(Reuters) – The Europa Conference League game between Nice and Cologne kicked off almost an hour late after crowd trouble erupted in the stands at the Allianz Riviera stadium in southern France and left one in critical care on Thursday.
Governing body UEFA said the match was “delayed due to crowd disturbance”, later adding that it would start at 1940 local time (1740 GMT) after TV footage showed supporters of the German team making their way towards the home fans and throwing flares.
Police intervened but the players had not started warming up shortly before the scheduled 1845 local time kickoff.
Local authorities said a man, a Paris St Germain fan, was in critical care with head and chest injuries after falling off a stand and 17 others were injured.
“I’m fed up, I’m really fed up that our sport is being sullied in this way, that we can no longer say that we are going to a stadium with our children in a serene and secure manner,” French sports minister Amelie Oudea-Castera said.
Several Ligue 1 games last season were marred by crowd trouble.
Cologne captain Jonas Hector addressed the crowd through the PA system.
“We really want to play the game with you. We also want that game to take place. But we have to say that we do not like to see this,” he said.
“We worked damn hard last year and in the playoff. And we would very much like to do this with you and we ask you to keep calm and support us as much as possible.”
(Reporting by Julien Pretot and Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Ed Osmond)