'British, Russians, heat - it could be explosive' - French security prepares for the worst after two nights of violence
Published 11/06/2016 | 12:30
France had long identified tonight's match between England and Russia in Marseille as one of the Euro 2016 soccer games most likely to lead to violence involving fans, and is determined to avoid more trouble after widespread disturbances in the cityon Thursday and Friday.
"This is one of the five risky matches of the tournament ... British and Russians with the heat, that can be explosive," Sports Minister Patrick Kanner told i-Television on Saturday. "Everything will be done to secure that match tonight" he added.
French police stepped in to break up small groups of English and Russian fans who squared up and hurled taunts, bottles and other objects at one another in Marseille, southern France, on Friday.
A series of ugly spats included fist fights and even fans being beaten up and thrown into the harbour.
Late Thursday, about 100 England fans and 50 local residents were involved in another fracas around the Vieux Port (Old Port) area, where several English and Irish bars are located.
About 1,000 police will be deployed in the Mediterranean city as up to 70,000 England fans and 20,000 Russians arrive ahead of the match between the two countries.
The tournament kicked off on Thursday with France still under a state of emergency after Islamist militants launched simultaneous assaults on entertainment venues in Paris in November, killing 130 people.
The clean-up of Marseille was under way this morning in the build-up to England's opening game of Euro 2016 after last night's widespread disorder.
Disturbing footage of the second night of trouble showed English fans pelting objects into the street, showering the police with bottles and throwing chairs out of cafes.
Flares were also lit as officers deployed tear gas in an effort to disperse the troublemakers throughout the day.
Fans sang songs about the IRA, German bombers being shot down and the national anthem.
Reacting to the violence, shadow home secretary Andy Burnham tweeted: "When you think of the terror threat & everything the French are dealing with, makes behaviour of these England 'fans' even more embarrassing."
He said: "As ever, vast majority let down by a minority."
Bare-chested England fans sang songs about the IRA and German bombers being shot down as violence first broke out on Friday at around 6.20pm French time outside the Queen Victoria pub in the Old Port district.
Fist fights broke out between English, French and Russian-speaking men, and one man was thrown into the harbour after he was beaten to the ground by local fans.
It comes before the England team have even kicked a ball in the tournament, with their opening game against Russia to be played at the city's Stade Velodrome.
This followed an England supporter suffering a head injury in Thursday night's brawl after being hit across the face with a wooden chair.
Kevin Miles, chief executive of the Football Supporters' Federation, said he had been out in the city until midnight and had not seen any trouble.
He said: "I genuinely didn't see anything and that will be the experience for the vast majority of England fans.
"At the height there was probably 200 fans involved of the 30,000 here which is a tiny minority of people who have been caught up.
"I'm also not aware of any of these incidents being initiated by England fans. They've been attacked by locals and Russian hooligans, and I'm not suggesting they haven't retaliated, but I'm not aware of English fans come looking to initiate problems."
He claimed it was completely different to France 98 as back then there were England fans coming to start trouble, and that fans will be wondering why they were not being protected by the police.
Litter and broken glass lay strewn across the streets as the sun came up but this was quickly cleared away and a friendly atmosphere returned as the fans came out for breakfast.
A market and street performers also began to emerge as more fans continued to arrive.
Romain Davesne, a journalist at local newspaper La Marseillaise, said: "We were all waiting for it because 18 years ago it happened at the World Cup.
"All the security were warned about it and that's why they gave an answer back.
"Back in World Cup 98 it was worse so they wanted to make sure it didn't happen again.
"The Marseille fans do not break the city down themselves, they were giving a reaction
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