The situation is chaotic between some Nîmes supporters, notably the “Gladiators 1991” group, and club president Rani Assaf. The two parties have been in conflict for several months, with relations deteriorating for ten days. This Saturday a meeting was organized to try to reduce tensions, which turned out to be a fiasco.
The descent into hell is accentuated for Nîmes Olympique. Ninth in Ligue 1 in 2018-2019, just after their promotion to the top flight, the Crocos are currently 17th in Ligue 2. Behind the scenes, the rag is burning and the relationship between club president Rani Assaf, and some supporters, including the group. “Gladiators 1991”: It may have reached a point of no return. After months of tension, the battle between the two sides took on a new dimension ten days ago. And the meeting organized this Saturday to ease tensions only made things worse.
A conflict that has been going on for several months
The row between some Nîmes Olympique fans and the club’s president is not new. The situation has continued to deteriorate for more than a year. It all started in August 2021. Rani Assaf, the president of the Gard club decided to increase the price of tickets for matches in the popular stands, without reduced price, as recalled by the free lunch. Instead, 15 euros, a significant increase of 78% compared to the previous season, during which the club, however, played in Ligue 1. This decision is not passed on the side of the fans at all.
A few months later, in November 2021, when part of the fans had just boycotted a match against Quevilly-Rouen, the president wanted to take a step towards his supporters, offering them to adhere to a letter “on the values of the club, fraternity , youth access to football”. He also hoped to convince them to join a “supra association”. In addition to the smoke bombs, the Lebanese businessman blamed the fans for the insults they would have uttered in the stands: “The insults, the homophobic songs, that has to change, he testified for The team. These behaviors, society no longer accepts them.
This intervention had not been a great success and the verbal battles continued in the stands and through the media. Last February, the case took a new turn.
The club and the Gladiators of 1991 engage in a real war
On Saturday, February 5, a banner installed in the stands sent an explicit message to the management: “Assaf dissolves.” In reaction to the fan rebellion, the club from the south of France had decided to fight back.
A statement was issued condemning the “insulting, xenophobic, homophobic and unacceptable chants” to which Rani Assaf had been subjected. The club had also indicated that “it would make the necessary arrangements with the competent authorities to dissolve the association.” “Many saw us born, no one will see us die,” reacted the group of supporters.
The situation does not seem ready to improve. On September 10, during the Nîmes-Bastia match, the club decided to strike hard. The group of supporters of “Gladiators Nîmes 1991” were prevented from entering with their drums, megaphones and tarps at their Costières stadium, as shown in a video shared by The Nimes Gazette. Dimitri Pialat, the group’s president, had spoken with SoFoot of the “Rani Assaf dictatorship”.
“There will be lawsuits. The National Association of Fans advised us to bring a lawyer. It is a fundamental deprivation of liberty, simply. We had our tickets, we respected the internal rules and they denied us entry,” said Dimitri Pialat. . Therefore, the case must be resolved in court.
The last chance encounter turned into a fiasco.
This Saturday, September 24, a meeting was organized between the Nîmes club and the fans who wanted it (free entry). President Rani Assaf was present, as were “Gladiators 1991”.
the free lunch He says that the match was going to last an hour and a half (10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.), and the fans were invited to the north stand of the Costières, sheltered from the rain that threatened to fall on the stadium. The parties engaged in an open question and answer session, where the microphone was circulated among the supporters.
About 300 people attended the venue, according to the Nimes Gazette. The theme of Gladiadores 1991 and the smoke bombs were soon put on the table, causing the first tensions. The meeting reportedly quickly became inaudible, supporters upset by Rani Assaf’s “arrogant” and “provocative” attitude. After an initial break, the meeting on the problematic issues was resumed.
The atmosphere quickly became unbearable and the fans decided to leave the Costières bays for good. The meeting turned into a disaster and the discord seems to have reached a point of no return. From now on, only justice seems to be able to put an end to this story.