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French football mourns the death of a supporter.

Brice Taton died 1500 kilometres from where he lived – in a hospital in the Serbian capital of Belgrade – on Tuesday September 29. He had been in a critical condition since September 17 after being set upon and brutally beaten by around 30 so-called supporters of Partizan Belgrade. His crime? Being a supporter of French club Toulouse and being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

28-year-old Taton had followed his hometown side to Serbia for a Europa League match and had the fatal misfortune of drinking outside the Irish Bar in the centre of Belgrade on the afternoon of the game when the local thugs attacked with iron bars and baseball bats. Despite a number of emergency operations Taton’s injuries were so severe that he never recovered, leaving French football in a state of shock at such a senseless and unexpected death.

In the aftermath of the attack Taton’s club Toulouse immediately denounced what it called the “unspeakable violence”, while offering its unstinting support to the victim’s family. The club’s players wore T-shirts in support of Taton and banners were unfurled by fellow fans at home games willing Brice a speedy recovery. Sadly all these efforts proved to be in vain and when Taton’s death was announced the French football community was quick to condemn those who perpetrated the attack.

“It’s a terrible crime,” said UEFA President Michel Platini. “And it’s all the more tragic that a supporter should lose his life simply because he followed his favourite team abroad.” Platini pledged to continue the fight against “all those who use football to perpetrate senseless acts of violence.”

French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux, meanwhile, recognising that football hooliganism remains a problem that respects no borders, quickly announced the creation of a police taskforce dedicated to tackling the problem. The decision was taken after a meeting between government officials, various high-ranking police, French football administrators and the governors of each region where a top-flight football team exists. The National Anti-Hooliganism Division has been formed to “help co-ordinate the sharing of information with those responsible for security inside the grounds in order to better identify those individuals involved in hooliganism and to help bring them to justice.”

All of which is clearly welcome, though sadly it’s too late to help Brice Taton, whose shocking death again highlights the need for everyone who loves our sport to remain forever vigilant in the face of football-related violence.

A minute’s silence was held in remembrance of Taton before many French games, even at local level, and he was still uppermost in many fans’ thoughts as Gameday 8 of Ligue 1 brought a number of thrills and surprises. Not least of which was the fact that league leaders Bordeaux had their 22-game unbeaten run in the championship brought to an end by none other than fifth-from-bottom Saint-Etienne.

The home side, roared on throughout by their hugely passionate fans, produced a thrilling display to deservedly do for Laurent Blanc’s frankly second-string side by three goals to one, thereby relieving the pressure on “Les Verts” boss Alain Perrin. Elsewhere one of this season’s surprise packages so far, Monaco, notched up a 2-1 away win at Marseille to leapfrog their more illustrious rivals and move up to fourth spot in the championship behind Bordeaux, Lyon and, incredibly, newly-promoted Montpellier.

These are proving testing times for new Marseille manager Didier Deschamps on the back of a thumping against Real Madrid in the Champions League that same week. Deschamps’ problems are, however, nowhere near as difficult as those facing poor Mecha Bazdarevic, whose Grenoble side had failed to gather a single point after the first eight matches. “I can’t sleep at night,” said the unfortunate Bosnian. “So I get up to watch re-runs of our matches. I tell myself I can’t believe we’re in this position.”

Unfortunately for Bazdarevic it’s all too true and even this early in the season it’s hard to see how Grenoble can go on to avoid the drop.

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