France: teenager killed in hit-and-run as World Cup celebrations continue

France: teenager killed in hit-and-run as World Cup celebrations continue
French supporters gathered in Paris and cities across the country to celebrate France's victory over Morocco in the World Cup semifinal. There were some signs of violence during the celebrations, including a hit-and-run incident in Montpellier.
4 min read
15 December, 2022
Fans gathered in Champs-Elysee in Paris to celebrate France's victory [Kiran Ridley/Getty Images]

Waving tricolour flags and setting off flares, French supporters erupted in jubilation around the iconic Champs-Elysees avenue after France's triumph over Morocco on Wednesday, which has put Les Bleus into the World Cup final.

The celebrations were mostly peaceful around Paris, but there were some signs of unrest in other parts of the country, including a fatal post-match hit-and-run incident in the southern city of Montpellier.

About 10,000 police were mobilised across France, as authorities fretted over potential clashes between French supporters and those backing its one-time North African colony.

As football lovers in Paris thronged to the end of the avenue leading to the Arc de Triomphe, the mood was impassioned but largely good-natured, with Moroccan supporters accepting defeat.

"We are in the final. We are in the final," hundreds of French supporters chanted as drivers sounded horns and anti-riot police lurked in vans lining the area.

A French anti-riot police van even used one of its sirens to mark the moment when Kolo Muani scored the goal to give France a 2-0 lead.

"What pleasure it will be to play Argentina in the final," said Sylvain Badin, 24, clutching a French flag. "I came to share a moment of joy."

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Dozens of Moroccan fans also made themselves heard during the match in the area, swathing themselves in national flags as they followed the match on their phones.

"We lost but it's only football and we made history by making the semi-finals. We are proud of our country and happy for France," said Kamal Seddiki, a 22-year-old Moroccan student.

Some fans setting off fireworks around the Arc de Triomphe were dispersed by police.

And a group of about 40 people aligned with far-right groups were arrested for carrying prohibited weapons before they could get to the Champs-Elysees, a police source said.

"They clearly wanted to fight on the Champs," the source said.

In total more than 100 arrests took place around the Paris area before 1:00 am on Thursday, the police said.

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In the southern French city of Montpellier, tragedy struck after the game Wednesday night when a 14-year-old boy was killed by a "hit-and-run driver" who fled the scene, local authorities said in a statement.

French MP Nathalie Oziol expressed "immense sadness (that) a sporting event ends in absolute drama".

"I offer my condolences to the family," she said in a tweet.

In Nice, trash cans were set on fire after the game in the centre of the city where thousands had gathered, an AFP photographer said.

In France's third-largest city Lyon, a concerto of horns also erupted after the match, but the scene of jubilation became tense when "a group of far-right youths approached fans", said Lyon prefecture official.

"There was a brawl and the police quickly intervened to push the group back," the local source said.

Police also used tear gas when supporters began to let off firecrackers in the central Place Bellecour.

The Lyon prefecture reported a total of seven arrests, including two from far-right groups.

Nearby Annecy saw projectiles thrown at police, and a man was taken to the hospital after he was injured in a brawl.

And in the historic city of Avignon, there were 14 arrests - eight for firing mortars, according to a police report sent to AFP.

France's relationship with Morocco may not be as fraught as with Algeria, another former colony that fought a bloody seven-year War of Independence that scars both nations to this day.

But as in any post-colonial relationship, Morocco, which won independence in 1956, has its grievances with France, most notably over the question of visas.

More than a million Moroccans are believed to live in France and security forces had been on alert for any clashes like those in Brussels that marked Morocco's shock win over Belgium in the group stages.

But 20-year-old Hossam Boutalah in the southwestern city of Bordeaux said he was "happy for France".

The student donned a Moroccan flag on his back during the post-match celebrations in the port city's central square.

"We are brothers after all, we are together. It is our second country," Boutalah said.

Though "Morocco played well and would have deserved to score a goal."