Christophe Galtier, the former coach of Nice, was acquitted on Thursday of charges of discrimination and harassment, mainly against Muslim footballers, after a trial that had turned into a personal result.
“Neither of the two offenses is characterized,” the Nice criminal court insisted when handing down its sentence.
During a long hearing on Friday, the public prosecutor in Nice, Damien Martinelli, delivered a very harsh indictment against the former Paris SG coach, demanding a one-year suspended prison sentence and a fine of 45,000 euros.
For the prosecution, Galtier had “clearly sought to reduce the number of blacks and Muslims in the team”, particularly by “instrumentalising Ramadan”, the month of fasting in Islam, against a “background of common racism”.
Returning to Qatar, where his team Al-Duhail were due to play on Thursday afternoon, Galtier was absent when the sentence was announced at the courthouse in Nice. Informed by telephone of the positive outcome of his trial, he declared himself “relieved”, said Me Sébastien Schapira, one of his two lawyers.
The former Olympique de Marseille player’s two lawyers welcomed their client’s legal victory: “These heinous allegations had caused significant damage to his life as a man and his professional career”, confirmed Me Olivier Martin.
“Today it is a total rehabilitation for him, (…) but it is also a satisfaction for the defense because we were able to demonstrate the manipulation that had been carried out and the exploitation made of certain remarks, with the stated goal. to harm the man and his professional reputation.”
The affair began in April with the disclosure by two journalists of a provocative email from May 2022 from Julien Fournier, then director general of OGC Nice, to its shareholder, the British group Ineos.
He accused Galtier of demanding fewer “blacks and Muslims” in the team and rioting against players who refused to suspend their Ramadan fast on match days, as did the Muslim Lille residents with whom he had been champions of France last season.
“This folder was empty”
During the investigation, many other officials from OGC Nice and Ineos assured that they had never heard of problems with Galtier in the dressing room, before the disclosure of this email. Several had instead insisted on the unsavory relations created during the season between Fournier and Galtier.
“This decision is a wake-up call, justice is served in courtrooms, in the context of an adversarial debate, not on late night talk shows or on YouTube by two incompetent pseudo-journalists,” Martin insisted.
“This file was empty,” Me Schapira continued. “It also did not match the persona of Christophe Galtier, who has been in football for 40 years and had never been found wanting,” he claimed.
During the hearing, in mid-December, none of the accusers of the Aiglons coach during the 2021-2022 season appeared at the hearing, where Galtier stood on the stand for eight hours and listened without pondering to the boring reading salient elements for minutes of around thirty hearings conducted in this case.
Quoted by the defence, Hakim Chalabi, PSG’s medical director, came to explain the risk that the month of fasting during the day and the short nights posed to the players and their performance if it was poorly managed, believing that it would be “a wrong professional” to that a coach should not worry about it.
In any case, the investigation had shown that none of the OGC Nice players had actually been removed from the pitch after Ramadan. And this even though the month of Muslim fasting occurred that year in April, in the final part of a championship in which Nice had high ambitions.
Last year, Antoine Kombouaré, another former PSG coach at FC Nantes, was not charged after publicly explaining in a press conference that he left the players at home to preserve them, respecting Ramadan on match days.