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Ref praised for halting match over anti-gay banners

The coaches of Nice and Marseille and France's equality minister have all praised the referee who interrupted the Ligue 1 match on Wednesday because of anti-gay banners in the home crowd.

France's equality minister Marlene Schiappa said the banners had sullied the stands while Nice coach Patrick Vieira said referee Clement Turpin had been left with "no choice."

Play was stopped in the first half for around 10 minutes and players left the field over the banners displayed by Nice fans.

French media also reported anti-gay chanting during the match which Marseille won 2-1.

"The referee was right to stop the match," Vieira, the former Arsenal and France midfielder, said.

"These things are unacceptable. The message was clear, and the referee didn't have a choice.

He could have maybe given us a bit more time to go and see the supporters and to ask them to remove the banner. But he explained things to me that I fully understand.

"I hope that this won't happen again, in Nice or in any stadium."

Vieira's opposite number Andre Villas-Boas agreed the referee made the "right decision."

Schiappa said in a Tweet that Nice fans had ignored "several requests" to withdraw the banners.

"Football is passion, not hate," she said.

The French league has promised to crack down on anti-gay chanting this season which has already seen a second tier match between Nancy and Le Mans interrupted.

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