Aminata Diallo first heard Tonya Harding’s name while being escorted from her stinking cell to an interview room in the Versailles police building.
Of course, Harding’s name is notorious in the sports world. A decorated American figure skater, she was at the center of an infamous incident involving the assault of her greatest rival just weeks before the 1994 Winter Olympics. Scandal – A sudden and violent attack by a mysterious man. accusations and denials. Tabloid headlines — worldwide attention and a feature film about Harding being made a few years later. But for Diallo, the 28-year-old French footballer who is hauled up the steps of the police station, when her name comes up she asks, “Have you heard of Tonya Harding?” . — yielded nothing but a hollow gaze.
But Diallo would soon realize that the police had reason to ask.
Harding’s rival Nancy Kerrigan was attacked by a man who punched her in the leg in an attempt to keep her out. Now, a generation later, in France, police suspected similar motives in the attack on French club Paris Saint-Germain’s Diallo teammate Keira Hamrawy. Mr. Hamrawi was dragged out of Mr. Diallo’s car on a cold night in November 2021 and, like Mr. Kerrigan, was hit on his leg in an apparent attempt to injure him.
It took Diallo almost a year and more detention before a candid police question turned into a formal charge. Prosecutors indicted Diallo last September on charges of aggravated assault in the Hamrawi attack. Documents of the incident and leaks to the French press accuse Diallo of masterminding the planned attack. According to the theory, the goal is to eliminate Diallo’s rivals to join PSG’s line-up, one of the best teams in women’s football, and a member of the French national team, one of the favorites to win the tournament. It is said that it was to do. The Women’s World Cup kicks off on July 20th.
“A lot of people want it to be me, but it’s not,” Diallo said in an interview in Spain, where he was trying to revive his career. “Tonya Harding, she did it. I didn’t.”
doubts and questions
There are similarities to scandals from decades ago. The theme is race and professional rivalry. And given its unlikely cast of elite female athletes and shadowy figures, it’s no surprise that the case continues to garner interest, or spawn competing documentary projects.
Diallo’s guilt or innocence is less clear than in the morning at the Versailles police station. A trial date has not yet been announced. But its influence continues to ripple outward.
friendship is over Married at least once. The locker room was divided into two. Diallo was banished from Paris. Hamrawi also became an exile in her own way, being ostracized by some teammates and eventually kicked out of the club.
The police lawsuit follows text messages Diallo sent, suspicious web searches, and at least one man accused of assault on behalf of Diallo, despite admitting that the orders were not issued directly. It seems to be based on the claim that from her.
Diallo and his lawyers argue that the charges are a desperate police effort to win conviction in a high-profile case built on flimsy connections and unreliable sources.
Diallo sees the documentary offer as a kind of compensation for everything she’s lost, including the privacy and anonymity she once enjoyed as a humble football professional, but more In effect, he said he sees it as a kind of compensation for his new contract with PSG. She claims it was almost certain before her attack changed the course of her career and her life.
“I think it’s interesting to them whether I’m guilty or not,” Diallo said of the filmmakers who approached her.
The charges she faces – three counts of aggravated assault and criminal assault – came after her second detention, along with an order barring her from entering Paris or fighting her former teammate at PSG. . As she nibbled on her bravas and garlic shrimp patatas at a seaside restaurant in Valencia, her career was saved by a short-term deal with Levante, which has now ended.
Hamrawy also left PSG. She was released at the end of the season after not being offered her new contract. Her departure was not a quiet one. Upon her departure, she accused the club of treating her teammates differently and ostracizing her, again victimizing her.
“In addition to the trauma I received that night, I will face this indifference, this cruelty, if not the abuse of me,” Hamrawi said recently in a series in the French sports daily L’Equipe. wrote in a published book. .
“The team doesn’t talk to me anymore. PSG has only one goal, that I leave as soon as possible,” Hamrawi said. “They treat me like a plague victim.”
Diallo’s life in Spain was a simplified one. When not practicing, he spent most of his time alone in a rented apartment. (Qatari-owned PSG provided her with a home and car and was involved in the attack.) She was a low profile in her new team and was often used as a substitute, but she appreciated and accepted the role. rice field.
“I found it hard to find the top, top level,” she said as the already completed season meandered towards the end. “I’ve lost the fun of playing. I’m playing with injustice.”
Diallo claims he has been wronged and was also a victim of Hamrawi’s murder. French investigators claim she is at the center of a conspiracy.
