A fight involving fans of French league clubs Saint-Etienne and Lyon has left nine people injured ahead of the grudge match between the fierce rivals.
French authorities said a fight broke out on Saturday night in the center of Lyon after a group of hardcore Saint-Etienne fans decided to disregard a travel ban preventing them from attending Sunday’s game at the Parc OL stadium.
According to a French official with direct knowledge of the incidents who was not authorized to speak publicly as a matter of practice, the fight involved about 200 fans who were dispersed by police. Nine Saint-Etienne supporters were injured in the scuffle and three of them have been transported to a nearby hospital with head injuries.
Among the most popular clubs in France, Saint-Etienne and Lyon are separated by only 60 kilometers (37 miles) and their rivalry is one of the fiercest in French football.
Saint-Etienne won a record 10 league titles before falling into mediocrity in the 1980s in the aftermath of a financial scandal, while Lyon gradually climbed to the top in the late 1990s and won seven straight titles from 2002-08.
Neither can challenge league leader Paris Saint-Germain’s dominance these days but both have much to play for this season. Lyon needs a run of wins to maintain its slim chances of qualifying for next season’s Champions League by finishing in third place. Saint-Etienne, a proud club with working-class roots, is within only two points of the relegation zone.