England's Football Association said: "The FA, like the club, completely condemn such disgraceful behaviour, which is a criminal offence, and those responsible should face the strongest possible punishment."

French and British anti-racism groups seized on the incident to call for more action by football leaders however.

The SOS Racisme activist group said the Chelsea fans actions were "alarming".

France's Representative Council for Black Associations (CRAN) said the Chelsea fans had imposed "apartheid" in the Paris metro and that the such racism "is becoming the norm" in football.

"You cannot be complacent and think the actions you're taking are sufficient to deal with the scourge of racism, sexism, homophobia and anti-Semitism," said Herman Ouseley, chairman of British anti-racism group Kick It Out.

English football grappled with serious stadium racism in the 1970s and 1980s, when black players were regularly subjected to abuse by supporters.

While that problem has eased, there have been a number of high-profile incidents involving players in recent years.

Chelsea's captain, John Terry, was banned for four matches and fined £220,000 ($340,000, 300,000 euros) in 2012 for racially abusing an opponent.

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