Youssef, a 38-year-old Toulouse fan with a cranial disability, readily cops to behaving like a dick. Watching Lyon players filter into the team bus after flying into Toulouse last Friday ahead of the weekend’s game, Youssef and his 12-year-old son were on hand to throw some verbal barbs at the rival players. He did not, however, expect his dickishness to result in what he claims happened next, which was his phone getting snatched out of his hands by a prominent French international and smashed on the ground.
France Football has reproduced Youssef’s version of events today, in which the fan goes into detail about what he says happened. Youssef, his son, and some other fans present watched as the visiting Lyon squad made their way from the airport they’d just landed at to the team bus. Youssef pulled out his phone and started taking video.
Things started out friendly enough, the Blagnac resident alleges, with some of the passing players exchanging a word or two or just a smile with the man and his son. Youssef had sharper words for Alexandre Lacazette, telling the young striker as he passed “Every since you’ve gotten hyped, you’ve not been scoring anymore.” (Background: Lacazette had a career year last season, receiving all kinds of plaudits as one of the best young talents in Europe, but hasn’t maintained that form this year.) Lacazette ignored Youssef and kept on walking.
Mathieu Valbuena, the Lyon attacker most famous of late for the sex tape blackmail imbroglio he’s been involved in along with Karim Benzema, was not as sanguine about Youssef’s jabs:
With a headphone in one ear, [Valbuena] still distinctly hears the words Youssef hurls at him: “You see (addressing his son), this man is the reason why Karim Benzema will not play in the Euros.” Furious, the France international heads towards Youssef and snatches his phone before casting it to the ground and breaking it.”
The reference here was to the France Football Federation’s recent announcement that Benzema would not be called up to the national team’s roster for this summer’s all-important Euro tournament because of his involvement in the Valbuena sex tape scandal. This is probably an especially touchy subject with Valbuena, seeing as the attacking midfielder probably won’t be going to the Euros either after this fairly disappointing season with Lyon.
Youssef admits that he was out of line with his remarks, but was shocked at the magnitude of Valbuena’s rage:
“Certainly I was clumsy in what I said to him and I spoke a little too harshly but Valbuena lost his temper,” he defends himself. “He did not have to behave like that, he is a public figure. He was mad as a pitbull, was about to strike me, me, who is weak and much smaller than him, even if he couldn’t see that I am disabled. [Youssef says he suffers from intracranial hypertension, which qualifies him as legally disabled.] He had to be stopped and surrounded by security people and players.”
In a police report filed the next day, Youssef claimed that Valbuena raised a hand at him as if to throw a punch, only for the security guards and other players to restrain Valbuena. Youssef went on to say that Valbuena then shouted insults at him, calling him a “son of a bitch” and saying “fuck your mother.”
“Scared and afraid” but protected by the team’s intermediaries, Youssef recovered his busted phone and left the scene without further incident. However, he was not happy about having his phone—which he says cost him €562—all smashed up, and thus sought redress. The next day before the game, Youssef went to the team’s hotel looking for an apology and to be reimbursed for his broken phone. Unsuccessful, he then filed a police report about the incident.
Youssef appears to really be playing up how much he was affected by it all:
“It traumatized me. Since then I cannot sleep. My doctor increased my doses of the antidepressant I was already taking and he had me spend five days in ITT at my medical certificate,” says Youssef, his voice quavering.
“If [Valbuena] had just approached me saying it was not good, I would have deleted the video. I did not expect such violence, I was shocked, I was scared.”
France Football contacted Lyon after speaking to Youssef to get their side, and the club largely corroborated the man’s story. They conceded that Valbuena did grab a man’s phone and throw it before security had to intervene, but stated that their player’s actions were understandable when taking into account the fan’s “disrespectful and inappropriate behavior.”
Youssef still insists that he has been wronged, though, and wants to have things set right:
“I want at minimum an apology from Valbuena and to be reimbursed for my phone,” says Youssef. “This case holds all my thoughts day and night.”