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October 27, 2009

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French official defends postponing match

FRENCH Football league president Frederic Thiriez has denied that postponing Marseille's match against Paris Saint-Germain at late notice was the catalyst for widespread violence erupting in Marseille's city center.

Fans of the bitter rivals had running battles after Sunday night's game was called off about six hours before kick off because PSG players Ludovic Giuly, Mamadou Sakho and Jeremy Clement had contracted swine flu.

That meant thousands of fans were able to mingle in the city center.

"Claiming that they (the incidents) are linked to the postponing of the match is intellectual fraud, unfortunately these fights were prearranged," Thiriez told sports daily L'Equipe yesterday.

Nearly a dozen people were injured and reports yesterday said 16 had been arrested following the clashes outside Marseille's main train station and the nearby Vieux Port (Old Port) area.

The late cancellation played straight into the hands of those looking for a fight, with PSG's notorious hooligan element heavily involved in downtown clashes. Reports before the match spoke of prearranged fights over the internet and a higher level of threats than usual.

"There is only one person responsible and that is the president of the French football league (Thiriez)," Philippe Pereira, speaking for a section of PSG's supporters, told LCI television yesterday.

Marseille president Jean-Claude Dassier said he was "dubious" about the decision.

"All this seems a bit amateur," he said. "I am a little dubious that with two (players ill) you play, and with three (ill) you don't play."


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