England’s promising start to Euro 2016 was not only marred by an injury-time equaliser by Russia, but also incidents before and especially after the final whistle.
England fans had already been at the centre of controversy and violence in Marseille on Thursday and Friday after traveling to the city for England’s opening game. French riot police were forced to use teargas and batons to attempt to disperse crowds following up to 70 locals confronting England fans outside a pub ahead of the tournament getting under way on Thursday.
— Peter Allen (@peterallenparis) June 10, 2016
— 🇺🇸DailyMarseille (@DailyMarseille) June 10, 2016
Witnesses to the events say the police’s reaction and heavy-handed tactics was disproportionate and contributed to further violence. However, images and videos that have emerged show England fans being far from blameless.
One French reporter said the English fans were chanting ‘Isis where are you’, which again provoked tensions amongst locals in the area.
Worse violence continued on Saturday prior to the game, as sets of fans from England and Russia met in Marseille. French emergency-services say at least 30 people ended up in hospital, including one middle-aged England fan who was knocked unconscious and one fan who suffered a heart attack.
Reports from Marseille say Russian hooligans launched ‘savage coordinated attacked’ across the city – many disguised in English club shirts, to confuse authorities to allegiances.
— Daniel Boffey (@DanielBoffey) June 11, 2016
One video was posted by a local of Russian fans beating and kicking English fan on the ground:
— Youssef #TeamOM🇲🇦 (@YoussTeamOM) June 11, 2016
However, the biggest controversy was seen after the Russia captain, Berezutski headed home their late equaliser. England fans were seen fleeing a section of the stadium after being charged at by Russian fans – some wearing balaclavas and wielding weapons. The violence commenced after flares were thrown from the Russian fans and a loud explosion (suspected to be a firecracker) was heard.
Russian fans punched and kicked their way through the thin line of stewards and into the England section – many of which were of course innocent bystanders, including women and children.
Panicked England fans were then seen climbing and jumping metal fences to escape the hooliganism – scenes reminiscent of decades past. Once out of the stadium the coordinated violence continued as Russian fans seemed to provoke further responses from England fans without tickets outside.
England fans (and many French people too) climbing fences to avoid Russian supporters pic.twitter.com/ryE9JXSwwP
— Nick Eardley (@nickeardleybbc) June 11, 2016
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) June 11, 2016
From the violence at the end of the game and the scenes following, it is believed that at least 20 further England fans were hospitalised, including one man who is in a critical condition.
Jamie Vardy’s new wife, Rebekah seems to have been involved in some scenes of violence that took place prior to the game:
— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) June 12, 2016
Following the full-time whistle whilst most England players trudged off disappointed at not winning a game they dominated, Joe Hart was seen looking fearful towards the crowd, perhaps gesturing to friends or family urging them to stay in the ground, which despite violence would probably be safer than outside.
Today, in a strongly-worded statement, UEFA have warned the officials from England and Russia that their respective teams could be disqualified from the tournament should further violence occur.
Russia are expected to face further and greater sanctions, however, as the statement says, both footballing associations needs to appeal to their respective fans to calm their behaviour and simply enjoy the footballing spectacle.
England and Russia have not been the only orchestrators of violence in the tournament that is still only 3 days old. Police dispersed mass fighting in Nice between Northern Ireland fans and hard-core French hooligans on Saturday night. At points, it’s reported at least 100 people were involved in fighting, with chairs and tables being used as missiles.
As well as that it’s now being reported there have been mass brawls between Germany and Ukraine fans in Lille.
In a French-hosted tournament, the key security fears building up to the action was of course that of terrorism, following what happened in Paris at the end of last year and in Belgium at the beginning of this. However, the already stretched French security now has to deal with football hooliganism, which really should be a thing of the past and not something authorities should have to waste resources on.
Clearly, security in the stadium was not up to scratch in Marseille. Also, England fans are seemingly blameless for the attacks in the stadium. Furthermore, it seems that Russian fans have been the aggressors in fighting before the game. However, it is too easy to blame Russia completely for disgusting scenes involving England fans in the past three days. Whilst, it’s hard to comment on both Russian and French hooligans, England fans/hooligans really need to look at the bigger picture and realise the consequences continued violence could have.
Comment below with your opinions on all the goings-on in Marseille and around France over the past few days.