herald

Friday 30 September 2016

Tear gas and brawls as Euros kicks off

Tear gas is fired at English fans as fighting breaks out with locals Picture: Reuters/Jean-Paul Pelissier
Tear gas is fired at English fans as fighting breaks out with locals Picture: Reuters/Jean-Paul Pelissier

England football fans were involved in yet more ugly exchanges in the French port town of Marseille, as a second night of fighting and violence saw supporters pelting missiles from a roadside brasserie.

Disturbing footage from Marseille - the focal point for many Three Lions supporters ahead of Saturday's Euro 2016 match against Russia - showed a group of fans shouting "Have it" as they pelted objects into the street from the Red Eagle.

Some supporters lobbed bottles and chairs from the venue - with the odd missile simply striking the canopy above them - while the background was illuminated by a raging bright light from a powerful flare at the entrance of the building.

Police could be seen gathered a short distance away.

Earlier, officers deployed tear gas in an effort to disperse the troublemakers but the ugly skirmishes continued as darkness fell.

In scenes reminiscent of the dark days of hooliganism, bare-chested England fans threw beer bottles at police dressed in full riot gear as frequent, short-lived confrontations marred the start of the European Championships.

Beaten

Fist fights broke out between English-, French- and Russian-speaking men - and one man was thrown into the harbour after he was beaten to the ground by local fans.

Police with helmets, batons and shields stood shoulder to shoulder along the cobbled street facing a line of England fans, some of whom threw bottles. One fan wearing a red England shirt was handcuffed and arrested.

The violence first broke out at around 6.20pm French time outside the Queen Victoria pub in the Old Port district, where England fans had been drinking for most of the day.

Fans sang songs about the IRA, German bombers being shot down and the national anthem.

The start of the tournament, officially marked by a 2-1 win for the hosts over Romania in Paris yesterday evening, was instead overshadowed by images of brawls between rival supporters, violence and confrontations with local police.

The latest clashes came after a night of violence in the southern French city.

One England supporter suffered a head injury in Thursday night's brawl after being hit across the face with a wooden chair. According to reports, some England fans were heard chanting: "Isis, where are you?"

As the disorder lurched into another day, bare-chested England fans could be seen dodging the gas deployed by police as an afternoon of drinking and singing turned into an ugly stand-off with police.

Police with helmets, batons and shields grappled troublemakers to the ground amid beer bottles and rubbish strewn across the cobbled streets.

While the disturbances were often violent, they were also often short-lived.

Although bottles being lobbed in various directions sent crowds of supporters fleeing, the French gendarmerie were quick to separate rival groups of fans and clear the danger areas.

Each time, it left staff working in the local tourist trade to clear up the aftermath, with broken bottles, debris and litter strewn across roads and pavement.

Helmets

A statement from the French police about the incidents on Thursday said: "During the operations, police officers, who had objects thrown at them, used four tear gas canisters. Two officers from the National Police were slightly injured.

"Among the teams of municipal police at the operation, two were also slightly injured. Two supporters were arrested."

Kevin Miles, chief executive of the Football Supporters' Federation in Britain, which runs the British fans' embassy, said he believed the locals turned up with the intention of provoking England fans.

"People were drinking and having a bit of a sing-song all day. It was all fine until, our understanding is, a group of locals turned up, I think with the intention of provoking the England fans to see if they could get a rise out of them," he said.

Promoted articles

Entertainment News