The documentary “Battle of Marseilles” talks about the “already strained relations between Russia and the Western camp”.

Former Russian parliamentary aide, ex-head of pro-Russia association, Scotland Yard agent, French CRS and tons of archival footage of clashes from social networks or CCTV cameras… In a documentary available this Thursday on French Televisions, platform director Cyril Domanico, 11 June 2016 Euro match day in France, Marseille takes the story back between Russia and England. Memories of the match do not keep score (1-1), a violent clash between supporters led by Russian hooligans in the Old Port. During this sequence, England supporter Andrew Bache remains on the ground. A supporter from Portsmouth was left in a coma for a month in cardiac arrest during emergency surgery, from which he awoke with dire consequences.

Two years later, two Russian fans who traveled to Germany to support Spartak Moscow for a European Cup match were arrested. The Aix-en-Provence High Court sentenced them to three and ten years in prison in December 2020. As the world championship in Qatar approaches, 20 minutes This interview with the film’s director returns to the not-so-distinct reality of football violence and the relationship between sport and politics.

What were you doing on June 11, 2016?

I remember it very well. It was my day off and I was watching the French team for Canal+. I discovered the story on social media, especially through friends I followed from Marseille, the city I came from. So first I had the raw images before media interpretation. And that’s probably why I wanted to take a step back from this event with this film.

When did you decide to make a film about him?

About a year ago. After leaving Canal+, I wanted to continue telling stories that take sport as a starting point, but knowing that we are in a context where we talk about it a lot compared to the world, I wanted to say something else, especially in terms of the political dimension of sport. Cup in Qatar. And this documentary already deals with the strained relationship between the Russian state and the Western camp, and unfortunately, today, with Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, it takes on even more meaning.

There is an interview of Alexander Chprigin, who was known for his closeness to Vladimir Putin and was a referent of Russian supporters at the time, about sports-politics relations…

Yes, what amazes me in making this film is how the ambivalence of authority and Russian patriotism is already expressed in this event. It was not Vladimir Putin’s government that paid people for the conflicts. But the fact that the Russian authorities have not helped identify the perpetrators of the violence ultimately helps encourage these practices, which are symbols of what Russian politics loves: puffing out their chests and proclaiming their patriotism. .

What we saw in the videos where Putin said “I don’t understand how 200 Russians could beat 1000 Englishmen”…

We have a dose of irony, a lot of shy condemnation, and a lot of patriotism, echoing the words of Aleksandr Chprigin in this documentary: “We are genetically superior. This is something that has been in Russia’s political DNA for the last 50 years and is being expressed today.

What role does Marseille, where you come from, play in this film?

Marseille is a symbol of a city and a warm community in France. And that’s why it’s a city that attracts violent supporters, because the city is a symbol of support and ultra groups. We saw it in Frankfurt. So when there are trips, European matches, it is a city that is constantly under tension and in danger of severe flooding. And that’s why I wanted to tell this documentary. It is no coincidence that this happened in Marseille. Marseille is a football destination. There is a desire to show off in hooliganism. Russians attack the British because they are traditionally a symbol of hooliganism. So, on June 11, the Russians staged a double coup.

The authorities have been fighting violence in football since the 1990s. Why is such excess still possible?

That’s one of the reasons I wanted to make this film. In France, we have a policy of repression that does not work with violent supporters. What works is to anticipate their arrival and do more reconnaissance to prevent them from doing what happened in Marseilles, regrouping and organizing. In this film, we see what happens when we least expect it. In France, we can care about our public policy around large demonstrations and violent supporters.

The world championship is about to start in Qatar. There are no Russians, can there be such violence?

On the one hand, repressive policies in Qatar do not encourage mass movement of fans. There are also significant economic costs of going there that would prevent them from moving. On the other hand, football, with its power of transcendence and the mass it moves, always makes sports competition a little dangerous. Regardless of the type of threat. It could be an accident. I don’t know what was put in the ground, but there is always a risk. We can also talk about the Olympic Games to be held in France in 2024. We cannot predict what will happen. In any case, what happened in Marseille is specific and a product of the local and international political context, so we do not find it.

How do you see the World Cup in Qatar?

I find it sad. Sadly for football, which should be able to remain popular and accessible even with a huge commercial aspect, this is not the case. We are in a country that creates more superficial events than today’s football, so it is sad. In addition, it exposes the shortcomings of the authorities and our governments, because we know that this World Cup has already caused human tragedies with many deaths. If we are fans of this sport, we cannot congratulate ourselves on this World Cup.

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