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Euro 2016 football violence echoes 1980s hooliganism

Teargas is fired at England supporters in downtown Marseille, France (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)
Teargas is fired at England supporters in downtown Marseille, France (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

IT could have been a scene from any time during the worst years of football hooliganism.

The fan draped in an England flag on a debris-strewn street, strutting defiantly as a mob of supporters gathers nearby.

The only thing that points to the fact this isn’t some flashback from the 1980s is the smartphone clutched in his hand.

Amid such scenes of chaos in Marseille an England fan was left fighting for his life last night after suffering a heart attack, as clashes raged in the city for the third day in a row.

Eyewitnesses described how fist fights and bottle-throwing broke out between English and Russian supporters before the two countries’ Euro 2016 fixture.

A fan runs with a flare ahead of the England vs Russia France Euro 2016 match, in Marseille, France (Niall Carson/PA)
A fan runs with a flare ahead of the England vs Russia France Euro 2016 match, in Marseille, France (Niall Carson/PA)

The scuffles left broken glass everywhere, with police resorting to tear gas and water cannons. Chairs from bars and cafes were smashed and used as weapons, while car windscreens were shattered.

Fans were seen being beaten to the ground and repeatedly kicked in the head, while horrifying images emerged of an England fan being given CPR by paramedics.

The Provence newspaper reported: “An England supporter is between life and death. The man who is in his 50s, who received a number of blows to the head, is in a critical condition. He suffered a number of injuries.”

Marseille police chief Laurent Nunez said: “Disorder broke out at about 18.30 at the Old Port. Hundreds of football supporters, mainly English, had gathered there and confronted the riot police.

French police officers charge soccer supporters during clashes in downtown Marseille, France (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)
French police officers charge soccer supporters during clashes in downtown Marseille, France (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

“The situation deteriorated when rival hooligans from Russia arrived. Therefore police officers had to separate the gangs of English and Russian.

“Certain members of these groups were arrested, including seven England supporters.”

One middle-aged England fan was knocked unconscious after the Russian hooligans, some wielding knives, charged at the England supporters. He was kicked and punched to the ground.

His friend said: “He got knocked to the ground and kicked in the head for nothing.

“He was not doing anything when some lads attacked him – French, Russian, I don’t know who they were.

He added: “And then the police charged. They always blame the England fans but we didn’t do anything.”

French police officers charge supporters during clashes in downtown Marseille, France (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)
French police officers charge supporters during clashes in downtown Marseille, France (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

Fans’ representatives also moved to defend the English supporters, blaming policing tactics and the Russian hooligans.

Dave Tomlinson, from the Football Supporters’ Federation, who is in Marseille for the Euro 2016 fixture, said it was “disappointing to see any problems” involving England supporters.

He added: “We understand from the reports that it’s a very small minority of England fans that have been involved.

“We also understand that, unfortunately, there has been quite a lot of provocation from the French and also the Russian elements that are in the area.”

He also said the style of policing was “a little bit different” from what England fans would be used to.

He added: “The first option at the moment seems to be the French police are going to put tear gas in the areas where there are potentially going to be problems.”

Tension in the southern port city remained high right up until kick-off at the Stade Velodrome.

Reporters on the ground told how bottles were being thrown “every couple of minutes” and described the situation as “pretty terrifying”, with bloodied England fans being dragged away by police, to the sound of sirens blaring out across the main square.

French riot police officers move along an England supporter in downtown Marseille, France, (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)
French riot police officers move along an England supporter in downtown Marseille, France, (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

The violence has echoed the dreadful scenes from the France 1998 World Cup.

English fans clashed with local hooligans in what became known as the Battle of Marseille, after Glenn Hoddle’s side beat Tunisia.

The Football Association said in a statement: “We are really disappointed by the scenes of disorder in Marseille and condemn such behaviour. It is in the hands of the authorities to identify those involved and deal with them appropriately.

“The FA urges supporters who are travelling to Marseille to act in a respectful manner and enjoy the match against Russia.”

Labour’s Andy Burnham said England fans’ behaviour was “embarrassing” given the terrorism threat to France.

In a series of tweets he said the supporters had been “let down by a minority”, who may have been provoked but were “not blameless” over the violence.


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