Carnage at Euro 2016: England fan in critical condition in hospital as tear gas flies in Marseille and violence spreads to Nice
Violent clashes throughout city before England-Russia game
Violent clashes between English and Russian soccer fans broke out in the southern French city of Marseille on Saturday ahead of the two countries’ opening Euro 2016 match, leaving at least one person critically ill in hospital.
Riot police fired volleys of tear gas and deployed water cannon trucks to break up several skirmishes in the narrow streets of the city’s Vieux Port (Old Port) and outside the Velodrome stadium.
There were also scuffles between visiting fans and locals, with some wielding cafe tables as weapons.
Meanwhile, along the Mediterranean coast, Northern Irish fans were involved in a ugly exchanges with locals in the city of Nice that left seven people hurt.
European soccer’s governing body, Uefa, condemned the violence. “People engaging in such violent acts have no place in football,” it said in a statement.
Marseille’s emergency services said 15 people were injured during the fracas, including one middle-aged man who was knocked unconscious, and one England supporter who suffered a heart attack.
By Saturday evening, tens of thousands of fans had descended on Marseille ahead of the evening’s match. Broken glass and debris littered some roads and alleys near the waterfront, the focal point of clashes between English, Russian and French fans.
Water cannon trucks and scores of police armed with batons and shields positioned themselves between rival groups of fans as they headed towards the 67,000-capacity arena.
The clouds of tear gas produced images of unrest all too similar, though on a much smaller scale, to those in the city 18 years ago when violence flared for two days and nights around England’s World Cup game against Tunisia.
Local police chief Laurent Nunez said about 300 English fans had been involved and a similar number of Russians. There were no plans to close a beach-side fan zone, he said.
Police made six arrests on Saturday, adding to the nine from Friday. Those charged could face trial as early as Monday.
Jean Patrick Berbera rushed early Saturday to install extra security shutters to his store in the Old Port area.
“The police did their jobs, but, well, it sort of kicked off a civil war at the port last night,” Berbera said.
Gary Toal, an England fan from the northern city of Newcastle, said the violence in Marseille was overshadowing Euro 2016, which opened Friday with host France’s 2-1 victory over Romania in Saint-Denis.
“It’s not everybody but there are a lot of people involved,” Toal said. “It is a bit of a mob mentality and it’s not nice to see so we are trying to keep away from all that and enjoy the football.”