On Saturday for Bastia’s reception, Gladiators Nîmes 1991 supporters with their drums, megaphones and tarps were prevented from entering their Costières stadium. For its president, Dimitri Pialat, this is further proof of the extreme authority shown by Rani Assaf, president of Nîmes Olympique, towards them. While tensions had already been raging for over a year, this weekend has just marked a new turning point that must be resolved in court.
Interview with Alexandre Le Bris
Since October 2021, our Pesage Est stand has been closed, which means that we will no longer attend Nîmes Olympique’s home games. But there are only five games left at Les Costières before its destruction, so we plan to return there exceptionally, in the south stand, during the game against Bastia.
How did events unfold from then on?
An hour after communicating the information to me, the supporter’s representative called me to explain that Rani Assaf would not authorize any distinctive sign of the Gladiators in the stands, that is, drums, megaphones and especially tarps. But in our “ultra mentality” , we can’t imagine going there without the tarp. We root for the Nîmes Olympique team and club behind him. We, our objective was to encourage the team, because it really needs it, putting aside our differences with the management. We had promised that there would be no abusive language.
“The police are aware that Rani Assaf has broken the law. »
What most alerts you to this measure taken against you by Rani Assaf?
You simply have no right. And when someone makes their own law, it is a totalitarian regime. It is a Rani Assaf dictatorship. It may just be football, but your freedom is eaten away.
How did you react to?
The police called me the morning of the meeting to officially warn me that the tarps would not fit. So I warned them that it was not legal, to which they replied that Rani Assaf knew about it and he would bear the consequences. This means that the police are aware that Rani Assaf has not respected the law.
Did you still show up at the stadium?
Yes. There were 200 of us and we were denied entry, as expected. So we stayed in front of the Costières, without disturbing the people entering the stadium or insulting anyone. We sang for about twenty minutes, until the game started.
— Colin Delprat (@ColinDelprat) September 11, 2022
What are the reasons given by Rani Assaf for denying you access with your team?
He tries to explain his decision not to bring the tarps by explaining that it can cause public disorder. Except that during the match, he was insulted by the majority of the South Stand. Like what, he does not enter the canvas, but he has made a mess. And then he was just a banner “GN 91” , it cannot cause any problem, unless it is removed. But it is not, it is 100% cotton. It’s ridiculous.
“We have reached a breaking point. We had done everything in the rules with good intentions. There we understood that he wanted to get rid of us at all costs. »
Do you plan to give a legal follow-up to the facts?
Of course, there will be trials. The National Supporters Association advised us to hire a lawyer. It is a fundamental deprivation of liberty, simply put. We had our tickets, we respected the rules of procedure and we were denied entry.
What conclusions do you draw from this fun day?
We have reached a breaking point. We had done everything in the rules with good intentions. There we understood that he wanted to get rid of us at all costs. But the group is not going to die out, we mobilized 200 people who came with the certainty of not coming back. We feel a lot of anger, but also sadness. We hope that we will all find unity behind Nîmes Olympique.
It seems more complicated with a completely closed grandstand, the Pesage Est grandstand. Why has it been like this for a year?
Because we are in contradiction with Rani Assaf. He wants football like in the theater, and we don’t want a disinfected stadium. It was around the issue of smoke bombs that there was a problem. We wanted a controlled use by wanting to make a moral commitment to use them reasonably, because we understand the economic measures that result from the League’s fines. We were trying to find an agreement to use them two or three times a year for one-off events.
How were the talks with Rani Assaf?
This time he said: “The law is the law, period. » I wanted to condition the opening of the forum to the signing of a letter to regulate more. We were honest in refusing, knowing that there are already procedural rules. Therefore, he decided to close the gallery.
“We were recognized as a southern audience, now it’s the Wild West with the straw ball going through the middle. »
However, you are not the only ones who use this forum…
That’s the most annoying thing, he put all the fans in the same bag and sanctioned them. This season, he made an economic gesture by putting a price of 10 euros, the price at East Weigh-In, on the side. But there is a personal and nostalgic attachment to our platform. A guy told me: “I have been coming to Pesage Est since I was very young with my father, I will not leave this forum to go elsewhere. »
Last season, Les Costières hosted fewer than 2,000 spectators per match on average, making it the penultimate Ligue 2 attendance of the season. Has the conflict gone much further than the simple framework of Rani Assaf vs. Gladiators?
Me, I am a pure Nîmes and I can tell you that people are disgusted. They will not return to the stadium while Rani Assaf is still there. With this atmosphere, results no longer matter. The atmosphere is almost dead in Les Costières, it is ten times worse than before. We were known as a southern audience, now it’s the Wild West with the straw ball going through the middle.
In the pre-season, Nîmes Olympique announced the creation of a fan association, the “Grinta Club”. How do you see your first weeks of operation?
A year and a half ago, when the project was presented, we thought it was a good idea, it allowed us to federate. This quickly led to the suppression of subscriptions and the obligation to go through a membership in the “Club Grinta” to benefit from the reductions. So there we had a problem. But to adhere to something, you have to believe in it. There, instead of federating, you take people hostage. The other problem is that the position had to be democratically elected, be independent of the club and represent the maximum number of people. First information that falls: the designated president is Jean-Jacques Bourdin, the honorary president of the club and, in a way, the right-hand man of Rani Assaf… What should have been a beautiful project is ultimately only an extension of the club’s influence. club about the fans.
Going back to the Gladiators, the president threatened to dissolve them last February. Where is this process?
The prefecture told him that he had no rights over it, he was kindly challenged. And we were far from having cause to be dissolved. Because for an association of the 1901 law, it is almost necessary to reach acts of terrorism for that to succeed.
How do you continue your activity without being able to enter Costières?
In the last two home games, we needed to be on Pesage Est’s side, even though it was closed. So we did it with the means at hand, we turned on a generator to which we connected a screen to follow the match.
For the second time this season we were in front of our Pesage Est to watch the game of our Undesirables team, but never far from our colors pic.twitter.com/3SrlquiimK
– Gladiators Nimes 1991 (@Gladiators1991) August 29, 2022
What about away games?
We make all the trips abroad, our canvases are accepted and we also receive good receptions. In fact, we find the world before, the one before Rani Assaf. It is thanks to this that the association maintains the bond with the team, which is fundamental.
“We are a bit in a law of terror, I understand that the players do not take sides. Last season, some players said they were against closing the academy. They were immediately put on the transfer list. »
How do you explain this wave of support from the ultras?
It is Pandora’s box that can simply be opened. If we start letting events pass as is happening in Nîmes, it could happen everywhere, to all groups of fans and kill football.
Do you also receive support from the players?
Nicolas Benezet is the only one who has done it publicly. We are a bit in a law of terror, I understand that the players do not take sides. Last season, some players said they were against closing the academy. They were immediately put on the transfer list. When we meet individual players, they tell us it pisses them off, but there’s nothing they can do about it.
I am deeply saddened by what is happening in my club, but unfortunately it is not me who makes the decisions… I sincerely hope that a solution can be found so that everything goes back to the way it was before.
— NICO D BENEZET (@NicolasBenezet) September 11, 2022
Precisely, Rani Assaf called Nicolás Benezet to order in the columns of free lunch saying that the “He would do well to get well and quickly return to playing football and taking care of football” . What inspires you?
Once again, it is worthy of a totalitarian regime. It’s not because you’re the employer that you have the right to “control your comments,” which aren’t outrageous either! Create a climate of terror and tension in a locker room that will influence the sports performance of the players and therefore the results.
Interview with Alexandre Le Bris
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