Details of their case, leaked to the French press, portray Diallo as the driving force behind the attack on Hamrawi. The men charged with the assault itself are said to have told police they believed they were driving for Diallo when the car stopped and Hamrawi was dragged out and hit in the leg. ing. horizontal bar. After police seized Ms Diallo’s cell phone and computer, text messages from Ms Hamrawi were found slandering him, and phrases like “breaking my kneecap” and “lethal drug cocktail” were searched online.
In an interview at a Paris lawyer’s office in November last year, shortly after being formally indicted, Mr. Diallo clarified. She said her police ignored all her positive comments about Hamrawi that she made to her friends and colleagues. Online searches are not uncommon for athletes concerned about injury or health, she argued.
But she also argues that her race and background—she is a black woman from the working-class district of Grenoble—had caused police and others alike to jump to conclusions about her. bottom.
“In France, when something like that happens, the media immediately condemns you,” she says. “They’ll bring up where you’re from right away. It’s an argument to show you you can do it.”
Now, in Valencia, Diallo picks up his phone and brandishes a screenshot of a diagram published by the French daily Le Parisien that shows the men involved in the attack, Diallo, and an unidentified It is said that the relationship between mediators was indicated by arrows and boxes. Police still could not find a direct connection between Diallo and the arrested men, despite all sorts of investigations, including wiretapping of phones and wiretaps installed in Diallo’s home. That fact highlights the vulnerability of the lawsuit against her, Diallo said. She has a “greater hatred” for law enforcement than Hamrawy, who fell out with Diallo and her other teammates after it was suggested that she and other members of PSG may have been involved in the attack. He added that there are.
“It’s not like she’s trying to sue me,” Diallo said of Hamrawi. “I don’t care about her.”
Diallo cited a message sent by her former agent, Sonia Souido, who also represents Hamrawi, during the protests claiming her innocence. Ms Diallo argued that these messages undermined police belief that she orchestrated the attack out of jealousy over her profession.
In one of them, an audio memo sent to a New York Times reporter about two weeks before the attack, Suido told Diallo that he had met with PSG’s sporting director. Suido said the club were pleased with Diallo’s performance and wanted to make an offer to extend her expiring contract for two more seasons.
Suido, one of France’s most influential agents in women’s football, said in an interview that negotiations had not yet begun, but that the club’s intentions were clear.
But weeks after the November 2021 attacks, Suido and Diallo’s relationship ended in a tearful meeting. The player told his agent he could not represent him because of his ties to Hamrawi. In March 2022, Soyd said he met with police investigators. She declined to disclose what was being asked of her, but she said the meeting upset her.
“The questions they asked me made me wonder if something very wrong had happened,” Souid said.
She suggested that police secretly listened not only to Ms. Diallo’s conversations during the course of the investigation, but also to her and others’ conversations. “They knew everything,” Soyd said. “They knew the exact moment the call was made and what was being said, not just me.”
Suido said she always felt that Diallo was polite, respectful and serious. But as the details of the case came to light and she answered questions from the police, she said she began to wonder if there was a “other side” to Diallo.
As the investigation continues and Diallo and Hamrawy, who are now out of contract, wait to see what happens next, football is buzzing about the Women’s World Cup, the biggest event in women’s football this year.
Diallo will not be there. At the time of the incident, she was a fringe player for the French national team, but due to her notoriety and long-term dismissal (not to mention a court order to distance herself from her former PSG teammate). , effectively ending her international career.
Hamrawy, who only recently represented France in February, has been selected for Australia and New Zealand despite her presence in the squad not being wholly welcomed by some, including PSG’s group. I had hopes of playing for a team. Players close to her Diallo are still outraged by Hamrawi’s early hints that other players at the club may have been involved in her assault.
Hamrawi’s agent, Souid, shared similar optimism. “Americans have won the World Cup many times, but the players don’t like each other,” she said this spring.
But when new French coach Hervé Renard unveiled the reserve roster for the tournament, Hamrawy was not on the list. Following the decision, a French newspaper conducted a poll asking whether her decision to remove her was a “genuinely sporting choice”.proposed by Hamrawi In a radio interview with Inter France Shortly after announcing that it wasn’t, she called her omission “unjustified.”
But the story doesn’t end there. That’s why the filmmakers were interested in telling Hamrawi’s side, Suido said. “It’s not easy for her to understand what happened to her,” she says.
The drifting and impatient Diallo might say the same thing.
For now, both players will have to wait to find out who is ultimately responsible for what happened in the narrow streets that dark night, the incident and the end of his involvement with Tonya Harding. there is Until then, Hamrawi will continue to pursue his football career. And Diallo will continue to live up to his name.
“I’m not hiding,” Diallo said, leaving another night alone in his quiet apartment with thoughts and anger.
Tom Nouvian contributed to the report in Paris.