Police in Britain and France are searching Wednesday for a group of English soccer fans who blocked a black man from boarding the Paris Metro and chanted: “We’re racist, we’re racist, and that’s the way we like it.”
The disturbing video was made by a commuter during Tuesday evening rush hour as fans were heading to a Champions League game between London club Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain. It quickly went viral and authorities have appealed for anyone who recognizes the individuals to come forward.
The video shows a packed subway train pull into Richelieu-Drouot station in Paris. A black man approaches the open doors and attempts to board, only to be swiftly pushed back onto the platform by those inside.
One man’s arm reaches out of the carriage and punches the air to chants of “Chel-sea, Chel-sea, Chel-sea.”
The commuter approaches the doors again and appears to try to reason with those inside, pointing at a space where he can stand. He makes a second attempt to board and is again pushed back.
The video then shows the fans chanting: “We’re racist, we’re racist, and that’s the way we like it.”
A black woman is clearly visible standing in front of the open train doors from where the slogans are emanating, and another black woman is seen walking out of one of the busy carriages.
The video was first obtained by the Guardian newspaper. The commuter who taped the incident, British expatriate Paul Nolan, said he also heard fans chanting “Where were you in World War II.” He described the whole episode as “very aggressive.”
“There definitely was a culture shock,” he told the newspaper. “I heard a couple of French guys saying: ‘I can’t believe this. It’s insane.’”
English soccer has worked hard to change its image in recent decades after the sport was marred by persistent violent and racist behavior of some fans. Many black players endured racist chants when they stepped on the field, often from their own supporters.
As recently as 2012, Chelsea captain John Terry was banned for four games and fined the equivalent of $340,000 by the Football Assn., the sport’s governing body, for using a racial slur against Anton Ferdinand, a player from another team.
Chelsea has several black players, some of whom played on Tuesday night. The club was quick to describe the behavior as “abhorrent.”
“We will support any criminal action against those involved in such behavior, and should evidence point to the involvement of Chelsea season ticket holders or members, the club will take the strongest possible action against them including banning orders,” it said in a statement.
Scotland Yard said it was assisting French authorities.
“We will examine the footage with a view to seeing if we can apply for football banning orders, preventing people from traveling from future matches,” a statement said.
A Chelsea supporter who was on the train sought to defend the actions, claiming they blocked the black man because he was a fan of the Paris Saint-Germain team.
“People were saying it was because he was black. It’s not true at all. I personally think it’s because he was a PSG fan. Obviously they didn’t want him anywhere with us,” Mitchell McCoy, 17, told Britain’s Press Assn. news agency.
The man in the video does not appear to be wearing any team jersey or sporting apparel.
Chelsea’s first black soccer player, Paul Canoville, said watching the video brought back painful memories and the perpetrators need to be banned from attending games for life.
“I was really angry, I was shocked and it just set me back,” he said. “It’s just taken away Chelsea’s name. … We’re top of the league, but nobody is talking about that right now.”
Boyle is a special correspondent.