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The graffiti in Bagneux are often written in English. Many of its residents would like to move to the UK as they have heard from relatives that it is easier to find work there and society is more tolerant of other cultures. Young men speak wistfully of ‘une petite anglaise’.
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Within this banlieue, many of the inhabitants know each other and feel quite safe. Outsiders, though, fear to enter these neighbourhoods and their fears are often well founded. I was fortunate to have a chaperone and, introduced by him, I was greeted with a handshake, often referred to as ‘Monsieur’ and never felt threatened.
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Young people make a distinction between the north and south of their banlieue, but there is no hostility between them. But there might be bad feeling if you come from a neighbouring département such as Seine-Saint-Denis, which they refer to as ‘9-3’ or ‘Neuf-cube’, referring to the postal code, which begins with the number 93.
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There is a ‘look’ in the neighbourhood: cap, or cap and hood, cellphone, heavy jewellery if they can afford it. The groups always seem to be young men as opposed to ‘les papiches’ – young women.
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Many of the young men are mad about football. The kids in this banlieue aspire to make in a lifetime the equivalent of their heroes' reported weekly wage of 150,000 Euros.
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This cité in Bagneux is typical of much of the Parisienne banlieue and has contributed to the marginalization and frustrations of their inhabitants.
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With high unemployment and discrimination based on where they live, there are few opportunities for ‘le taf’ (work).
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Bagneux has a multicultural, multinational mix of residents, including Congolese, French Antillean, North African, West African and French.
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Football is one of the only ways young people find their way out of the cité. They dream of joining a professional club and hero-worship figures such as William Gallas, captain of Arsenal Football Club, who comes from Asnières-sur-Seine on the outskirts of Paris.
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Night-time in Bagneux, which is midway between Orly airport and the Eiffel Tower. Many of the young people I met had never been up close to the Tower, though it is visible from the roofs of the tower blocks. They call central Paris ‘Panam’.