Nice-Marseille game abandoned after fan violence

Sports

NICE, France (AP) — A French league soccer match between Nice and Marseille was abandoned on Sunday when Marseille refused to restart the game after home fans earlier threw projectiles and invaded the field.

Unverified photos on social media showed at least three players were injured.

The game had initially been suspended because of the fan violence with about 15 minutes to go. When it was decided to restart play, with hosts Nice 1-0 ahead, Marseille refused to return to the field.

“The league decided to restart the match. We decided, for the safety of our players who were attacked, to not restart the match because the safety of our players wasn’t guaranteed,” Marseille president Pablo Longoria said.

“The referee agreed with us. He confirmed to us that safety wasn’t guaranteed, he didn’t want to restart the match. But the league decided to restart. That’s unacceptable for us and that’s why we decided not to restart the match and to return to Marseille.”

Nice warmed up and the match was meant to restart with a Marseille corner. In surreal scenes, since there were no visiting players present to take the corner, the referee blew his whistle and the match was abandoned.

If usual French league rules are applied, an automatic 3-0 victory will be awarded to Nice.

Nice supporters had already been warned against throwing objects by the stadium announcer when Marseille midfielder Dimitri Payet was hit on the back by a bottle thrown from an area with Nice fans.

Payet threw the bottle back into the crowd, prompting a significant number of Nice fans to rush the field.

The referee halted the match and sent players to the locker rooms.

There were unverified photos circulating on social media of Payet with blood and scratches on his back, while teammates Matteo Guendouzi and Luan Peres were pictured with strangle marks on their necks.

“It’s disappointing that the match ended this way,” Nice president Jean-Pierre Rivère said. “Everyone saw what happened. Our fans threw bottles, we can’t deny that. But I think that unfortunately, what sparked things off was the reaction of two Marseille players, to throw back the bottles. After that, it snowballed.

“I don’t think the Marseille security should have got involved on the pitch and they certainly shouldn’t have hit our players, because two of our players were hit. But that’s not the argument here.”

Nice players reportedly tried to convince their counterparts to return to the field after it was decided to restart the match.

“I didn’t really understand the decision by our Marseille colleagues of not wanting to restart,” Rivère said. “Everyone advised them to restart, there were 15 minutes left. I talked to the supporters … they guaranteed me there wouldn’t be any more problems.

“I know very well that the match could have restarted, everyone was for it … unfortunately Marseille didn’t want to restart. Duly noted.”

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