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FOOTBALL

Joey Barton wins over Marseille football fans

Controversial English footballer Joey Barton is reported to have endeared himself to the supporters of his new club Marseille with a Europa League goal and no significant disciplinary problems to date.

Marseille midfielder Joey Barton has made an immediate impact since arriving on the Mediterranean coast, displaying the full extent of his talents with a rare goal direct from a corner in the Europa League as well as two assists during Sunday's 2-1 win over Brest in Ligue 1.

"Barton gave me a gift. I had the fortune to find myself in the right place," said Souleymane Diawara, the scorer of Marseille's opening goal at the weekend and not the last person to thank the player on loan at Stade Velodrome from Queens Park Rangers.

Named in Elie Baup's starting lineup days after lasting just 45 minutes of Marseille's heavy 4-1 home defeat against league leaders Lyon, Barton, along with his teammates, demonstrated great character to respond positively and tighten their grip on second place in the table.

Playing in the rain and fog in Brittany, Barton explained: "The conditions were very English, I felt almost at home."

As the architect of both Marseille goals, the former Newcastle man admitted that victory was the only thought on his mind, as it would "provide an answer to the questions provoked by Wednesday's match".

"The important thing is to have won. (For the second goal), Andre (Ayew) was better positioned than me, I didn't think for a second to try my luck. If I had scored a goal and we had lost, I would have been very disappointed," said Barton.

Seemingly a complete gamble, the year-long loan signing of one of English football's most controversial figures appears set to pay dividends.

Barton was restricted to intermittent appearances in the Europa League matches as he was forced to serve a domestic 12-match ban meted out by the English Football Association following his dismissal at the end of last season for striking Manchester City forward Carlos Tevez before subsequent clashes with Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany.

Still short of match-fitness, he had already showed glimpses of his promise by scoring straight from a corner against Borussia Moenchengladbach in a 2-2 draw with the German side in early November.

Against Lyon, he was withdrawn at half-time after being outclassed, like the rest of his side, by the opposition's midfielders, but the tale against Brest was markedly different as Barton played the full 90 minutes and was instrumental in Marseille's success.

With just two yellow cards in eight matches, Barton, who has a history of falling victim to provocation, has so far shown an ability to keep his emotions in check.

"Joey can bring all his potential into the vision of the game and his passes. If he has restraint in his game, it's also because only one thing awaits, his first red card," said Baup.

Voted man of the match on Sunday by Marseille supporters, Barton displayed a dynamic style that Baup had lauded at the start of the season, labelling him a tireless player who is just as adept defensively as he is going forward.

Even if his grasp of the local language remains limited, as seen during a recent press conference when he spoke English with a French accent, the once-capped England international could also shoulder the role of on-field "barker" or motivator that Marseille sometimes lack.

"Barker I don't know, perhaps," said captain Steve Mandanda.

"But above all, it's the quality he can have on the pitch that he can give us."

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WEATHER

IN PICTURES: How floods and a bin strike left Marseille submerged in waste

Torrential rain hit the city of Marseille in the south of France on Sunday and Monday, just days after local waste collectors ended a week-long strike, leading to fears of "catastrophic" waste making its way to the ocean.

IN PICTURES: How floods and a bin strike left Marseille submerged in waste
A man stands on a beach covered with cans following heavy rains and a strike of waste collectors in Marseille on October 5th. Photo: Nicolas TUCAT / AFP.

Marseille is located in the Bouches-du-Rhône département, which Météo France placed on red alert for heavy rain and flooding on Monday. Schools in the area shut and people were warned not to leave their homes as two months’ worth of rain fell in a single day in the Mediterranean city, after heavy rains had already caused flooding on Sunday night.

The situation was compounded by the fact that uncollected garbage was blocking storm drains in certain parts of the city – drains which would normally be cleared ahead of heavy rain – and making it more difficult for emergency services to intervene.

The city’s waste collectors had begun clearing the streets on Saturday after an agreement between unions and local authorities put an end to an eight-day strike over an increase to working hours.

But rain over the weekend made the monumental job even more difficult, and the result was that “rivers of rubbish” flowed through the city’s streets on Monday.

“Rubbish is everywhere. It’s a catastrophe,” biologist Isabelle Poitou, director of the MerTerre association, told AFP. “We’re expecting a strong mistral wind which will push the rubbish, which is currently making its way towards the sea, onto the beaches.”

“It’s vital to come and clear the rubbish from the beaches on Tuesday or Wednesday,” she added. “We need to act before the rubbish gets scattered in the sea at the first gust of wind.”

A woman collects waste on a beach after heavy rains and following a strike of waste collectors in Marseille.

A woman collects waste on a beach after heavy rains and following a strike of waste collectors in Marseille. Photo: Christophe SIMON / AFP.

The video below tweeted by BFMTV journalist Cédric Faiche shows the state of a beach in Marseille early on Tuesday morning. “It’s been cleaned several times but cans and different types of plastic continue to arrive…” Faiche wrote.

However, Faiche told BFM there are similar scenes every time there is heavy rain in Marseille, even if the strike has made the situation even worse.

Minister of the Sea Annick Girardin shared a video of the “sad scene” captured in Marseille on Sunday night. “Discussions between trade unions and the city must not make us forget what really matters: we are all responsible for our seas and our oceans!” she said.

“It’s unacceptable,” Christine Juste, deputy mayor in charge of the environment in Marseille told BFM on Tuesday, criticising the “lack of reactivity” in collecting leftover rubbish following the end of the strike on Friday.

“Why wait so long? In the 6th arrondissement, there has been no collection since the announcement that the strike was over,” she said.

IN PICTURES: See how the deluge has left parts of France’s Mediterranean coast submerged

The Aix-Marseille-Provence Metropolis intercommunal structure, rather than city hall, is in charge of rubbish collection in Marseille.

On Monday morning, the Metropolis dispatched 650 workers to clear away as much waste as possible ahead of the heaviest rainfall which was forecast for the afternoon.

On Monday evening, Marseille’s Mayor Benoît Payan told franceinfo that 3,000 tonnes of garbage were still yet to be collected in the city. “I asked the Prime Minister this evening to class the zone as a natural disaster,” he added.

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