Marseille return to Valenciennes 14 years after scandal

Updated: April 12, 2007, 7:08 AM ET
Reuters

By Pierre Serisier

PARIS, April 12 - Olympique Marseille will play at Valenciennes on Saturday for the first time since the bribery scandal which rocked French football in 1993.

Fifth in the table and chasing a Champions League's berth today, Marseille were on May 20, 1993 a week from the European Cup final in Munich which they won 1-0 against AC Milan.

However, they bribed three Valenciennes players to seal a 1-0 victory en route to a fifth consecutive French league title.

Two days later, Valenciennes defender Jacques Glassmann told his coach Boro Primorac that a Marseille staff member had tried to bribe him and two team mates, Christophe Robert and Argentine Jorge Burruchaga, to "let the match go".

The French league took legal action against Marseille and the national federation, FFF, stripped them of their title.

Marseille were then banned from the 1993-1994 Champions League by UEFA and demoted to the French second division on judicial grounds in 1994.

In the 1995 trial tycoon Bernard Tapie, the club's former chairman, was sentenced to one year in prison, reduced to eight months on appeal.

PAINFUL SOUVENIRS

Valenciennes, who only returned to the first division last year, tried to play down the importance of this weekend's match for fear of it bringing painful memories back to the surface.

"This is still in everybody's mind," said Valenciennes chairman Francis Decourriere, who has held a meeting with fans to urge them to keep calm.

To prevent crowd trouble at Nungesser stadium, security staff of both clubs have worked together with local police over the last few days.

"We know (Marseille chairman) Pape Diouf and we get along fine," said Decourriere.

"If Jacques Glassmann wants to attend the match, he will be welcomed. But Bernard Tapie is not invited."

Valenciennes, 14th on 37 points, are struggling to avoid relegation.

"We lost 1-0 in the first meeting (this season) in Marseille and we were quite disappointed," said Valenciennes coach Antoine Kombouare.

"Talking about the past won't help us win the game. I'm living in the present and the present is that we need to take six points from the last seven matches to stay in Ligue 1."

Marseille are not eager either to recall their past.

"This is a closed case," said coach Albert Emon. "No one in the present staff was here in 1993."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index