Masked men attacked a football player in Paris Saint-Germain. Her teammate is under arrest.
The players of Paris Saint-Germain, champions of France and who are rising strongly in the investment in women’s football, were in good shape as they enjoyed dinner with club officials last week at a restaurant near one of the city’s largest parks.
Months after the team’s first French title, key players in Europe’s biggest trophies and undefeated in the new season, the team had a lot to celebrate, and the mood was together. As the night ended, one of the team’s new signings, Khaira Hamraoui, agreed to return from fellow teammate Aminata Diallo. Carpooling made sense; Both women lived in Château, an upscale suburb of Paris, and were soon with a third player in the car for a half-hour drive home.
As the car approached al-Hamrawi’s home around 10:30 p.m., the journey took a dangerous turn. Two hooded men came out of the darkness and dragged the redhead from the passenger seat. Then, according to news media reports later confirmed by French police, the men beat El Hamraoui with a metal rod for several minutes, paying particular attention to the part of the body she needed most to play for one of Europe’s most successful women’s soccer teams: her legs.
When the beating ended, the men ran away. And Diallo, who was handcuffed, appeared unharmed.
By Wednesday, she was a suspect in the attack.
Early on Wednesday, French police arrested 26-year-old Diallo at her nearby home and confirmed in a statement that her detention is linked to al-Hamrawi’s complaint, although she did not explicitly link Diallo to the assault and refused to comment on the record. French sports daily L’Equipe Who first reported the arrest, indicated that Diallo may have played a role in the attack on Hamraoui, her rival to play time in the middle of the Paris Saint-Germain midfield.
Even before that, the offensive was the talk of training facilities across Europe, with multi-million dollar investments in women’s football raising the sport’s profile, its best players and biggest clubs. This has raised the stakes for players who now see sports as a viable career and a potential path to enrichment for top artists through six-figure annual contracts and increased sponsorship opportunities.
While the club appointed additional guards for Hamraoui’s worried colleagues, the pace of the police investigation quietly accelerated. On Wednesday, Diallo’s arrest shook everyone again.
“Paris Saint-Germain is working with the Versailles police to clarify the facts,” said the team at Paris Saint-Germain. Permit. “The club is paying close attention to the progress of the procedures and will consider what action to take.”
Noel Le Graet, president of the French Football Federation, expressed his shock at the arrest of Diallo, who played like El Hamraoui for the France national team. Diallo was in camp with the team as recently as last month, for a batch of World Cup qualifiers. El Hamraoui, a veteran of the 2015 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, last played for France in 2019, but her career rebounded by winning the Champions League title with Barcelona last season and an off-season move to Paris Saint-Germain.
“What is suspicious is implausible,” Le Grat said. “I know both players. I am appalled if it is true. It seems unimaginable.”
The incident and accusations of personal rivalry and professional jealousy immediately sparked memories of the 1994 attack on snowboarder Nancy Kerrigan, who was attacked at the United States Championships that year in a plot hatched by the ex-husband of a competitive figure skater, Tonya Harding. Kerrigan was assaulted after a training session by a man who repeatedly hit her in the legs with a police baton.
After Kerrigan was forced to withdraw from the tournament due to her injury, Harding won the competition and secured a place on the 1994 US Olympic team. Kerrigan was later named to the team as well, and several weeks later won the silver medal at the Lillehammer Games. Harding, who has long denied involvement in the attack but pleaded guilty to obstructing the trial, finished eighth.
The scandal was revived in 2017 with the release of the fictional biopic “I, Tonya”.
Backed by the deep pockets of its Qatari owners, Paris Saint-Germain said on Wednesday that it continues to provide its players with more safety in the days following the attack, an extra layer of protection it regularly arranges for well-known male players. Many PSG players in recent years have been robbed from their homes – sometimes while family members are inside – while they are away playing matches.
“Since Thursday evening, the club has taken all necessary measures to ensure the health, well-being and safety of its entire women’s team,” the statement added.
But for many in women’s football, the El Hamraoui incident was hard to fathom. The motive was apparently not robbery – the attackers took nothing from either of the women, police said – but rather a bent attempt to injure a player.
The competition for places in the squad increased this season after the women’s team finally ended the dominance of its league and continental rival, Lyon, by winning its first French title. Paris Saint-Germain has finished second to Lyon eight times in the past ten years. With a domestic title in hand, the team now has a European club title firmly in their sights.
The signing of El Hamraoui, 31, from European champions Barcelona on her second assignment with the club was part of PSG’s efforts to bolster their squad and defend their surprising primacy in their ongoing domestic rivalry with Lyon. Both teams started the new campaign as aggressively as ever, winning their first seven games each. PSG have yet to give up a target in domestic or European competition.
Diallo also returned to Paris this season, after being loaned to Atletico Madrid, but was effectively used as a substitute for Hamraoui. That changed this week when El Hamraoui, who was severely shaken and nursing cuts and bruises – but his bones weren’t broken – was unable to play in the Champions League match against Real Madrid.
At the time, the club made it clear that her absence was a personal matter. Her replacement in the lineup Tuesday? Diallo.