In typical pre-tournament fashion, England football fans clashed with the native football hooligans, as the Marseille Ultras sparked running battles through the streets of the city. The violent scenes (captured above) ignited last night, as police launched tear gas into masses of England fans to disperse the crowds.
French riot police, heavily armed with machine guns and accompanied by German-Shepherds, battled to contain the violent fighting that engulfed the historic city’s Old Port district – the site which infamously hosted three days of violent clashes during the 1998 World Cup.
One English fan, understood to be in his mid-30s, was hospitalised after being struck in the head by a member of the Marseille Ultras – the victim was felled by a wooden chair leg during the trouble which began late last night.
According to eyewitness reports, local French youths amassed and attacked England supporters who had congregated outside the Queen Victoria pub, and O’Malley’s, an Irish bar next door.
Chris Lord, an England fan caught up in the violence described:
“This was a really nasty attack. The gang knew exactly where we were, and clearly wanted to hurt us.”
Chris Lord, England fan
Many fans spoke of their fear as they were ambushed by youths brandishing makeshift weapons, reportedly shouting “Get the English”.
— Peter Allen (@peterallenparis) June 10, 2016
Though the reports from France appear to be contradictory depending on the source, as another witness claimed that the French hooligans had only retaliated after a Muslim Arab – believed to be a ticket tout – was apparently targeted by English fans.
Worryingly for the French authorities, the violent fan clashes occurred after only the first wave of supporters arrived into Marseille – with England’s opening Euro 2016 game with Russia tomorrow.
After resorting to tear gas before the tournament has even begun, the violence will be a major concern to city officials and security chiefs, with hundreds of thousands of fans expected to descend on Marseille today; the French security operation will be put under extreme pressure.