AN Arsenal blogger was forced to flee the French estate Zinedine Zidane grew up on after being intimidated by a group in balaclavas.
James McNicholas, the man responsible for Gunnerblog, entered the incredibly dangerous estate in Marseille where Zidane grew up.Zidane grew up in a rough estate in Marseille[/caption] It is known as one of the most dangerous estates in the world[/caption]
However, he was not aware of the reputation that the La Castellane housing project possesses – one of overcrowding and poverty.
And he received quite the hostile welcome when he stepped foot in the area.
He explained on his Instagram story: “I’m in Marseille, doing some sports journalism stuff. And one of the pieces I’m working on is about the upbringing, the childhood of one of the most famous footballers of all time, Zinedine Zidane.
“I’ve read a couple of books about Zizou and they say that he grew up on this estate in the north of the city called La Castellane.
READ MORE IN SPORT
“So I thought I’ll nip up there and have a look round. It’s meant to be quite a rough estate. I mean an estate is an estate. How bad can it be? It turns out, quite bad.
“I get a metro and I get a bus and I walk up this hill and I arrive in La Castellane. A few looks off people.
“There’s some graffiti on the wall that says this is our house [in French] which is nice, welcoming I guess. A bit like having ‘live, love, laugh’ or something like that.
“Sorry what’s that – are all the entrances to the estate blocked off with makeshift barricades made out of debris from bits of smashed up cars and motorbikes? Yeah, yeah they are actually. I just walked past that, didn’t think much of it.”
He continued: “So in I stroll and then I notice sort of perched around the estate, a number of lads, all of whom are wearing balaclavas.
“Somewhat concerning in itself, especially when I tell you it’s a very sunny day. It’s not really balaclava weather.
Most read in Football
“What’s more, most of these lads, they’ve got little radios. And they’re looking at me, and they’re pointing and they’re chatting in their little radios. And I don’t think they’re saying ‘oh look, there’s Gunnerblog’.
“One of these radio guys, he calls out to me, and I give it my best ‘salut’. Don’t think he loved it.
“Anyway, on I stroll, you know, be confident. And then another guy, he shouts at me.
“They’ve all got balaclavas on, and then about four lads on scooters appear from nowhere and well, start circling me.
“Once I’m sort of surrounded, one of the balaclava lads he comes over and we have a little chat in French.
“The sort of thing you’d imagine, all the big questions – ‘what are you doing here?’
“I tell him about Zidane, I don’t mention I’m a journalist because I don’t wish to die and so I say I’m just a football fan and I heard that Zidane lived here.
“He does not offer any sort of tour whatsoever. The balaclava boy explains to me very politely but very firmly that I cannot be there and I must leave immediately.
“And do you know what? I do. I leave, I call my editor and say ‘sorry, I didn’t actually get any pictures. No selfies with the lads’.
“And I think, I’ll just have a quick Google of La Castellane, like I said I read the books but let’s have a Google of what’s cropping up on that.
“A lot of that sort of stuff, executions, obviously a lot of drugs, gang stuff. Literally as I’m walking away, I find this video.”
McNicholas then goes on to mock Ross Kemp for a clip of him going into the same estate before fleeing when he and his camera crew are chased by people on scooters.
Gunnerblog goes on to label him a “coward”.
Zidane harnessed the difficulties of his upbringing and went on to become one of football’s greatest ever players.
He also inspired France to their first World Cup in 1998 and helped them reach the final again in 2006 – before he was sent off in the final game of his career as they lost to Italy on penalties.