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In a scene reminiscent of the "Malice at the Palace," fans leapt over barriers and brawled with players and security staff during Sunday's Ligue 1 match between Nice and Marseille.
The incident took place around the 74-minute mark of the Nice home game in France's top soccer league, which just welcomed fans back to the stands at full capacity this month amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Water bottle thrown from stands ignites chaos
Broadcast video of the game shows Marseille's Dimitri Payet get up after being knocked to the ground by a water bottle thrown from the stands. Payet was preparing for a corner kick in close proximity to Nice fans. He responded by throwing a bottle back into the stands. Security and players then gathered around Payet at the baseline as fans leapt out out of the stands and onto the field behind the goal.
A swarm of fans then broached baseline barriers and overran the pitch, where they fought with players and security staff.
Fans were quickly corralled off the pitch as security staff sought to usher players into their respective locker rooms. As security guided Marseille players toward its sideline, more fans invaded the pitch, but were largely kept away from players. Chaos then resumed amid a mass of players, staff and security before Marseille players eventually left the field for their locker room.
Play was then suspended with Nice leading, 1-0.
What sparked the brawl
Closeup replay shows the incident that sparked the chaos. As Payet prepared for his corner kick, a full water bottle thrown from the stands pelted him in the back of the head and knocked him to the ground.
AFP reports that fans threw water bottles at Payet throughout the game every time he took a corner. When the last one knocked him to the ground, he threw one back into the stands, and chaos ensued. A closeup angle shows a person identified as a Marseille staffer punching one of the invading fans and knocking him to the ground at the onset of brawl.
After returning to the locker room, Marseille's Luan Peres and Matteo Guendouzi were photographed with apparent injuries to their necks.
Marseille refused to retake field
After the chaos concluded, Ligue 1 authorities called for the game to resume. Marseille players, however, had already showered, and the team refused to rejoin Nice on the field.
Marseille team president Pablo Longoria explained the team's decision on the Prime Video broadcast. He said that the game's referee supported ending the game and criticized the league's governing body for calling for it to continue.
"We need to set precedents for French football," Longoria said, per Get French Football News. "The referee was with us, he confirmed that to us that safety was not assured. His decision was to abandon the match, but the LFP decided to restart the match. It is not acceptable for us."
Nice president blames Marseille players, staff
Nice president Jean-Pierre Rivère, meanwhile, blamed Marseille and its staffers for the brawl and questioned why the game didn't resume.
"What catalyzed things was the reaction of two Marseille players, Rivère said, per Get French Football News. ... Marseille's security should not have come onto the pitch and hit our players. ... I don’t really understand why Marseille didn’t restart.”
Longoria reiterated the team's decision as a matter of player safety.
“Our players were attacked,” Longoria said. “We decided for the safety of our players, who were attacked during the pitch invasion, not to resume the match because the safety of our players was not guaranteed.”
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