Chelsea’s Eden Hazard begs Lille fans to ‘stay united’ after pitch invasion threats
Eden Hazard has called on fans at former club Lille to “stay united” with the relegation-threatened Ligue 1 side in turmoil.
Two hundred fans invaded the pitch at the Stade Pierre Mauroy on Saturday after Lille’s 1-1 draw with Montpellier — a result that leaves the club second from bottom of the table and a point from safety with nine games left.
A number of players were confronted by supporters, with reports that some of Christophe Galtier’s embattled squad were physically assaulted during the incident before stewards intervened to allow them to return to the safety of the dressing room.
Hazard, who came through the ranks at Lille before moving to Chelsea in 2012, tweeted his dismay at his former club’s plight, and called for fans to get behind the team.
“This evening, I’m hurting for my Lille,” the Belgium international wrote on Sunday. “Remember, stay united and together in the good times just as in the most difficult moments. Go LOSC!”
— Eden hazard (@hazardeden10) March 11, 2018
It remains to be seen whether the call by Hazard, part of the club’s double-winning side of 2011-12, will placate fans, who have seen new owner Gerard Lopez arrive with ambition, appoint Marcelo Bielsa as coach last summer, and then watch as the whole project fell apart within months.
Bielsa was replaced by Galtier before Christmas without the team enjoying an upsurge in fortunes, and fans chanted towards the club’s board, “If we go down, we’ll kill you,” from the pitch on Saturday.
In response, Lille said in a statement they have “made several complaints” to police “in order to allow for the opening of a judicial investigation as soon as possible.”
“The LOSC is determined to not let itself be taken hostage by a few hateful, violent and badly intentioned people,” the statement said. “The club will also fight on judicial grounds to have that behaviour and its authors condemned just as much as it will fight on the pitch along with its fans to maintain — with the coach and its players, whom it supports fully and to whom it reiterates its full confidence — its place in Ligue 1.”
Lopez, a former Formula One team owner who purchased Lille 14 months ago, told AFP that “even if we lose 10-0, there is no place for that sort of behaviour.”
“We were surprised, because there was no reason for it,” Lopez said. “Not the match nor the score deserved such a reaction. We’re going to try to leave that behind us to move forward and pick up points to keep ourselves up.
“The club won’t use those acts as an excuse. The players are professional and will move forward.”
Ian is ESPN’s French football correspondent. Twitter: @ian_holyman