Adonis Diaries

The football chaos in Marseille: Eyewitness view of Marcus Foley

Posted on: June 15, 2016

The football chaos in Marseille: Eyewitness view of Marcus Foley

Eurosport’s Marcus Foley was in Marseille.

He witnessed the appalling scenes before, during and after England’s Euro 2016 match against Russia.

Despite two days of raging battles, the authorities appeared completed unprepared for the melee at full time of England’s opening match against Russia.

Russian fans made a beeline for their English counterparts at the final whistle.

Segregation between the two sets of fans sharing a stand seemed non-existent, and that, given what has gone before, could have proven an unconscionable oversight.

Women and children were crushed as a stampede ensued after wholly innocent fans tried to escape the rampage

England fans have been far from blameless in what had gone before on Thursday and Friday. However, neither should they be scapegoated for the goings on over the last few days.

There is absolutely no doubting that there remains an insidious underclass of England fan who looks for trouble. In the last few days, those ‘fans’ have found it – and where they haven’t found it, they’ve started it.

And let’s not forget that England fans have been the consistent feature of all the trouble at the tournament so far. (They should be banned from traveling to Europe altogether)

However, in reaction to England fans’ at times heinous behaviour, there has been some indiscriminate heavy-handedness, overly liberal use of tear gas and a clear lack of planning.

Despite there having been three days of quite serious violence, there have been very few actual arrests. (Not north Africans)

It is easier to fire a tear gas canister into the air, or fire up the water cannon.

As a result many innocent, decent fans have been subjected to some pretty abject treatment.

But, more frustratingly, that has allowed some thugs to apply typically binary logic to legitimise their actions, with the favourite protest of hte school playground: ‘They started it’.

Such heavy-handedness allowed the trouble to grow; and by dispersing rather than arresting key instigators, the trouble was merely moved around rather than tackled properly/

More worryingly, the clear lack of planning has put the average game-going fan’s safety at risk.

What happened at Stade Velodrome on Saturday was easily avoidable: the ample riot police in and around the ground should have been positioned between the two sets of fans.

Fans clash after the UEFA EURO 2016 Group B match between England and Russia at Stade Velodrome
Fans clash after the UEFA EURO 2016 Group B match between England and Russia at Stade Velodrome – twitter

On the subject of oversights, how on God’s green earth did Russian fans manage to get firecrackers and smoke bombs into a stadium in a nation that is still in a national state of emergency following the Paris attacks last year?

Hindsight, by nature, is a wonderful thing but there are many lessons to be learned from the opening days of this tournament.

The poor handling of the aggravation that started on Thursday has allowed the situation to snowball. On Friday during the day, Russian fans were on the rampage.

Yet, after the game, the majority of the aggression on the streets appeared to be in the shape of local youths hurtling around the city in a pack on mopeds taking the opportunity to blend in with the fans and attack the riot police.

There was wanton violence coupled with the obligatory bottle throwing and it felt more like the London riots of 2011 than any football-related hooliganism.

It was almost as if the authorities inability to police football fans had given opportunists the chance to vent their own frustrations in a pretty basic manner. Or maybe that is giving those too much credit; perhaps some saw the chance to smash some stuff up and took it.

What there is little doubt of though, however, is the fact that the majority of Friday night’s troublemakers were not football fans.

Even though they were in the minority, it also unarguable that those who caused the most severe trouble were Russian.

(I heard in the news that the police could Not apprehend any of the Russians because they were professionals in running and avoiding being trapped)

However, to address a problem, one must first have the willingness to admit to it.

As it stands, though, the Russian camp appear unwilling to do so. In his post match press conference Russian boss Leonid Slutsky claimed, rather ridiculously but with a straight face, that he was not up to date with what was happening, almost implying that he had seen nothing of the violence that was plastered over every media channel in France.

Worse still, the interior minister claimed that Russia fans had not charged English ones in the stadium despite clear video evidence to the contrary.

Many fans have been failed by authorities in France these last few days. UEFA must not add another failure to the list. European football’s governing body needs to draw a line in the sand: Russia should be at the very minimum be docked points.

The shocking goings on of the last few days have offered UEFA the opportunity to set a precedent. They need to take it.

Marcus Foley in Marseille

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