“In Nîmes, it is a Rani Assaf dictatorship” / France / Nîmes Olympique / SOFOOT.com

Saturday on the occasion of Bastia’s reception, the group of supporters of Gladiators Nîmes 1991 was refused entry with its drums, megaphone and tarpaulin in the Costières stadium. For its president Dimitri Pialat, this is another evidence of the extreme authority that Rani Assaf, president of Nîmes Olympique, has shown to them. While tensions have been escalating for more than a year, this week just marked a new point that needs to be settled in court.


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You have been away from Les Costières for almost a year. What motivated you to return to the stadium last Saturday?
As of October 2021, our Pesage Est stand is closed, which means we will no longer attend Nîmes Olympique’s home games. But there are only five games left in Les Costières before it is destroyed, so we thought we would go back there in a special way, in the southern stand, during the match against Bastia.

How have events unfolded since then?
An hour after announcing the information, the referent of the supporters called me to explain to me that Rani Assaf does not allow any unique sign of the Gladiators in the stands, that is to say drums, megaphones, and especially already the tarps. But in ours “Ultra mentality” , we can’t imagine going there without a tarp. We support the Nîmes Olympique team and club behind it. We, our goal is to motivate the team, because it really needs it, while putting aside our differences in management. We promise no abusive language.

“The police knew that Rani Assaf had broken the law. »

What alerted you the most about this step taken against you by Rani Assaf?
He just has no right. And if someone makes his own law, it is a totalitarian regime. This is a Rani Assaf dictatorship. It may be football, but your freedom is being eaten away.

How did you react?
The police called me the morning of the meeting to officially warn me that the tarpaulin would not fit. So I warned them that it was not legal, something to which they replied that Rani Assaf knew and that she would suffer the consequences. It means that the police know that Rani Assaf does not respect the law.

Are you still showing up at the stadium?
Yes. There were 200 of us and we were refused entry, as expected. So we stayed in front of Costières, without disturbing the people entering the stadium or insulting anyone. We sang for about twenty minutes, until the game started.

What are the reasons Rani Assaf gives for not being able to access your device?
He tried to explain his decision not to bring the tarps by explaining that it would cause public unrest. Except that during the match, he was insulted by the majority of the south stand. As it was, the tarp was not put in, but the mess was made. And then it’s just a flag “GN 91” , it does not cause any problems, unless it is mined. But it’s not, it’s 100% cotton. Funny.

“We have reached the breaking point. We do everything in the rules with good intentions. There, we understood that he wanted to get rid of us at any cost. »

Do you plan to provide legal follow-up to the events?
Of course, there are cases. The National Supporters’ Association advised us to hire a lawyer. It is a deprivation of fundamental freedom, quite simply. We had our tickets, we respected the rules of procedure and we were denied entry.

What conclusions can you draw from this funny day?
We have reached the breaking point. We do everything in the rules with good intentions. There, we understood that he wanted to get rid of us at any cost. But before the group died, we mobilized 200 people who came and were sure not to come back. We feel a lot of anger, but also sadness. We hope that we can all find unity behind Nîmes Olympique.

It seems to be more complicated in a completely closed grandstand, the Pesage Est grandstand. Why is this happening for a year now?
Because Rani Assaf and I are the opposite. He likes football like theatre, and we don’t want a sanitized stadium. It’s around the smoke bomb issue that there is a problem. We want controlled use by seeking to make a moral commitment to use it rationally, because we know the economic measures that result from League fines. We are trying to find an agreement to use it two to three times a year for special events.

How were the discussions with Rani Assaf?
This time he said: “The law is the law, period. » He wants to condition the opening of the forum on the signing of a charter to further regulate. We are honest in denial, knowing that there are rules of procedure. So he decided to close the gallery.

“We were recognized as a Southern audience, now it’s the Wild West with a straw ball going through the middle. »

However, you are not the only one using this forum…
That’s the most annoying thing, he put all the supporters in a bag and punished them. At this time, he made a financial move by placing a price of 10 euros, the price of Weighing East, on the side. But there is a personal and nostalgic attachment to our platform. A man said to me: “I have been coming to Pesage Est since I was little with my father, I will not leave this forum to go somewhere else. »

Last season, Costières welcomed less than 2,000 spectators per game on average, making it the penultimate attendance in Ligue 2 for the season. Is the conflict more than a simple plot of Rani Assaf versus the Gladiators?
Me, I am a pure Nîmes and I can tell you that people are hated. They will not return to the stadium as long as Rani Assaf is there. With this atmosphere, results don’t matter anymore. The atmosphere in Les Costières was almost dead, it was ten times worse than before. We’re known as a Southern audience, now it’s the Wild West with a straw ball going through the middle.

In the pre-season, Nîmes Olympique announced the creation of a supporters’ association, the “Grinta Club”. How do you see the first weeks of its operation?
A year and a half ago, when the project was presented, we thought it was a good idea, it became possible to federate. Quickly, it led to the elimination of subscriptions and the obligation to go through a membership of the “Grinta Club” to benefit from the reductions. So there we are, we have a problem. But to follow something, you have to believe in it. There, instead of federating, you hold people hostage. Another problem is that the office must be democratically elected, be independent of the club and represent the largest number of people. First information that fell: the appointed president is Jean-Jacques Bourdin, the honorary president of the club and in a way, the right arm of Rani Assaf… What should have been a beautiful project in the end is only one an extension of the club’s influence on the supporters.

Back in Gladiators, you were threatened with dissolution by the president in February. Where is this process?
The prefecture told him he had no right to it, challenging him kindly. And we are far from being broke. Because for an association in the 1901 law, it is almost necessary to come to acts of terrorism for that to succeed.

How do you continue your activity without entering Costières?
In the last two home games, we had to be on the Pesage Est side, even if it was closed. That’s why we do the available ways, we run a generator where we connect a screen to follow the game.

What about away games?
We made all the trips outside, received our tarpaulins and also received good receptions. Actually, we find the world before, the one before Rani Assaf. It is because of this that the association still has a link with the team, which is important.

“We are somewhat in a law of terror, I understand that the players do not take sides. Last season, some players said they were against the closing of the academy. They were immediately put on the transfer list. »

How do you explain this surge of support from the ultras?
Pandora’s box that is easy to open. If we start to ignore events like what happened in Nîmes, they can happen everywhere, in all groups of supporters and it will kill football.

Do you also receive support from players?
Only Nicolas Benezet has done this publicly. We are a bit under the law of terror, I understand that the players do not take sides. Last season, some players said they were against closing the academy. They are then placed on the transfer list. When we meet the players individually, they tell us that it makes them angry, but they can’t do anything about it.

Appropriately, Rani Assaf called Nicolas Benezet to order the columns of Free lunch saying that he “It’s good to get better and get back to playing football and taking care of football” . What motivates you?
Again, this is worthy of a totalitarian regime. It is not because you are the boss that you have the right to “control his comments”, which is also not a scandal! It creates a climate of panic and tension in a locker room that can influence the sports performance of the players and therefore the results.

Interview with Alexandre Le Bris

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