What a week for Lyon, whose Europa League quarterfinal first leg against Besiktas last Thursday was delayed by almost an hour after fan trouble spilled onto the pitch. Then, Sunday, its league match at Bastia was abandoned after astonishing scenes of fans pouring onto the pitch and attacking players.
It started in the pre-match warm-up, as fans attacked the visiting players in scenes that were captured by BeIN Sport’s TV cameras. Three players were struck and Lyon went to its dressing room and refused to play the match. Club president Jean-Michel Aulas convinced his team to go and play, even though, as he said, “They were very reluctant… what had happened upset them.”
Things got worse after a tame first half which ended goalless. As the players were walking off at halftime, another altercation took place. Three Lyon players–Anthony Lopes, Mathieu Gorgelin and Jean-Philippe Mateta–were struck in the fracas. Aulas told L’Equipe that Bastia’s head of security had started the fight.
“We saw stewards hitting our players! It was incredible. We returned to the locker room and there was no question of continuing to play.”
The match was called off and the French league’s disciplinary committee will look at the incidents later this week. Bastia is already at the bottom of the table but only three points off the drop. A points penalty could seal its relegation.
The comments of previous Bastia coach François Ciccolini, in charge for last November’s stormy 2-1 defeat at Lyon, were recycled after the incidents. “When they have to come to Bastia, it won't be like having the flu or a bad tummy. This will be settled like usual, like men, like Corsicans, right here.”
At best this is irresponsible; at worst, incitement. And this is not new: in February, Bastia had to close part of the stadium for three matches after supporters racially abused Mario Balotelli.
“Furiani is the last bastion of a football that no longer exists,” wrote So Foot’s Mathias Edwards, trying to defend the indefensible. “They will be missed if they are not in Ligue 1 next season, because a trip to Bastia incites fear for visiting teams. It’s a touch of exoticism in a league that has little.”
If this is what passes for ‘exotisme’ these days, then I’d be happy to give it a swerve. The likelihood is that Bastia will be handed a 3-0 defeat and have its stadium closed for a few games. These scenes are simply not acceptable in football or society today.