Monday, February 26, 2024

After moving back to Paris Saint-Germain from Spain in the summer of 2021, midfielders Kheira Hamraoui and Aminata Diallo had lots in common. Both France internationals, they followed the same Muslim faith, stayed in the same hotel in their first few weeks at the Paris club, and shared a summer holiday to Tanzania. They were also in the same place at the same time when a brutal attack occurred in Chatou, west of Paris, on November 4, 2021.

On that day, two years ago, the footballers’ lives took very different paths. On the journey back home from a team dinner, Hamraoui and Diallo were stopped by two masked men. One hit Hamraoui with an iron bar, targeting her legs, and the other held Diallo to the steering wheel. Lawyer Said Harir holds up images of client Hamraoui’s injuries in November 2021. Reports soon emerged that Diallo was linked to the attack so she could take Hamraoui’s place in the PSG team.Follow live coverage of AC Milan vs Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League today. In September 2022, 10 months on, Diallo and five men were arrested and charged with three counts of aggravated assault and criminal conspiracy. According to a police report, Diallo instigated the attack on Hamraoui, her motive being “violent jealousy”. One man admitted to beating up Hamraoui and another is suspected of pinning Diallo to the steering wheel. The men claim to have acted on the orders of an unknown person whom they have not identified. They said Diallo instigated the attack. Diallo has always maintained she is innocent.The story has received global media coverage, with claims and counterclaims on both sides. Le Monde reported the theory of a revenge attack based on the relationship between Hamraoui and Eric Abidal, the former France men’s international and Barcelona men’s director of football, which was initially investigated as a lead by police. The public prosecutor confirmed Abidal has never been implicated in the investigation but was heard as a witness.Police and psychiatric reports have been leaked, with French media reporting Diallo was found by one psychiatrist to have “undeniable personality disorders”. The player’s lawyer says that is “bull****”.Details have emerged, again through French media, of malicious anonymous phone calls made to PSG players. Diallo’s home and car in Paris were also tapped, and she was recorded saying, “They missed her… break her face.” Her lawyer does not dispute she said those words but argues the phrases are taken in isolation without context.Passages of time saw significant changes at PSG and France’s national team as additional fallout from the attack. Additionally, apart from criminal charges, Hamraoui and PSG are pursuing civil actions related to the case. The aftershock has been felt far and wide.A man referred to in initial reports as “Cesar M” — Cesar Mavacala, Diallo’s former advisor — is under police investigation for charges including threatening PSG with violence and “obtaining the departure of players (Hamraoui) and sports managers (Didier Olle-Nicolle) from PSG by coercion”. There have been claims of organized gang fraud said to be linked to Mavacala’s case, and an allegation of sexual assault against former PSG coach Olle-Nicolle that is strenuously denied.Mavacala, who has never been a registered agent, is the partner of former PSG player Kadidiatou Diani and the sporting advisor of PSG and France striker Marie-Antoinette Katoto.“My client categorically denies any involvement whatsoever in the acts of which he has been unjustly accused,” Mavacala’s lawyer Sandrine Pegand told The Athletic. But at the center of it all are the two former PSG team-mates, Hamraoui and Diallo, forever linked by the events of that night in November two years ago. Hamraoui, now 33, has written a book — ‘Kheira a contre-pied’, which roughly translates to “Kheira on the counter-attack” — and is filming a documentary about the case. She left PSG in May 2023, saying the club had “abandoned” her, and joined Club America in Mexico in September.

Would they (PSG) have done the same to me if I’d been a man? she wrote in her book. Certainly not… My story is very revealing of what women represent in the world of football today. Diallo, 28, now plays for Al Nassr in Saudi Arabia.

It is unclear when the investigation will end and too early to confirm if or when the case will go to trial.

“This period is very complex, for her,’ says Diallo’s lawyer, Romain Ruiz. “On the one hand, she has all the pressure (of the case) and on the other hand, Kheira, she was a friend, said to the police: ‘Aminata did that to me and I’m sure of that’.”

Hamraoui’s lawyer denies her client told the police she thought Diallo was behind the attack. The Athletic has spoken to those close to PSG, the players’ lawyers and the public prosecutor to unpick the tangled web of what has happened to Hamraoui, Diallo, and Mavacala since November 4 2021. Eleven months since PSG’s Kheira Hamraoui was beaten with an iron bar, this is where we are Kheira Hamraoui When her PSG contract expired in May 2023, Hamraoui said in a social media post she was turning a page after two years of “an infernal storm” at a club that “abandoned” her and “did everything it could to make (her) leave”.

In January 2022, two months following the attack, Hamraoui returned to the pitch for PSG but experienced a turbulent second half of the season. On February 11, during a PSG men’s game against Rennes, supporters held banners which read: “Aminata Diallo, we strongly support you”, and “Kheira Hamraoui, whose turn is it?”, referring to claims about the number of lovers Hamraoui has allegedly had. (FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)“The goal was to be sure that Kheira would no longer play at PSG,” says Hamraoui’s lawyer Julia Minkowski.

“She has been psychologically assaulted for 10 months,” her agent Sonia Souid told L’Equipe in September 2022. “She has been dragged through the mud, threatened with death, insulted, harassed at her workplace by several team-mates.”

Hamraoui had a year left on her PSG contract and was determined to honor it but felt the club were trying to force her out. Perhaps PSG were unable or unwilling to deal with all the media attention for reasons other than sporting ones, Hamraoui told AFP in September this year. They chose the easy way out by trying to push me out before the end of my contract.

This was a marked change of tone from Hamraoui. In an interview with L’Equipe in June 2022, Hamraoui had said: The vast majority of (players) supported me. I was also touched by the support of the whole staff and the club. My return would have been much more difficult if I had not been supported.

However, in Hamraoui’s book, in a chapter titled ‘PSG, an inhumane club’, she claims she could not appear in any club footage, she was not called up at the same time as her team-mates in June ahead of the 2022-23 season and was not informed of planned squad meetings. She says her physio appointments were delayed and she was initially not invited to complete compulsory medical tests in July. The 33-year-old also says she was given one T-shirt — not two — at the start of the 2022-23 season, when usually players receive new kit. Hamraoui claims that when the team went to Spain for a pre-season trip, the new sporting director Angelo Castellazzi told her to stay in Paris. Those close to PSG, who like others in this article wish to remain anonymous to honor the legal process, maintain they acted as responsibly and sensitively as possible. They acknowledge Hamraoui was always considered to be the victim of the attack and their priority has always been to support the player. They have fully complied with the police authorities and have refrained from commenting publicly out of respect for the judicial process. They believe Hamraoui was treated on an equal footing with her team-mates. She also appeared in some of the club’s social media posts during the 2021-22 and 2022-23 seasons.

PSG changed the women’s manager, assistant coaches, and sporting director after deciding to take the club in a different direction, appointing the former Lyon head coach Gerard Precheur as their new boss on August 1, 2022. He left his role by mutual consent in…

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