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French Sports Minister defends Marseille players after Nice riot


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The French Minister for Sport has defended Marseille players following the ugly scenes in Sunday's Ligue 1 game with Nice. 

The match was abandoned 90-minutes after Nice fans invaded the pitch, and attacked Marseille players.

The riot was sparked after Marseille playmaker Dimitri Payet flung a bottle back into the crowd, which had been thrown at him.

16-minutes remained on the clock when play was stopped, with Nice leading 1-0.

It was the second game in a row where Marseille players had been pelted with bottles. The same occurred during a game with Montpellier.

Referee Bruno Bastien called a halt to proceedings on Sunday night after Marseille players didn't return for the game's resumption.

"The players are there to play," Roxana Maracineanu told RMC Sport on Monday, "They don't join clubs to be insulted and beaten up.

"The fight should never have taken place, but it's normal to react when attacked."

Both clubs have been summoned by the Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP) to explain themselves, with both Nice and Marseille blaming the other.

They'll face a disciplinary commission on Wednesday (August 25).

"What lit the fuse was the reaction of the Marseille players," said Nice president Jean-Pierre Rivère.

While Marseille head coach Jorge Sampaoli posted an image from the riot on his Instagram, with the caption "Unacceptable".

Ugly scenes weren't confined to the Allianz Riviera on Sunday. Several stewards and police officers were injured in clashes between Rennes and Nantes ultras on Sunday.

Despite Nice players re-emerging, Marseille president Pablo Longoria insists it was the referee's decision not to resume the match.

"We decided not to resume the match for the safety of our players," Longoria said.

"It's already the second time, we experienced it in Montpellier, we decided to resume there.

"What happened today is completely unacceptable. We must set precedents for French football.

"The referee was with us, he confirmed to us - Jorge Sampaoli and me - that safety was not guaranteed.

"His decision was to stop the match.

"The League (LFP) decided, for a matter of public order, to resume the match. This is not acceptable for us, that's why we decided not to resume the match and return to Marseille."

Minister Maracineanu told RMC, "These incidents are an insult to football.

"I'm satisfied that they [Marseille players] were defending themselves.

"In a match where the players and the referees are attacked, it is normal to react.

"We will let the players be insulted, be thrown full bottles of water? No, that's not possible."

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Dimitri Payet Jorge Sampaoli Ligue 1 Ligue One Marseille Nice Roxana Maracineanu

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