A scheduled football match between Nice and Olympique de Marseille had to be canceled Sunday night as fans stormed onto the pitch and engaged in a widespread brawl that took authorities considerable time to address. The brawl started when a spectator in the stands hurled a plastic bottle at Marseille player Dimitri Payet, which Payet flung back into the crowd.
Pitch invasion by fans during Nice-Marseille pic.twitter.com/s0drLdN97b
— 🚽。 (@gexmsvivi) August 22, 2021
This led to spectators’ tempers flaring, as they went on to storm out onto the pitch and begin swinging wild punches at the players. This isn’t even the first time this has happened: last week, a match in Montpellier was canceled for the exact same reason, a bottle thrown at Payet boiling over into a fight.
It is still unclear, as of the time of this writing, why Nice supporters targeted Payet in particular.
Nice was leading the match 1-0 when the fight started. Ninety minutes after the brawl had commenced, the match was abandoned. According to Marseille’s president, Pablo Longoria, “The League (LFP) decided to resume the match. We decided for the safety of our players, who were attacked during the pitch invasion, not to resume because the safety of our players was not guaranteed.”
“The referee agreed with us, he confirmed to Jorge Sampaoli [Marseille’s coach] and me that safety was not guaranteed and decided to stop the game,” Longoria continued. He concluded that the team needed to set a precedent for French football and that the events of the last few games were “completely unacceptable.”
Nice was ready to resume play after officials cleared the pitch. However, Marseille didn’t rejoin the ongoing proceedings, opting instead to cede the field altogether. Technically, this means that Nice will be awarded a 3-0 victory. However, Marseille is likely to appeal this, citing the hostile fans and the way that their players felt like they were in danger from Nice’s supporters.
“What ignited the tension was the reaction of Marseille players to throw the bottles back into the stand,” Nice’s president, Jean-Pierre Rivere, insisted. “Everyone has decided to resume the game. I did not understand Marseille’s decision not to resume.”
Prosecutors in Nice are now conducting an official investigation into the brawl. No charges have been brought against anyone, and no one is currently in custody. However, the prosecutors’ office has stated that the investigation is underway, and their official decision could result in supporters, or even some of the players, facing criminal charges.