Most of us are familiar with the Tonya Harding scandal of the 90s and the suspicious circumstances in which her main competitor, Nancy Kerrgian, was struck in the knee by an attacker with a metal bar. Due to injuries sustained, Kerrigan was forced to pull out of the 1994 US figure skating nationals, conveniently being held the night after the attack. In her absence, Harding went on to win gold. Her victory however, was short lived. Once it was discovered that Kerrigan’s assailants had been hired by Harding’s ex husband and bodyguard, the story spread like wildfire, extending far beyond the figure skating community and finding its way into national and international headlines. The sporting community were faced with the reality that the pressures and stakes of professional competition could push an athlete to spite their opposition. All the more to the extent of physical harm.
Down the line, many of us would view this as a scandal of our parents’ age; one before our time and back when sport was laced with dirty play, doping and dishonesty. Yet, history has a knack for repeating itself it seems, this time in the shadows of the Division 1 Féminine, France’s top women’s football division.
Paris Saint-Germain Féminine perform at a world-class standard, improving year on year since their promotion to the top division in 2001. This culminated in their first division 1 win in 2021, as well as appearances in two UEFA Champions League finals, cementing their position as one of Europe’s best. Head coach Gérard Prêcheur’s squad is packed with talent, one where a spot in the starting line-up can change from gameweek to gameweek. An environment as such brews a healthy competitiveness between teammates, pushing players to better their performance in order to secure a first 11 spot. That is, until midfielders Aminata Diallo and Kheira Hamraoui became entangled in a scandal that is eerily similar to Harding’s of the 90s.
Whilst Hamraoui was being dropped off by fellow teammate Diallo, she was attacked by two men with a metal pipe. Looking back, Hamraoui noted how the attackers targeted her legs and knees whilst Diallo looked on, miraculously left unharmed by the men. The French media were quick to draw similarities to the Harding/Kerrigan attack of the past, and rumours swirled as Diallo was taken in for questioning under suspicions she orchestrated the attack. Having strongly denied any allegations, she was later released, and the case was quiet until the arrest of four men this September. Under questioning, they named Diallo as the organiser, leading to her re-arrest almost a year on. The PSG midfielder has since been charged with aggravated assault and released on probation, whilst Hamraoui remains on the squad.
As the scandal remains the topic of debate between fans and players of the Division 1 Feminine, it calls into question- eerie coincidence, or perhaps inspired by the figure skating attack of the past? Either way, in both cases the victims came out relatively unaffected other than the odd bruise, conceivably an ineffective strategy for an athlete’s jealous outrage.