Home supporters at Nice’s Allianz Riviera clashed with Marseille players after missles were thrown from the stands, first hitting Dimitri Payet as he was about to take a corner. The midfielder threw the bottle back, leading to an on-pitch brawl between players and supporters.
“Those fans should clearly never have been allowed to get onto the pitch,” French Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu told BFM TV, adding that the trouble was all the more regrettable given how sports venues had been empty for several months due to COVID-19 health protocols.
“These incidents are an insult for sport and football.”
Christian Estrosi, the mayor for the city of Nice, said: “This violence is unacceptable. Sanctions must be taken by the French football league once they have found out who was responsible,” said Estrosi.
A judicial probe is underway into Sunday’s trouble, added local French media reports.
The clashes marred the image of France’s Ligue 1 just as the league was hoping to win more viewers across the world following the arrival of Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi at Paris Saint-Germain.
Players from both Nice and Marseille retreated to the tunnel and play was held up for 90 minutes before referee Benoit Bastien declared the match abandoned. Nice players had returned to the pitch shortly before the match was called off but Marseille’s line-up refused to join them.
Nice president Jean-Pierre Rivere had appealed for calm over the stadium’s public address system during the delay but angry Marseille players and staff refused to carry on.
Marseille president Pablo Longoria said the club had decided not to continue with the match despite a decision by the soccer authorities that play should resume.
Revere partially blamed Payet and his team-mate Alvaro Gonzales for the chaos after they retaliated by hurling bottles back at Nice fans and accused Marseille staff of hitting some of the home players.
However, Benoit Payan – the mayor for the city of Marseille, backed his club’s decision not to resume the match.
“Proud of my team for not being prepared to take part in this masquerade,” wrote Payan on Twitter.
Additional reporting by Reuters.