Saturday 3 December 2016

Fans clash in Marseille as Euro 2016 kicks off in Paris

Tear gas used as riot police break up England and Russia supporters

Tom White

Published 11/06/2016 | 02:30

A teargas grenade explodes near an England fan in Marseille. Photo: Reuters
A teargas grenade explodes near an England fan in Marseille. Photo: Reuters

As Euro 2016 opened with a flurry of can-can dancers and a glowing Eiffel Tower, French riot police were out in force in the southern city of Marseille.

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The police stepped in to break up small groups of English and Russian soccer fans who had squared up and were hurling taunts at one another.

A number of arrests were made during the clashes and tear gas was fired at supporters.

One man was photographed being thrown into the sea during the brawl.

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 tonight.

Last night's fracas follows on from an outburst of trouble in the Old Port of the city on Thursday.

A woman throws a bottle at English fans. Photo: PA
A woman throws a bottle at English fans. Photo: PA

The fight broke out after a group of 70 locals confronted England fans outside a pub at around midnight on Thursday, according to the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC).

One supporter sustained a head injury in the brawl after being hit across the face with a wooden chair.

According to onlookers, several fans were heard chanting "Isis, where are you?" during the exchange.

Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henri Brandet said last night's trouble amounted to a scuffle between fans that did not call security measures into question.

French fans celebrate in Stade de France during their match against Romania. Photo: AFP/Getty
French fans celebrate in Stade de France during their match against Romania. Photo: AFP/Getty

The tournament kicked off with France still under a state of emergency after the Islamist attacks in Paris in November which claimed the lives of 130 people.

In Paris, the Stade de France was surrounded by armed police with bulletproof vests as the opening ceremony began.

A double security perimeter with two successive security checks for the supporters provided a reminder of the organisers' greatest concern.

More than 90,000 police, soldiers and private security agents will be deployed across France to ensure safety during the tournament which is expected to attract about 2.5 million spectators to the country.

A Romanian fan flies the flag. Photo: Reuters
A Romanian fan flies the flag. Photo: Reuters

"Our main aim has been to make sure we could offer the best possible tournament given the circumstances in every aspect, and that includes security," organising committee chairman Jacques Lambert told a pre-tournament news conference.

Despite security concerns, fans swarmed to the Stade de France to cheer on Les Bleus in their opening match against Romania, which they won 2-1 with a late goal.

The opening ceremony celebrated French popular culture, with DJ David Guetta performing the tournament's official anthem 'This One's For You' alongside Swedish singer-songwriter Zara Larsson.

As music soared through the stadium, there were high kicks from can-can dancers, aerobatics from the Patrouille de France jets, ladies dressed up as giant pouting lips and naturellement, a glowing Eiffel Tower.

Several France players stressed in the build-up to the opening game that they could feel the fans' expectations were sky-high. "We feel it is our obligation to them to have a great tournament and to go all the way," said reserve goalkeeper Steve Mandanda of Olympique Marseille.

Irish Independent

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