Nice for Nice. The southern club gets a bye into the last-16 stage of the Coupe de France after their would-be opponents, Paris FC and Lyon, were thrown out of the competition for the fan rampage and slovenly organisation of their last-64 clash on 17 December.

 

Thirteen matches in the last 32 of the Coupe de France are scheduled to  take place on Sunday. On Monday, holders Paris Saint-Germain play fourth division Vannes at the Stade de la Rabine.

 

And on Tuesday night, nearly 700 km to the north-east, Lens entertain local rivals Lille.

 

But overshadowing all those ties is the one that led to Nice’s stroll into the last-16 and a line in the sand moment à la Jean-Luc Picard for the governing bodies of French football.

 

There was no final whistle in the clash between second tier Paris FC and Ligue 1 Lyon just over a fortnight ago at the Stade Charlety on the southern fringes of Paris.

 

A matter of seconds before referee Jeremy Stinat blew for half-time, Moussa Dembélé cancelled out Gaetan Laura’s seventh minute opener for the hosts.

 

The match was thus finely poised. But then came yet another hooligan show. Spectators threw smoke flares at adjacent stands, clambered out of their pen, marauded along the running track and spilled onto the pitch.

 

After riot police corralled them back into their enclosure, they shouted and sang obscenities. Seats were vandalised.

 

Wait

Nigh on 17,000 other saner souls waited for a resumption but match officials and security chiefs deemed it unsafe to continue. The game was abandoned shortly before 11pm.

 

Jean-Michel Aulas, the Lyon president, said his club’s supporters had been provoked – an assertion seemingly vindicated after the arrest days later of three men linked to Paris Saint-Germain fan groups.

 

Aulas’s Paris FC counterpart, Pierre Ferracci, said around 500 Lyon fans had travelled to the capital intent on mayhem.

 

Whoever was responsible, both clubs are out of the competition.

 

Trophy-free zone

Lyon, one of the putative titans of French football, are nowhere near the 2022 title. Ligue 1 pacesetters PSG lies 22 points ahead after 19 games.

 

Peter Bosz’s men can only pray that a surge in form over the second half of the campaign elevates them from 13th to the top slots ensuring qualification for next season’s European competitions.

 

Paris FC – third in Ligue 2 and only two points behind leaders Ajaccio – will resume their quest for promotion on 8 January at Dunkerque.

 

As well as a 10,000 euro fine, the French Football Federation (FFF), which organises the Coupe de France and is the game’s supreme ruling body, ordered Paris FC not to use Stade Charlety for their next five home games.

 

Lyon’s fans have been banned from away matches until the end of the season and the club will be kicked out of the 2022/23 Coupe de France if their fans misbehave during next year’s competition. Lyon has also been fined 52,000 euros – much of which will go to repairs in the Stade Charlety stands.

 

Stand

Neither outfit has appealed against the decision of the FFF’s disciplinary committee.

 

Essentially, the FFF needed to make a statement of toughness following an unsavoury streak of disorder at stadiums since fans were allowed back into grounds after restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Neither Paris FC nor Lyon would elicit much sympathy, especially Lyon who were docked a point in Ligue 1 after one spectator threw a bottle at the Marseille skipper Dimitri Payet during the match between the sides on 21 November.

 

That game was called off nearly two hours later. And Ligue 1 organisers later told Lyon and Marseille to replay the game behind closed doors.

 

Limits

Ironically, the last 32 of the Coupe de France will unfold either side of new limits on crowd numbers.

 

Sunday’s matches will not be affected by the government’s move last Monday to restrict the number of people at outdoor gatherings to 5,000.

 

Lens asked Lille to play on Sunday night to ensure a full house at the Stade Bollaert-Delelis. But Lille declined the request. The club said its preparations were for the original slot.

 

Disgruntled Paris FC and Lyon fans will say the sides should get the chance to play. The clubs’ players are likely to harbour the same sentiments.

 

Their union, the UNFP, spoke up for them on Wednesday when it issued a statement condemning the behaviour of the hooligan element.

 

“The players are the ones deprived of a prestigious competition,” said the UNFP. “They suffer for your foolish actions, just like the real fans, with whom we will never associate you.

 

“Because of you, two clubs, from the manager to the secretary, from the player and the coach to the medical staff, have been heavily sanctioned.”

 

Source: Modern Ghana

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