PARIS (AFP) – Marseille won their first match under new coach Andre Villas-Boas on Wednesday thanks to a 2-1 derby win at Nice in a match that was suspended in the first half following abuse from the home side’s hardcore supporters.
Dimitri Payet moved his side up to 13th on four points with a spot-kick with 17 minutes remaining after Nice midfielder Wylan Cyprien had levelled Dario Benedetto’s first Marseille goal with his own penalty.
The France international’s strike also ended Nice’s brief perfect start in the new season’s third round of matches, but the clash was dominated by the over 10-minute suspension ordered by match officials as part of a crackdown on offensive chanting from French football authorities.
Players from both teams were escorted from the pitch in the 28th minute of the contest following repeated appeals to Nice fans to stop offensive chants.
Fans also unfurled offensive banners.
The second chant, sparked by the French league’s attempt to stamp out offensive chants from the stands, continued as the players returned down the tunnel, where they waited for the still-goalless match to recommence.
Villas-Boas said referee Clement Turpin “did the right thing in stopping the match” adding that the abuse was “above all a societal problem”, while Nice coach Patrick Vieira said that he was “absolutely right to interrupt” proceedings.
French Equalities Minister Marlene Schiappa also congratulated on Twitter Turpin’s “respect for football”.
However, goalscorer Cyprien bemoaned Turpin’s decision, saying that “we can’t stop every match each time some idiot does something, otherwise we will never play”.
“I am against all discrimination,” he continued to Canal+.
Instructions were sent to referees before the start of the season to stop matches if offensive songs could be heard, and the Ligue 2 game on August 16 between Nancy and Le Mans was halted for a few minutes – a first in France.
That match resumed after Nancy players pleaded with their fans to stop, but the club was still hit late on Wednesday with a one-game closure for one stand by the French league.
The league has mooted the idea of introducing a list of banned words in football stadiums in an attempt to combat discrimination and bad language.