Russian hooligans were savage and organised, say England fans

“They were very organised,” said Ian Allsop, a builder from Luton. “They wore gumshields, some had England shirts on to mix in.

Powered by article titled “Russian hooligans were savage and organised, say England fans” was written by Daniel Boffey in Marseille, for on Sunday 12th June 2016 14.37 UTC

England fans embroiled in violence in Marseille on Saturday night have said groups of Russian hooligans launched “savage coordinated attacks” around the city, disguised in English club shirts and equipped with gumshields and telescopic truncheons.

Roaming Russian fans approached the violence, which occurred before and after England’s opening Euro 2016 game in Marseille, with “military organisation”, fans said, as Uefa opened disciplinary proceedings against Russia’s football union.

Calling cards were posted on lampposts around the Old Port area of town, seemingly to guide the hooligans as to where to congregate before acts of violence that even seasoned travellers with England said were the worst they had experienced.

Rebekah Vardy, the wife of the England striker Jamie, had to be escorted from a brasserie near the stadium after riot police teargassed marauding hooligans.

She tweeted on Sunday: “That has to be up there with the worst experience EVER at an away game! Teargassed for no reason, caged and treated like animals! Shocking! I witnessed this with my own eyes! I can’t comment on things I didn’t see but what I got caught up in was horrific and uncalled for!”

Uefa said its control, ethics and disciplinary bodies had opened a case against Russia over its supporter’ storming of the England end of the Stade Velodrome at the end of the game, racist behaviour during the match and the use of fireworks.

It said it would judge the case on Tuesday, before Russia’s second Euro 2016 Group B match against Slovakia on Wednesday, and would implement “corrective measures” to strengthen security at stadiums as a result of “segregation issues”.

The majority of the 35 people injured on Saturday, four of them seriously, were attacked outside the stadium.

Russia fans (rear) face England fans in a street in the Old Port area of Marseille
Russia fans (rear) face England fans in a street in the Old Port area of Marseille. Photograph: Guillaume Horcajuelo/EPA

A police officer had to administer CPR to a 51-year-old man in the Old Port after he was struck on the head with a weapon and repeatedly kicked on the ground. He is said to be critically ill.

“One Englishman is still in hospital hovering between life and death,” a police spokesman said. “He is in a critical condition after his heart stopped before revival.”

On Sunday morning friends of the man dropped off his bags at the Timone hospital on the outskirts of the city, before leaving Marseille without having been allowed to visit him. The two men in their 50s declined to speak about the condition of their friend.

A hospital source said: “The consulate told his two friends to bring his bags down and leave them with the doctors, but they were not able to visit or see him as they were not his direct family. They just left the hospital and said they had a train to catch.”

In the days preceding the worst of the violence on Saturday evening, there were confrontations between England fans and French riot police. There were widely reported incidents of British visitors to the town chanting loudly and throwing bottles when confronted by the authorities.

England fans leaving Marseille from the St Charles train station on Sunday, however, said Russians had appeared intent on attacking them from the moment they appeared in the Old Port part of Marseille on Saturday afternoon.

“They were very organised,” said Ian Allsop, a builder from Luton. “They wore gumshields, some had England shirts on to mix in. They were there to do the English. And they were thickset, stocky guys. People were getting bottles smashed on their heads, bats smashed into them. Loads of people were hurt.”

Allsop said he had been looking for his 24-year-old son during the violence when he was attacked. “About 300 Russians came out of nowhere. They just walked straight through all the England fans who were standing about singing,” he said. “The Russians just started hitting anyone they could.

“One went to punch me, I ducked and punched him back to defend myself. I had to. But then someone took a bat to my arm. It is killing me today. I have got tickets for the semi-final but I wouldn’t come if it was here. Later, on the way to the game, a group of locals starting spitting at us. We told them to stop and they took out knives on us. The police were nowhere.”

Martyn Lowe
Martyn Lowe suffered broken ribs and a black eye. Photograph: Daniel Boffey/The Guardian

Martyn Lowe, 28, from Stoke-on-Trent, a self-employed delivery driver and father of two, was left with broken ribs and a black eye after being knocked unconscious in an attack.

Lowe said: “I’m here with a group of 10 mates. We were outside the Queen Victoria pub in the Old Port having some beers. Then at least three or four hundred Russians came marching through. One of them hit me on the head with a bottle and as I reeled punched me in the face. I had no idea how many were attacking me.

“They came at me from every direction. I was trying to get away but the next thing I was on the floor. They must have kicked me on the floor because I’ve got broken ribs. It looked like they were very organised. I was taken to hospital. I woke up in the ambulance, covered in blood.

“My trainers were stolen, £100 in my wallet and an iPhone 6. If that’s the way they get their kicks then fair enough.”

Richard Wakefield, 40, from York, travelled to Marseille with his friend Chris Snowdon, 39, from Fleet, Hampshire. Wakefield said they would not now attend an upcoming Russia game for which they have tickets. “We were walking to the ground minding our own business when the Russians attacked,” he said. “There was a big group of them. They came running at us and were kicking and hitting people.

“I got a smack round the head and have a cut eye. I lost my phone after being knocked down.I couldn’t get in touch with Chris. I went into the ground but left at half-time because I was bleeding and shaken.

“It’s just so sad. The police had been great, firm but sensible. Then the Russians went berserk. Funnily enough, we’ve got tickets for Russia against Slovakia in Lille. There’s no way we’re going now.”

Keith Moore, 52, from Manchester, said: “We were being hit constantly. We were just standing around having some beers and a bit of food on Saturday afternoon when around 25 Russians steamed in.

“You could easily see who they were. They had black T-shirts with Russian writing on, and were all extremely muscular. They didn’t muck about. They picked out English blokes to attack, and then ran off when the police arrived.”

Russians in Marseille
Russians in Marseille. Photograph: Stewart Kendall/Sportsphoto/Allstar

Concerns for the safety of England fans as the tournament progresses have been raised by the shadow home secretary, Andy Burnham, who called for Theresa May, the home secretary, to make a statement in parliament.

He said: “The whole country will have been appalled by the frightening scenes of violence in Marseille. As ever, a minority of troublemakers have soured what should have been an enjoyable occasion and put the safety of innocent people at risk.

“While the England fans are not blameless, it is clear that the situation changed yesterday and they were subject to extreme provocation and violence. With the rest of the tournament to go, there are concerns for the safety of supporters of all home nations.

“Given the seriousness of situation, I am surprised by the silence from the government. That is why I am calling on the home secretary to make an urgent statement to parliament tomorrow on the actions she is proposing to take, working with the French authorities and Uefa, to prevent any repeat of what we have seen.”

Dasha Timofeeva, 27, a Russia fan who was at the game with her father, Viktor, said the event had been poorly policed, and she was ashamed of the behaviour of some of her compatriots.

“We are of course sorry to the English who got hurt, but please believe us that not all Russian people are like these hooligans,” she said. “There is a hooligan sub-culture in Russia and sorry but there is nothing us fans can do about that.

“We were very surprised that there were no police in the stadium. Why not? In Russia the police are very strong and keep the hooligans in control. There was no control in the stadium last night.

“But also, the English fans were not kind either. My father and I were in the Old Port and had to run away from the bottles and gas. Other England supporters said sorry to us. So both countries have good and bad people at football matches.” © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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