282 Arrested in France After Algeria Win Football Match as Celebrations Turn to Riot

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AFP — French police arrested over two hundred people on Sunday following Algeria’s qualification for the final of the Africa Cup of Nations, which sparked scenes of joy as well as clashes with police in several large cities.

Riotous celebrations erupted around France, which is home to large Algerian-origin communities, after the Algerian football team beat Nigeria 2-1 in the semi-final.

The interior ministry said 282 people had been arrested on Sunday night, “almost all” of them linked to the football match while some were detained on the sidelines of France’s national Bastille Day celebrations.

Fifty people were arrested in the French capital after clashes broke out between football fans and police on the Champs-Elysees avenue, which was littered with broken bikes and scooters on Monday morning.

There was also violence reported in Marseille and Lyon.

After the final whistle, thousands of jubilant fans gathered in front of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, jumping and chanting “Long live Algeria.”

Many leaned out of car windows as they waved red, white and green flags, as police in helmets looked on.

More than 200 people were disciplined for dangerous driving, Paris police said.

Algeria supporters with the country’s national flag celebrate after Algeria won the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) semi-final football match against Nigeria, on the Champs-Elysee avenue in Paris on July 14, 2019. – Riyad Mahrez rifled in a stoppage-time free-kick to earn Algeria a dramatic 2-1 victory over three-time champions Nigeria on July 14 and set up a rematch with Senegal in the Africa Cup of Nations final. (Photo by Zakaria ABDELKAFI / AFP)

In the southern coastal city of Marseille, police attempted to stop football celebrations around the historic Old Port area where 15,000 people had gathered to watch Bastille Day fireworks.

A few hundred fans of the “Fennecs”, as the Algerian team is known, managed to reach the harbour after skipping police barriers.

Officers ended up firing tear gas at fans who threw objects near the Porte d’Aix historic arch.

Eight police officers suffered minor injuries, local authorities said.

– ‘July 14 of shame’ –

In the eastern city of Lyon, dozens of cars were torched overnight. This often happens on the night of July 14 which celebrates the founding of the French republic.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner on Monday congratulated police and firemen for their “speedy reaction and professionalism” in response to the problems

Of those arrested, 249 people were in custody on Monday.

Paris and Marseille are home to large communities of French people of Algerian origin, a legacy of France’s colonial rule in the gas-rich north African country.

Algeria supporters celebrate after Algeria won the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) semi-final football match against Nigeria, on the Champs-Elysee avenue in Paris on July 14, 2019. – Riyad Mahrez rifled in a stoppage-time free-kick to earn Algeria a dramatic 2-1 victory over three-time champions Nigeria on July 14 and set up a rematch with Senegal in the Africa Cup of Nations final. (Photo by Zakaria ABDELKAFI / AFP)

France’s far-right National Rally party condemned the unrest, branding the celebrations the “July 14 of shame”.

“Their victories are our nightmare,” party spokesperson Sebastien Chenu said Monday. “Whenever there’s a match with Algeria… there are problems.”

Last Thursday, when Algeria defeated Ivory Coast to reach the semi-finals, fans went on the rampage in central Paris, looting shops.

On the same day in the southern city of Montpellier, an Algerian football supporter celebrating his team’s win lost control of his car at high speed and ran into a family, killing a woman and seriously injuring her baby.

France was rocked by six months of anti-government “yellow vest” protests from November last year which saw thousands of people arrested in some of the worst urban violence in decades.

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