Shameful England ‘fans’ continue to trample all over Europe tarnishing the reputation of decent supporters

The events of Friday night in Amsterdam continue to sully the reputation of regular supporters

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 March, 2018, 5:32pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 March, 2018, 5:32pm

One hundred and two football fans were arrested in Amsterdam on Friday around the ‘friendly’ football match between Holland and England – the majority for “disrupting public order”. According to Dutch police, 100 of them were English. According to English police, it was the most arrests for a single game in “several years.”

Organising the tie on a Friday night in Amsterdam, whose lad-friendly attractions are cheap and easy to reach from England, was unlikely to pass without incident – and an all-too vocal minority of England fans do incidents well.

Be it abusing friendly hosts, throwing bottles at police, beer at tourists or booing their opponents’ national anthem, there are many young England supporters who, after a day of drinking, are ready to act up – and some of those fans were hanging up their flags of St George outside Amsterdam’s Old Sailor pub at 9am.

Confidence and arrogance increases when there is safety in numbers, giving rise to their canon of songs about RAF bombers shooting down German planes three quarters of a century ago, or not surrendering to the Irish Republican Army 20 years after the Good Friday peace agreement was signed in Northern Ireland.

Whether by the water in Marseille’s Vieux Port or the canals of Amsterdam’s Red Light District, Little Englanders love to stand and sing, their beer-induced air of superiority covering their inadequacies.

I watched England fans closely in their last two tournaments in Brazil and France. In Brazil, there was almost no trouble – it’s expensive to get to and was seemingly out of reach of a lot of the idiots who cause trouble at games within a budget airline or train ride from home.

In Europe, the barriers to attending are so low that they can be in Marseille or Amsterdam in a few hours, singing songs about looking forward to leaving the EU as they swill Dutch beer in their German-made trainers and £500 Italian coats.

In Amsterdam, a video went viral of tourists waving to England fans as their boat passed under a bridge. They were pelted with beer and bottles for their friendliness. A bicycle, with a child’s seat, was then thrown in the canal. Dutch media reported that Lance Roberts, a 48 year-old Briton who has spent more than half of his life living in Amsterdam and whose children go to a nearby nursery, was so embarrassed that he took a boat the following day and hooked the bike from the canal. He planned to put it back when England fans had gone home.

Pictured behind Lance’s son with the retrieved bike are England flags from Exeter, Leigh, Fulham, Devon and Woking – you seldom see ‘Manchester United’ or ‘Liverpool’ on flags at England games, partly because supporters of those clubs have enough opportunities to see their team abroad. They have their idiots too, but nobody does idiocy on the scale of England’s national support.

The majority of England fans deserve respect and sympathy, not condemnation. They watch a team which hasn’t won a single tournament game since 2012, following their country in incredible numbers with no intention of causing trouble.

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They’re often helped by the excellent work of the Football Supporters Federation, who set up embassies wherever England play, dispensing switched-on advice to appreciative travellers and generally promoting goodwill. They’re not out of touch do-gooders, but know the lie of the land very well, working with locals and advising the police on better tactical approaches than steaming in with a baton at the first sound of Harry the Hammer, 19, singing tunelessly about Bomber Harris.

But what can they do if a young fan on his first trip away wants to act like a moron after consuming too much alcohol?

It’s a shame, because there are so many decent England fans, yet images of them enjoying a meal or mixing with locals isn’t as newsworthy or as enticing for social media clicks as a fat bloke throwing lager at innocent passengers in a boat.

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In Sao Paulo, I saw a Huddersfield Town fan handing out rucksacks from his club to kids on the metro. In Belo Horizonte, England fans made a far better impression than their team did in a typically dreadful England performance. In Marseille, waiters and bystanders applauded after a bar full of England fans sang Erasure’s A Little Respect – the night before 200 steroid-fuelled Russian hooligans battered their way through thousands of shocked English supporters.

Some now point towards likely trouble in Russia when England visit – payback after that Russian instigated-trouble in Marseille, but it’ll be different. Volgograd, Nizhny Novograd or Kalingrad, where England play, aren’t an £89 flight or train ride away – and locals are likely to be less liberal if attacked.

The hardcore fans who’ll be there are wilier – they know you can’t act as some England fans did in Amsterdam and expect no retaliation.

Already Holland’s VVD political party is proposing a ban on English fans – watching their club or country – “until they start behaving”.

And the actions of a few hundred idiots – a tiny minority when you think there were 5,234 officially-allocated away tickets and more fans who had obtained tickets by other means, will spoil the party for the majority who can and will behave.