In the heart of the humble French neighborhoods, the “city-stades”, or urban soccer fields, are for young people “one of the few places to change air” in this post-confinement period, but they can also crystallize tensions with the neighbors and town halls.
In the Raguenets neighborhood, in Saint-Gratien (Paris region), the “city-stade” of La Bombonera – which takes its name from the mythical stadium of Buenos Aires – has not vibrated since May 29. The mayor’s office decided to install cement blocks in the field and tear up the synthetic grass.
“They have destroyed the land” without warning, “it is an act of vandalism,” estimates Zaki Diop, a resident of the neighborhood. For this consultant, its elimination “is more than a punishment. We left two months of confinement, it has been hard for everyone and they take away one of the few spaces to change air.”
The field “is a place of exchange […]. The stadium goes along with the life of the neighborhood, it has gone through generations, professional players have left this field. It is our heritage, “claims Zaki Diop, who joined several residents to denounce the right-wing city council’s decision in court.
The municipality affirms that it wants to avoid “clandestine tournaments” with “hundreds” of players who “appropriate the public space” causing “damage to the inhabitants”
Now, “girls and boys are bored,” explains Malika Schiff, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1978, and whose four children enjoyed the court.
A policeman who was against its destruction thinks that “this land was not a problem, except for some noise.” “In general, city-stades are not places that particularly attract our attention. There may be young people who smoke [cannabis] but at the moment they are not places of drug trafficking.
– “Showcase of the neighborhoods” –
In Paris, near the famous Montmartre district, formerly a disadvantaged neighborhood, the creation of one of these camps in 2018 creates a stir.
“In the beautiful playground, the playground has been destroyed to put a goal with grids, which ‘excludes’ small and medium-sized children,” criticizes Anne Thoumieux, a resident of the neighborhood, who denounces the “misuse of material” with “young adults playing soccer games at night”, but also “drug problems”.
For former French international player Vikash Dhorasso, who wore the shirt of PSG, the capital’s team, and was a candidate for the Paris municipal council on a far-left list, it is “a space of life and social union” in “a gentrified neighborhood” (gentrified) that “only offers consumption as leisure”.
The mayor’s office is looking for a new place for the mini-stadium.
In the Parisian suburbs of La Courneuve, Pantin or Aulnay-sous-Bois, the installation of the city-stades is agreed and the municipalities support the organization of neighborhood tournaments.
For example, in one of these districts, the second edition of the Neighborhood African Cup of Nations is held, with the support of the right-wing mayor’s office.
This event “is a small post-confinement summer vacation,” explains the competition co-organizer.