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Thursday, December 13, 2012
Marseille victims of hostile reception

Ian Holyman, France Correspondent

Marseille were on the receiving end of alleged racist insults and the threat of their bus being pelted with stones at Bastia on Wednesday.

The game was played behind closed doors at the Stade Armand Cesari as punishment for violent incidents involving Bastia fans during the Corsican derby at Ajaccio in October.

However, authorities granted permission for a giant screen to be erected in a car park adjacent to the stadium, meaning a few hundred Bastia fans gathered to watch the game.

While the arrival of the OM team coach was greeted with taunts, there were also minor explosions. The hostile atmosphere meant plans for visiting president Vincent Labrune and Bastia counterpart Pierre-Marie Geronimi to lay a wreath at a memorial to the 18 fans killed when a temporary stand at the stadium collapsed before the 1992 French Cup semi-final between OM and Bastia had to be delayed.

Though the ceremony eventually took place, kick-off was briefly held up due to smoke from flares, lit outside the stadium, drifting across the pitch. While Bastia coach Frederic Hantz claimed "it was more unsettling for us" to play inside an empty stadium, the OM players were far from impervious to the atmosphere. "I can't deny that, off the pitch, we could hear quite of lot of things," said captain and goalkeeper Steve Mandanda.

Marseille's 2-1 victory, courtesy of a fine strike from Mathieu Valbuena and an Andre Ayew penalty with ex-Blackburn forward Anthony Modeste replying for the hosts, was followed with alleged racist insults directed towards certain OM players as they returned to the team coach. Their departure was then delayed by police, who had been informed the coach would likely come under attack from Bastia hooligans throwing stones en route to the airport.

"Great three points on that farmer's field. No fans in the stadium, but loads outside throwing fireworks," Joey Barton said on his Twitter account, adding: "Freezing cold showers as well."




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