Champions League: PSG-Maccabi Haifa, a risky meeting for a qualification at stake

PSG will try on Tuesday to win their qualification for the final phase of the Champions League against Maccabi Haifa. A match which, outside the green rectangle, will mobilize hundreds of members of the police force, the meeting being classified at risk.

A game at stake on and off the field. The meeting between PSG and Maccabi Haifa on Tuesday, October 25, could be an opportunity for the Parisian club to qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League. It is also a meeting considered to be at risk which will be closely monitored by the authorities with a “reinforced” security system, according to the Paris police headquarters.

The National Directorate for the Fight against Hooliganism has classified this meeting at risk level 3 on a scale of 5, said Sunday L’Équipe. That is to say that the PSG-Maccabi Haifa match “presents proven risks of disturbing public order”, according to the established terminology.

The Paris police headquarters (PP) thus announced on Monday that the security system will be “reinforced” for this meeting. “A reinforced device combining mobile forces and units of the police headquarters will be deployed around the Parc des Princes but also in the capital, in particular in public transport, in order to prevent possible clashes”, according to the PP, which n did not specify the number of police forces mobilized.

According to a source familiar with the matter, “about 600 staff” were initially to be hired but “the number may have since risen because it is a high-risk match and the Israeli embassy is putting a lot of pressure on it”. Nearly 1,000 members of the police will be hired to ensure the security of the meeting, say for their part L’Équipe and Le Parisien.

According to UEFA regulations, each club is required to reserve at least 5% of the capacity of its stadium exclusively for the use of supporters of the visiting club, ie approximately 2,400 seats for the Parc des Princes. But “in view of the risks linked to the holding of the match (…), the organizer has limited the number of Israeli supporters in the visitors’ gallery to 1,650”, specified the police headquarters.

Tragic evening in 2006 and CUP banner

The authorities fear this meeting because “these are extremely sensitive matches, in particular because of the context around Israel, even if currently this country does not appear particularly in the news”, tells L’Équipe a familiar with these subjects. And he specifies: “These matches against Israeli teams also attract a lot of PSG supporters of the Jewish faith. During these meetings, they support the other club, so it is difficult to know precisely how many Haifa will support.

It is also difficult to know how many supporters of the Israeli club will be present outside the official parking lot in the stadium. But PSG wants to be clear on this subject, according to Le Parisien: any supporter taking place outside this area and presenting a distinctive sign linked to Maccabi Haifa or Israel will be expelled from the Parc des Princes.

Sixteen years later, the spirits are also still marked by the tragic evening of November 23, 2006. That evening, PSG lost to Hapoel Tel-Aviv (2-4) in the group stages of the European Cup. UEFA – the former Europa League. At the exit of the stadium, a French supporter wearing a scarf from the Israeli club is chased by several individual PSG supporters, as reported by France Football. A plainclothes policeman comes to his aid. The situation escalates, the official fires a bullet with his weapon and mortally wounds a man. The investigation will ultimately conclude that the police officer was in self-defense.

Finally, a banner of the Collectif ultras parisiens (CUP), brandished on August 13 at the Parc des Princes, could also be a source of tension with Israeli supporters. It read: “We hang out in strips like in Gaza”.

A leader of the CUP recognizes with L’Équipe that “the context is particular for Tuesday, but we do not want to fall into the trap of violence, we have passed instructions in this direction”. And he adds: “We support the Palestinians, a people who suffer, as we were able to do for the Uyghurs. There is no desire to send political messages.”

PSG qualified for the round of 16 if they win

In case of victory, Kylian Mbappé and his teammates can ensure their qualification for the final phase of the Champions League from the 5th day. But if the men of Christophe Galtier (8 points) concede a draw, they will have to hope that Juventus Turin (3 points) does not win against Benfica Lisbon (8 points).

In the first leg, on September 14, the Parisians had dominated Maccabi Haifa (1-3). But their opponent had shown some resistance, even leading to the score for 37 minutes before the “MNM” – Lionel Messi (37th), Kylian Mbappé (69th) and Neymar (88th) – made his realism speak in front of the cage despite a performance collective sometimes sluggish.

Christophe Galtier also analyzed with lucidity, Monday, the opposing team and its performance delivered in September: “We were not surprised by the quality of Maccabi Haifa in the first leg, it is not by chance that we were jostled”, he declared in a pre-match press conference.

For the Parisian coach, the Israeli team “is very well organized”: “It has a very lively, alert, very hard-hitting game and has very technical players with a coach who advocates a very intense, very aggressive game – in the good sense of the term – and very offensive.”

PSG midfielder Fabian Ruiz also praised the “very strong pressure” of the Israeli team, before adding: “We will provide a match of the same intensity. It is a very important match for us with our supporters.”