Homophobic abuse forces ref to remove players in Nice-Marseilles derby

August 29 – The top-flight derby between Nice and Marseille was suspended for 10 minutes on Wednesday following yet another instance of homophobic abuse in French football.

Players from both teams were escorted from the pitch midway through the first half despite repeated appeals to stop the abuse. Referees in France have been instructed to stop matches this season  if homophobic songs are heard.

“The referee was right to stop the match,” Nice manager Patrick Vieira said. “These are unacceptable things. The message was clear, and the referee had no choice. He might have given us a little more time to try to go to the supporters and ask them to remove the banner – but he explained things that I understand very well.”

As well as the chanting,  supporters unfurled banners displaying homophobic messages in the stands, a huge embarrassment for the home club who were recently taken over by a British billionaire, Jim Ratcliffe whose brother was present.

Twice the stadium announcer asked fans to stop making anti-gay chants, which were directed at the French league. One of the banners criticised the league for approving more fenced-off sections in stands. It was translated as “more fans in the stands means a more gay stadium.”

Another banner referred to the takeover by Ratcliffe, who owns the Team Ineos cycling team. In French the term “pedale” means to pedal but is also used as a derogatory term for homosexuals.

Marseille won the match 2-1 but once again French football, as in so many other European countries, is witnessing a disturbing trend. Earlier this month, a Ligue 2 match between Nancy and Le Mans was halted because of homophobic chanting.

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