Commentary

Lyon 'goes to war' again, at Bastia

For the second time in four days, scenes of chaos dominated the pre-game images at matches involving French club Lyon.

On Thursday, it was fans of Turkish club Besiktas throwing projectiles from the upper deck of Parc OL at Lyon fans below, forcing home supporters to run for safety on the field. On Sunday, it was Bastia fans running on the field at the end of pre-game warmups and chasing Lyon players into the tunnel leading to the locker room at the Stade Armand Cesari.

The start of the Europa League match between Lyon and Besiktas was delayed for 45 minutes but the game was eventually played. It took 50 extra minutes for the Bastia-Lyon Ligue 1 match on the island of Corsica to begin -- Lyon players and coaches didn't want to play -- but it was later called off after three Lyon players were attacked -- Lyon goalkeeper Anthony Lopes by Bastia's head of security -- at halftime.

Both Lyon and Besiktas, which attracted 20,000 fans for the first leg of their Europa League quarterfinal series, are under investigation by UEFA. (Lyon and Besiktas skirmished outside the stadium before the game.)

The newspaper Le Monde referred to the incidents at Bastia as the latest in a "season from hell" at Bastia, which entered Sunday's game in last place but only three points behind 16th-place Lorient. It faces a points deduction, though, that will almost surely lead to relegation.

Already three times this season Bastia has had to close the East Tribune after crowd trouble at matches involving Marseille, Nice and Paris St. Germain. Incidents against another big club had been expected after Bastia lost in Lyon, 2-1, in November.

“When they have to come to Bastia," then-Bastia coach Francois Ciccolini said, "it won't be like having the flu or a bad stomach. This will be settled as usual, like men, like Corsicans, right here.”

On Monday, some Bastia fans were blaming Lyon players for inciting those in the East Tribune by missing the goal on purpose in warmups. But that doesn't explain what happened at halftime when Lopes, backup keeper Mathieu Gorgelin and forward Jean-Philippe Mateta were struck by fans.

American fans might known Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas for his Twitter campaign to recruit Alex Morgan to Lyon's European champion women's team. On Thursday, he ran on to the field at Parc OL to stand alongside Lyon fans and help restore order. On Sunday, he had to convince Lyon players and head coach Bruno Genesio to play after the pre-game attacks.

Genesio didn't want to play the game. "We have to stop," he told Aulas. "They hit our players.  We have to stop. We're not going to war." But Genesio was proven right when the trouble resurfaced at halftime.

Aulas explained to L'Equipe what happened:

"The players have been badly affected. They were very afraid for their families on Thursday. And that was the case again in Bastia. I saw players who didn't want to play anymore, because they were afraid. We're going to have some work to do psychologically before Thursday.

"I saw incredible scenes. Three of our players were hit. After talks and a commitment from the police commissioner there would be no more incidents, the decision was taken to start the game. There was a lot of reticence from the players and Bruno Genesio. I tried to convince them. The players were affected.

"The pictures of the second altercation show that the one who started it is the head of security, who had promised to contain incidents. Lopes was hit, Gorgelin too, and Mateta. You saw stewards hitting our players! We went back to the dressing room and there was no question of continuing to play! The public prosecutor of Bastia, who I had asked to come, took our complaints for assault and injuries.

"I saw some very shocking things in the corridor leading to the dressing rooms, but I would like to say in the defense of Bastia, Jean-Louis Leca, the goalkeeper, and the president [Pierre-Marie] Geronimi, for whom I have a lot of esteem, tried to defend our players. The head of security came again to say the game could restart, but this time no one listened to him. It was the referee, Amaury Delerue, who took the decision [to abandon the match]."
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