Amid a cacophony of beeping car horns, fireworks, and people hanging from car windows waving flags, cheering football fans poured on to Paris’s Champs-Élysées on Wednesday night to celebrate France beating Morocco to reach the World Cup final, hoping it would become the first country in 60 years to retain the title.
“We’re in the final!” yelled Romain, 16, who had high school the next day but was planning a late night celebrating. “When France won the World Cup in 2018, I was 12 and couldn’t really celebrate in the streets,” he said. “It feels brilliant tonight, but facing Argentina will be close, nail-biting.”
People danced, cheered and climbed lampposts and traffic lights as vans of police stood guard. More than 2,000 officers, including riot police in body armour, were stationed around the Champs-Elysées and across Paris in order to control the crowds and keep them to the pavements. More than 5,000 officers were deployed in the greater Paris area, and a total of 10,000 across the country. In Lyon, local media reported that police had fired teargas after stones and projectiles were thrown at them.
Even as the match was nearing the end, workmen with power drills were still hastily boarding up the windows of sports shops and other businesses on the Champs-Elysées as a precaution against vandalism, but the crowds remained calm, and included some families and children in Santa hats.
Large numbers of dual French-Moroccan nationals had sat together in nearby bars watching the champions, France, face the outsider success story, Morocco, and there were also Moroccan flags amid the celebrating crowd on the Champs-Elysées. Some fans were wrapped in French and Moroccan flags tied together, while others hanging out of car windows waved the flags of both countries at once.
Rays, a care worker in the southern town of Montpellier, had come to Paris to celebrate his 21st birthday the night before. He watched the match wrapped in the Moroccan flag alongside friends who were France fans sporting tricolour face paint. “France played brilliantly,” he said. “I was born in France to Moroccan and Algerian parents. I really, really wanted Morocco to be the first African team to make it to the World Cup final. It would have been historic, but it wasn’t to be. Argentina will be hard to beat now – Messi wants one last trophy.”
“I’m really happy and proud. Both teams played so well,” said Domitilla, 22, a French-Italian communications worker wearing red, white and blue face paint who had watched the match in a local bar. She lives in a flat near the Champs-Élysées. “I’m a bit worried that I won’t get any sleep tonight,” she said as cars streamed towards the avenue, beeping furiously, and fireworks went off.
Alexis, 25, a French engineer, said: “The last time they won the World Cup, I was at a scout camp in the countryside, so it’s good to be following it in the city now. France have done brilliantly.”
A group of six off-duty police officers wearing red, white and blue facepaint and draped in French flags were heading from a bar to the Champs-Élysées to celebrate. “It was a magnificent game, beautiful to watch. Morocco was a very strong team,” said one. “Now we just hope the night goes OK for our colleagues policing here. We won’t stay late – we’ve got work in the morning.”