A top-flight French league game between Nice and Marseille was abandoned on Sunday after fans invaded the pitch and a mass brawl broke out, involving players and staff.
“The game between Nice and Marseille on Sunday evening ended prematurely as — following disturbances on the pitch involving home fans and players that led to an interruption of more than an hour — the game was not played to a finish,” said Ligue 1 on its website.
The disturbances at Nice’s Allianz Riviera stadium broke out as the game neared its conclusion.
In the 75th minute — with the home side leading 1-0 thanks to Kasper Dolberg’s goal — water bottles were thrown at Marseille players from the crowd as the away team prepared for a corner kick.
A bottle appeared to hit Marseille forward Dimitri Payet on his back which he threw back into the crowd.
Payet’s teammates Alvaro Gonzalez and Matteo Guendouzi ran to support him, while Nice captain Dante attempted to calm the escalating tension.
Security staff tried to hold back fans in the section of the stadium where the corner was to have been taken, but eventually they spilled onto the pitch.
With a melee ensuing between fans, both sets of players and coaching staff, Nice players and security attempted to calm the situation, but by now dozens of spectators were on the pitch.
The game was halted and both teams left the pitch, with more pushing and shoving ensuing, while Marseille coach Jorge Sampaoli had to be held back by his staff.
After a delay of more than an hour, match officials attempted to restart the game, but the Marseille team refused to return to the pitch, citing security concerns.
“Following the serious incidents of the OGC Nice – Olympique de Marseille meeting … the Disciplinary Commission of the LFP summons the two clubs for the session on Wednesday, August 25, 2021,” said Ligue 1 on Monday.
‘Maintain public perception’
In a video posted on Twitter after Sunday’s game, Marseille president Pablo Longoria said the incident was “unacceptable.”
— Olympique de Marseille 🇬🇧 🇺🇸 (@OM_English) August 22, 2021
“Ligue 1 decided the match should resume. But we decided, for the security of our players, who have been attacked and because the pitch was invaded, that we could not return to the pitch, since the security of our players was not guaranteed,” he explained.
Marseille have already had issues with opposition fans throwing objects at its players during games.
Two weeks ago, Marseille’s 3-2 win at Montpellier was halted briefly after fans pelted the pitch with bottles, something Longoria referenced.
“This is already the second time this season that we’ve been in this situation: it happened in Montpellier already. There, we decided to resume the match. What happened today is completely unacceptable. We must set a precedent for French football by taking a stand.
“Today’s match referee spoke to us: he told (manager) Jorge Sampaoli and I that indeed the security of the match was not guaranteed, and that is why he decided to stop the match.
“However Ligue 1 has decided that the match should resume, to maintain public perception. It is not acceptable for us. That is why we have decided not to come back to the pitch and it is why we will go back to Marseille tonight.”
Ligue 1 has not responded to CNN’s request for comment on the disturbances at the Allianz Arena.
Nice president Jean-Pierre Rivere called the incident “disappointing,” but said some of the blame laid with the Marseille players.
“Everyone saw what happened. Water bottles were thrown, we can’t dispute that,” he said in a statement. “I think that unfortunately what set things off was the two Marseille players reactions, who threw bottles at our supporters’ stand.
“After that, things went from bad to worse. I think that the Marseille security service should not have intervened on the pitch, and especially not hit our players, because two of our players were hit. But that’s not the point.”
Marseille did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.
Rivere explained that after a meeting with all parties, everyone besides Marseille agreed to resume the game, a decision he says he doesn’t “quite understand.”
“The referee was hesitant about resuming the match, as he was not sure about the security and the next steps. The Public Security services guaranteed that there were no problems for the rest of the match.
“They said that in the visitors’ stand, there was damage and projectiles were thrown at our supporters. I’m not going to comment. In any case, what is clear is that everyone decided to resume the match. The prefect, the head of the security service. I didn’t quite understand the decision of our colleagues from Marseille not to resume the match.
“Everyone advised them to resume, there were 15 minutes left. I spoke to the supporters to tell them that what they had done in terms of throwing bottles was not acceptable.
“They assured me twice that there would be no problems. I know very well that the match could have been restarted, everyone was for it. I was convinced that it would go well. Unfortunately, Marseille didn’t want to resume.” – CNN