Crisis looms in Marseille

  • Other Sport
  • Sunday, 14 Aug 2005

PARIS: Two defeats in as many Ligue 1 matches and the prospect of a trial over alleged financial irregularities have placed Olympique Marseille on the brink of yet another crisis. 

To make matters worse, four-times champions Olympique Lyon are visiting today. 

The southerners warmed up for their match against Lyon in worrying fashion with a 2-0 defeat at Deportivo Coruna in the first leg of their Intertoto Cup final on Tuesday. 

The result left Marseille, who finished fifth last season after collapsing in the second half of their campaign, at risk of enduring a second consecutive season without European football. 

Now Lyon are coming and Marseille captain Frederic Dehu was not exactly talking up his team’s chances against the in-form champions. 

“We realise we’re in danger after losing our first two league matches,” defender Dehu told the club’s website. 

“We need to bounce back and we hope this match can be the turning point. However, if Lyon prove too strong, we will have to accept it.” 

Marseille got some bad news off the pitch as well with Marseille prosecutors saying this week that 14 people, including club owner Robert Louis-Dreyfus and former coach Rolland Courbis, should stand trial next year over alleged transfer irregularities committed between 1997 and 1999.  

A former financial manager at the club, Pierre Dubiton told daily Le Parisien that he had warned Louis-Dreyfus in 1999 about “strange money transfers” when Argentine striker Pablo Ignacio Calandria joined the club in 1999. 

The fans at Marseille, who have become used to scandals and poor performances, are getting increasingly frustrated and new coach Jean Fernandez is already feeling the pressure. 

Fernandez, who took over after Philippe Troussier was sacked at the end last season, admitted it was unlikely Marseille would win a ninth French crown and a first since 1992. 

Marseille were stripped of the 1993 title and relegated in 1994 over a bribery scandal. 

“We’re not chasing the title,” Fernandez said. “Lyon are much stronger than we are.” 

Fernandez’s main concern so far this season has a been a porous defence. He hoped for an improvement after the club said earlier this week that Guinean defender Bobo Balde was set to join from Celtic. 

Balde’s agent, however, has since been quoted by British media as denying a deal and saying the player would remain at Celtic. – Reuters 

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