A UEFA Europa Conference League meeting between Nice and Koln was almost called off after violent clashes played out between rival supporters and caused 32 injuries.
As reported by Get French Football News, tensions between the opposing supporters «had been building all day» after Koln fans took over Nice’s main square, the Place Massena, and vandalized Nice’s club shop.
According to the same outlet, Koln fans, when already inside Nice’s Allianz Riviera ground in southeastern France, then left their section to confront their Nice counterparts.
When they responded, fights broke out and flares were thrown as shown in social media footage with one clip displaying stewards kicking and punching a member of the traveling contingent.
Ugly scenes pre-match here at the Allianz Riviera. The Koln fans initially left their section to confront the home supporters before the Nice fans retaliated. pic.twitter.com/rkxij2W7Sz
— Get French Football News (@GFFN) September 8, 2022
The trouble demanded police intervention, with the players of both teams denied the chance to warm up before the scheduled kick off time.
Calling for calm, Koln captain Jonas Hector had to address the crowd on pitch with his message heard over the stadium’s 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,» Hector said.
«We worked hard last year and in the play-offs. 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,» he added.
Meanwhile, on social media, Koln revealed that the game had been delayed «due to violent clashes between the fan groups in the stadium and on the stands» and added that a UEFA security meeting was taking place.
The Bundesliga outfit further stated that it condemned «every form of violence in the strongest possible terms.»
«We stand for a sporting, fair and respectful behavior with one another. We apologize to all the peaceful fans who had made it a football festival up until this point,» Koln also said.
Speaking amid the mayhem, Koln managing director Christian Keller said he was «speechless.»
«I don’t know what the right words are. We wanted to celebrate a big, peaceful footballing fest. Everything was set up for that.
«From Nice, it is the same case and isn’t more than a few dozen complete chaots [a German word for a trouble causer or anarchist].
[Europa Conference League] [Ultras][08.09.2022]🇪🇺OGC-Nizza-Fc KölnTroubles in the Stadium:The ultras of FC Cologne attack OGC Nice, a supporter falls down from the row, which caused the kick-off to be delayed! New face-off time [19:40][Europa Conference League] [Ultras] pic.twitter.com/ZaX5GLGk7Q
— Ultra Fanatic (@UltrasClips) September 8, 2022
«That word doesn’t do it justice. The words that come to mind are words I can’t say,» Keller went on.
«I don’t know what these people are doing here and what they want. It only leads to football, FC Koln, OGC Nice and all the peaceful fans suffering.»
Around 55 minutes later than scheduled, the game was allowed to go ahead and finished in a 1-1 draw.
After Stefen Tigges put the visitors 1-0 ahead on 19 minutes, Andy Delort equalized for the hosts with a 62nd-minute penalty.
As reported by the AFP via Kicker, a total of at least 32 people were injured in the clashes, which includes two police officers and a steward.
Four were hospitalized, with a Parisian in the guest area said to be in critical condition after falling from the middle tier.
The trouble came a day after Marseille fans ripped down an LGBTQ Pride flag and clashed with police, who made five arrests, after a 2-0 away loss to Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League.
Though it has been alleged that Koln fans instigated the trouble in this instance, Nice fans also made headlines in August 2021 when they threw objects at Marseille star Dmitri Payet in the Mediterranean Derby.
This caused a mass brawl also involving members of Marseille’s staff, and Nice were later docked two points for the lamentable episode.