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POPE

French student beaten for defending gay couple given private audience with Pope

Pope Francis held a private audience Wednesday with a French student critically injured in 2016 defending a gay couple who were kissing in the street in the French city of Lyon.

French student beaten for defending gay couple given private audience with Pope
Photo: AFP

“An incredible encounter with an exceptional man… I am thinking of you all on this special day for me. I leave full of strength, courage and hope,” the 20-year-old wrote on the Facebook page of the association “Je soutiens Marin” (I support Marin), created by his parents and followed by nearly 200,000 people.

On 11 November 2016, Marin, then a third-year university student studying law and political science, came to the defence of a gay couple who were being attacked by a gang of youths after kissing at a bus stop.

Marin's alleged aggressor, a minor at the time of the incident, attacked him from behind, repeatedly clubbing him over the head with a crutch.

The young student spent weeks in a coma and had to undergo surgery to remove quarter of his skull to make room for the huge hematoma that had formed.

The attack left him with severe neurological damage and after several operations Marin now resides in a rehabilitation centre in Switzerland.

In the aftermath of the incident, messages and gestures of support flooded in for Marin with charity and sports events being organised in Lyon in his
honour.

Over social media Marin documents his long rehabilitation process and his relatives have created an association, “Head Held High” to support victims of head trauma.

FOOTBALL

‘Not football’s job’ to combat homophobia: French football chief

The head of French football has pulled away from a hardline stance against homophobic chanting and banners in stadiums on Friday, saying that "too many matches" have been stopped due to anti-gay abuse.

'Not football's job' to combat homophobia: French football chief
Photo: FRANCK FIFE / AFP

Noel Le Graet, president of the French Football Federation (FFF), said that the FFF would not instruct referees to stop matches except in cases when a “whole stadium” was guilty of homophobic chanting.

“I think we're stopping too many matches! That makes certain government ministers happy, but it bothers me. Football can't be taken hostage by vulgarity,” said Le Graet in an interview with newspaper Ouest-France.

Several matches have been temporarily halted in France this season after the French football League (LFP) introduced over the summer plans to tackle fan homophobia during matches, including allowing referees to stop games.

“Matches have been stopped when they shouldn't have been,” Le Graet continued.

“We will stop them if there is consistent homophobic abuse from the whole ground, but if among 30,000 people there are 2,000 imbeciles I don't see why the other 28,000 should be punished.”

Le Graet referred to France's sports minister Roxana Maracineanu, who in April launched the appeal for matches to be stopped in the event of homophobic abuse, and equalities minister Marlene Schiappa.

Schiappa publicly praised referee Clement Turpin after he stopped Marseille's 2-1 win at Nice for over 10 minutes last month following sustained abusive chanting and banners from home fans, but Le Graet insisted that it wasn't football's job to combat homophobia.

Paris Saint-Germain's match at Metz two days later was also briefly halted for a banner unfurled by the hosts' supporters asking the French league (LFP) to allow them to aim homophobic chants at PSG.

“Did football invent homophobia? You can be a know-it-all when you have got much to say. But there are more important political issues,” he said.

“This crisis will resolve itself. We will work with club presidents, people who don't stick their oar in every morning, who don't want to just look good in front of the television cameras.”

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