Saturday 24 March 2018

Man racially abused on Paris metro ready to speak to Chelsea fans at match

A still from the video showing Chelsea fans stopping a black man getting on a train in Paris.
A still from the video showing Chelsea fans stopping a black man getting on a train in Paris.

Nina Massey

One year after a commuter was racially abused by Chelsea supporters as he tried to board a Paris Metro train, he says he is ready to speak to the London club's fans if they talk to him.

Souleymane Sylla, has accepted an invitation from Paris Saint-Germain to watch the Champions League tie between the two sides in the French capital.

Mr Sylla was repeatedly pushed backwards off a carriage amid chants of "we're racist, we're racist, and that's the way we like it" as Chelsea supporters travelled to their club's February 17 2015 match with PSG.

Chelsea condemned the incident and five men were given football banning orders of up to five years last July. All received lifetime bans from the club.

Mr Sylla was so traumatised he had to take six months off work, and he used the Metro for the first time since the incident on February 5.

He declined an invitation from Chelsea to attend the return leg in London in March 2015, as he said the ordeal was too raw. The club extended the offer as an open invitation, which remains in place.

Speaking to the BBC's 5 live Daily, he said the fixture reopened his wounds, but that he would continue to fight for justice.

Mr Sylla said: "If Chelsea fans want to speak to me I'll speak to them - they're people after all."

Describing how he felt a year on from the incident, he said: "Listen, my wounds have once again opened.

"I feel better, but it's a matter of working with them. You know, the problem is that I am wounded, and my family are hurt too.

"Imagine that you have a seven-year old child who is growing up with racism - it's really bad.

"Even though I grew up with racism I can get over it, but my son - when he speaks with others at school he comes home and says to us: 'Dad, the kids at school made fun of me because they said my dad was pushed.'

"What does that put inside their heads? I find that really bad."

Asked how he felt about a number of Chelsea fans being banned from attending games for up to five years, he said: "These people don't represent football, these people represent hatred and racism."

It is the third year in a row Chelsea and PSG have been drawn together in the Champions League.

Chelsea won in 2014 on away goals, were defeated last year on away goals and host the second leg at Stamford Bridge on March 9.

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