The double blow landed hard on Friday evening, in quick succession too. A day of double jeopardy for Patrice Evra ended with not one, but two painful sanctions which leave his otherwise illustrious career teetering between retirement or one last hurrah far away from French football.
It marks the end of a difficult nine-day spell for Evra, who was summarily dismissed by Olympique Marseille in all but name after the defender’s moment of madness when kicking out at a supporter before the club’s Europa League game at Vitoria Guimaraes.
It was supposed to be a quite drab affair, a nondescript fixture in between important Ligue 1 fixtures. OM had so far treated the Europa League in that way. Nothing was to suggest a brief sojourn in Portugal would pose the first PR test to OM’s new image under Frank McCourt.
But now we are here. Evra’s nine-month spell at the Vélodrome came to an abrupt end yesterday evening following his UEFA suspension. The club’s vice-captain had committed what some deemed a heinous act – and really, there was no going back, whatever the circumstances.
The dismissal seemed just, given that the relationship between Evra & the fanatic OM support was almost irreparable even before this fixture. The former Manchester United left-back had been a source of heavy criticism for his increasingly lacklustre displays. He was of course, the weakest of links in a relatively average defence which can almost be described as an achievement in itself.
Accompanied by the below-par performances were Evra’s infamous Instagram videos, posted every Monday on the social media site. It may have delighted the neutrals, but it irked many OM fans who felt the player’s ego had swelled considerably.
We may never know exactly what words were said between Evra and the supporter in question. Blame of course does not lie fully with the player. Whereas some feel that supporters should not receive a carte blanche to hurl whatever insults they want at players, others will attest to the fact that because they make the time and financial sacrifice to travel with the team across Europe, they do in fact have that right. However, it should never have gotten personal.
There was no allegation of racism in the exchanges between the two parties in Guimaraes, despite a mystifying thirst by some on social media and in the English & French press to attach it to Evra’s unexpected outburst. This was simply a professional player who snapped when he should have known better.
The OM fans for better or for worse are a vociferous bunch. Conflicts between players are not new. Even the team’s current darling Florian Thauvin was involved in a physical altercation with a supporter in 2015 in the aftermath of a defeat.
For a player of Evra’s stature who has played all over the world in far more trying circumstances than the one that presented itself at Estadio D. Afonso Henriques – he simply should not have done it. He should not have engaged with the supporters during the warm-up. He should not have launched a ball in their direction.
He should not have invited them to a square-up across the barriers. And finally, he should not have engaged in a physical act of violence. And for those four failures, he pays a high price at a very, very late stage of his career.
For what it’s worth, OM made the right decision to part with a player whose relationship with the supporters was now beyond repair. It’s a shame it got to this position for all concerned – (Evra was a key individual in the dressing room, the ‘captain behind the captain’ as it were) – but his senseless actions have left the hierarchy with no choice.
A brief face-saving statement ended his somewhat erratic and short-lived OM career low on memorable quality on the pitch where it really mattered. Sportingly, he won’t be missed by any stretch having long been replaced by Jordan Amavi.
But above all, he is human. We all make mistakes; ones we instantly regret. But we sometimes pay for them too, as he learnt twice in quick succession last night.
For him at Marseille: This game is over.