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Sports News

French soccer fans relish treat of attending a big match

PARIS (Reuters) - St Etienne supporter Sebastian Donnet counted himself among the privileged minority on Friday as he was finally allowed to do something soccer fans among Europe’s five big leagues have been barred from doing since March -- to watch a match at the stadium.

Donnet was among the 5,000 fans allowed into the 80,000-capacity Stade de France for the Coupe de France final between Paris St Germain and St Etienne.

“We’re privileged,” said Donnet, as he waited to go into the ground, holding a flag in the green colour of his club.

Top flight action in Germany, Spain, Italy and England resumed following a two-three month break in front of empty stands because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In France, the regular top flight season was cancelled when the country went into lockdown because of the virus, with PSG crowned champions.

But Friday’s cup final was allowed to go ahead with fans in attendance following the French government’s ruling that crowds of up to 5,000 people can gather in outdoor venues.

Gilbert Charron, a PSG supporter, acknowledged it would be strange having just 5,000 fans inside the big stadium.

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“We have to make do. Health comes before everything,” he said.

For the players too, it has been an unusual experience. They have had little time to prepare for Friday’s showdown considering only a few weeks ago they were unable to train as a team.

“We had some time to train but it is not enough to be at the highest level,” PSG captain Thiago Silva told reporters before the game.

“But it is a final, everyone is motivated to play the match.”

Reporting by Clotaire Achi, writing by Christian Lowe, editing by Pritha Sarkar

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