Ajaccio, France: French Ligue 1 club SC Bastia declared on Sunday that they would not accept any punishment from authorities for the brawl and pitch invasion that marred the end of their match with Nice on Saturday.
At the end of the game at Nice’s Allianz Riviera stadium, which Bastia won 1-0, the visitors’ substitute goalkeeper Jean-Louis Leca took to the pitch brandishing a Corsican flag, portraying a Moor’s head, the emblem of the island, above his head.
Players from both sides then clashed and dozens of supporters forced their way onto the pitch in an apparent attempt to get at Leca.
However, a statement issued by Bastia read: “We will not accept any punishments to Sporting Club Bastia or any suggestion that Jean-Louis Leca played the role of provocateur.”
They added that Leca simply “wanted to display with conviction and in a peaceful manner his pride in what he is — a Corsican player who had won a hugely important derby for the first time in 20 years.”
Four men were later arrested and remanded in custody after invading the pitch, and both clubs are likely to be punished by the French league.
The incidents came after a government decree ordered that no travelling supporters could attend the game between the two rivals.
Local authorities in Nice also banned “the carrying, holding or use of any object or item of clothing in the colours of SC Bastia.”
Nice claim that the trouble was sparked by Leca’s actions, and the player himself admitted that the carrying of the flag was in response to the local government order.
Bastia added that “the presence of the flag in the stadium constituted the symbolic response to the surreal and liberty killing decree” of the Prefect of the Alpes-Maritimes department.
Nice is the main port for ferries connecting the French mainland with the Mediterranean island of Corsica and there is a deep-rooted rivalry between supporters of the two clubs.
The incidents came after the Euro 2016 qualifier between Serbia and Albania in Belgrade had to be abandoned last Tuesday night after a drone was flown over the pitch carrying a pro-Albanian flag, sparking fighting on and off the pitch.