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Lyon-Marseille match abandoned after Dimitri Payet hit by bottle from stands

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By Euronews  with AP
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Marseille's Dimitri Payet reacts after being injured by an object thrown by a Lyon supporter
Marseille's Dimitri Payet reacts after being injured by an object thrown by a Lyon supporter   -   Copyright  Credit: AP

A Ligue 1 football match between Lyon and Marseille was abandoned after a player was hit on the head by a bottle of water hurled from the stands.

Marseille midfielder Dimitri Payet -- formerly of West Ham United -- collapsed after he was struck while preparing to take a corner kick.

With the score at 0-0, the referee suspended the game after only a few minutes and took the players inside.

After a wait of about 75 minutes, a stadium announcement said the match would resume but warned that it would "definitely be halted if there’s another incident”. Lyon's players warmed up for about 10 minutes before returning to the changing room.

But Marseille players stayed in their dressing room, reluctant to resume the game, with Payet said to be shocked by the incident. About two hours after kick-off on Sunday evening, the match was abandoned.

Lyon has been ordered by the French Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP) to close their stadium until definitive sanctions have been decided on, expected to be December 8. It means Lyon could play their next home game against Reims behind closed doors, with no fans in attendance.

“My sporting decision has always been to not resume the match,” referee Ruddy Buquet told Amazon Prime Video.

“A player was physically hit. It is our duty to protect football players. We are responsible for their safety, that’s the reason why the final decision was made.”

Buquet then explained why it took so long to abandon the match.

“There are so many factors to take into account. There is a packed stadium, there are players to evacuate," Buquet said. "Those are important factors in terms of security.”

Payet was taunted by Lyon fans during the warmup, and was the target of discriminatory insults, according to French league officials.

“He is hurt psychologically,” Marseille president Pablo Longoria said. “What’s happening is not normal. We have always condemned any type of violence.”

Lyon blamed by French league officials

The supporter who threw the bottle was reportedly found and ejected from the stadium. According to L’Equipe newspaper, a total of four people were arrested following the match.

“The culprit was arrested. There was no risk that things could get aggressive again,” Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas said.

“I think we are well organised here in terms of security. We think the game could have resumed without any problem.”

Aulas blamed Marseille for not resuming the game but was conciliatory toward Payet.

“There was such a violent reaction (from Marseille) that Mr Buquet asked to see the (regional) prefect again and reverse his decision," Aulas said.

The LFP put the blame on the host club and local authorities, saying the league did its best to deter violence with sanctions such as point deductions and games played behind closed doors.

“Those new grave incidents are a reminder that security at games is the responsibility of the hosting club and of the local authorities, who have the final say about the resumption or abandonment of a game,” French league officials said in a press release.

“In such circumstances, the French league regrets the decision to (try to) resume the Lyon-Marseille game by the regional prefect.”

The statement added that “repeated grave incidents destroy the image of the French league in France and abroad. After those new extremely grave events, the disciplinary commission of the French league will gather for an urgent meeting tomorrow.”

"We cannot allow players to be assaulted"

It is not the first time this season that a French league game -- or a fixture involving Marseille -- has been marred by fan violence.

A match between Nice and Marseille in August was abandoned after fans threw projectiles and invaded the field.

Payet was also hit by a bottle in that game and threw it back at the fans before players and staff members were involved in a brawl.

Nice was handed a two-point penalty and the match was rescheduled and replayed in October at a neutral location without fans.

Montpellier fans also threw projectiles at Marseille players in August as play was suspended for more than 10 minutes. Midfielder Valentin Rongier had his lip cut by a projectile.

In September, fans invaded the pitch during Angers' game with Marseille as opposition supporters fought each other.

The same month, another pitch invasion took place in the northern derby between Lens and Lille, while a teenager was injured by a seat thrown in a game between PSG and Lyon.

In October, a match between Saint-Etienne and Angers was delayed for about an hour because of a pitch invasion and flares thrown onto the pitch before kickoff.

“After such an evening, I think what we can ask, given the situation, is that French football thinks hard about stopping that type of incident,” Longoria said.

French sports minister Roxana Maracineanu said the sport needs a “radical and immediate” reality check over crowd trouble.

“What happened in Lyon is unacceptable,” Maracineanu said on Monday.

“We cannot allow players to be assaulted in this way. Such acts should result in an automatic stoppage of games at the very least.”

Additional sources • AFP