Souleymane, the 33-year-old Franco-Mauritanian who was caught on video being racially abused by Chelsea fans trying to board a Métro train in Paris has spoken out for the first time about the incident. The father of three lost his mobile phone when he was shoved off the train on several occasions by Chelsea supporters, but won a lot of support online after video footage filmed by a British expat went viral after it was published on The Guardian website.
An interview, published in today’s Figaro (19th February) is the first time Souleymane has talked to anyone about the incident, including his wife and children. “What do I say to my kids, that Daddy was shoved off the train because he’s black? That wouldn’t stick”. For Souleymane, the experience of being abused by a group from another country was as bizarre as it was familiar.
“They were saying things in English to me but I didn’t really get what they were. I don’t speak a word of English…I made the link with the match that night and I understood that they were Chelsea supporters. I understood as well that they were picking on me because the colour of my skin. I live with racism, you know, and I wasn’t surprised that it happened, even if it was the first time on the Métro…I stood face-to-face with them for a long time (the incident lasted “around six or seven minutes”), someone came up to me afterwards to tell me how brave I was to withstand them. RATP agents arrived then but just to avoid a fight breaking out but not to help me.”
“I don’t feel like I’m safe in my country, there you have it. You’re in a country where you’re treated like a ‘dirty black’, sorry but in my mind that’s terrible. I didn’t realise I was being filmed, but it’s given me a lot more courage to report the incident to the police. I might do it tomorrow (now today) if I have the time because I have work as well. In any case I’ll be going to anti-racism associations. These English supporters have to be found, punished and have to be locked up. What happened can’t stay unpunished.”
“I’m extremely angry, put yourself in my shoes, and I’m not ready to let them off. I’m going to complain and I want to see them punished. I’m not saying that I’m always see racists but there is racism that happens, but I didn’t believe something like that would happen to me just because I’m black. And moreover, we’re in France, it’s 2015; it’s not the age of slavery or colonialism.”
Despite UEFA washing their hands of the incident due to the fact that it took place outside of Parc des Princes, both the Parisian authorities and Scotland Yard are working on an investigation. Elsewhere, The Sun has claimed to identify one of the Chelsea supporters on the train as 21-year-old student Josh Parsons, who according to them has an education formed in some of the most prestigious learning institutions in England.