October 25, 2016

French soccer league resumes after Paris attacks

A supporter is checked by French policemen at the entrance of the Nice stadium

One week after the terror attacks that killed 130 people in Paris, the French soccer league resumed Friday as Nice beat Lyon 3-0 in a somber atmosphere.

Fans held candles aloft during a minute’s silence before the match and a banner read “Supporters Unis Dans La Douleur” (Fans United in Grief).

Because of stricter security measures and depleted police resources, no Lyon fans were allowed inside Nice’s stadium. There will be no supporters from visiting teams at matches this weekend.
As the French national anthem sounded, France’s sports minister Patrick Kanner stood alongside French league president Frederic Thiriez, who had his hand on his heart.

“Yes, 1,000 times yes. Why? Because after the shock and the tears, life must continue,” Thiriez said when asked if this weekend’s games should have gone ahead.

“Security is my primary concern, we made this decision in close consultation with the Interior Ministry,” Thiriez said. “You have to balance the fact that football must go on with security measures, and I think we did that.”

Nice president Jean-Pierre Rivere supported the decision.

“We can’t forget what happened … (but) I’m convinced we should have played,” he told Canal Plus television. “You can’t underestimate what happened, but you have to carry on living and unite people who want to enjoy their passions, whether that’s the theater, a concert or a football match.”
Striker Valere Germain put Nice ahead, Lyon central defender Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa scored an own goal, and midfielder Vincent Koziello completed the scoring as Nice moved provisionally up to third place prior to this weekend’s games. On Saturday, league leader Paris Saint-Germain is away at Lorient.

Fans were subjected to stringent security checks before entering the Allianz Riviera stadium at nightfall.

“Our fans showed a lot of responsibility, too,” Rivere said, adding that some had urged fellow supporters to come dressed in black as a mark of respect for the victims, and to avoid bringing pyrotechnic devices.

The minute’s silence was largely well observed, except for a few people shouting at the start who were soon quietened.

Winger Hatem Ben Arfa, who played for France against Germany last Friday when there were explosions outside Stade de France, stared ahead solemnly during the silence, while Germain turned his eyes upward.

Lyon started brightly but missed two clear chances, with Claudio Beauvue scooping over from close range and Alexandre Lacazette hitting the post.

Nice punished Lyon in the 20th minute, when Germain showed a great first touch to control Jean Michael Seri’s pass and then clipped the ball over goalkeeper Anthony Lopes.

Yanga-Mbiwa showed a poor reading of the game when he went to cut out Jeremy Pied’s cross from the right and instead poked it past Lopes in the 49th.

Pied passed to Koziello in the 71st, and the promising midfielder finished with a rasping finish into the top right corner from inside the penalty area.

At the start of the second half, fans broke out into a loud and spontaneous rendition of La Marseillaise, waving French tricolor flags, and did so again at the end.

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