Saturday 17 February 2018

Euro 2012: England fans hail draw with France like a win

Neil Lancefield, Press Association in Donetsk

ENGLAND supporters in Ukraine said earning a 1-1 draw with France in their opening Euro 2012 game felt like a win.

Chants of "Roy Hodgson's barmy army" rang out from inside the 50,000-seater Donbass Arena during last night's match.

Graeme Whitehead, 43, from Workington, Cumbria, praised the energy of England's attacking play in Donetsk.

"I think it's a great result," he said.

"I know we didn't beat the French, but it feels like it."

Matt Isle, 39, from Scunthorpe, North Lincolnshire, said: "I would have bitten a hand off if I'd been offered a point before the game.

"We looked solid at the back. A draw is a superb result."

Paul Scoble, 47, from St Austell, Cornwall, said: "That is the most positive we've seen from Roy Hodgson's team so far.

"I think we can win the group on the back of that performance."

There was a sour note before kick-off when a British policeman on holiday received minor injuries when he was attacked on his way to the stadium.

Pc David Heasman, 45, from Norfolk Police, said he was punched and kicked by a group of four men who he said claimed to be "Russian mafia", and received a cut to the ear but did not require hospital treatment.

The assault appeared to be an isolated incident as elsewhere the city seemed peaceful.

Pc Heasman, a married father of two, said he was walking to the stadium when the men ran up behind the group of England fans he was with, shouting "we are the Russian mafia".

"I turned round and one of them punched me in the face," he said.

"I fell to the ground and I felt two kicks to the head. It hurt.

"I feel upset because it's been a nice atmosphere until now.

"The police are out in force but they're not there when you need them.

"They're just standing on show on street corners."

A handful of British police officers were on patrol in the city centre, while their Ukrainian counterparts kept watch.

Eighteen British officers have been deployed in Ukraine and six in tournament co-hosts Poland - led by the Association of Chief Police Officers - to help up to 8,000 local armed police deal with fans at games.

Assistant Chief Constable Andy Holt, who is leading the British police contingent at Euro 2012, said there were no reports of England supporters causing trouble.

"England fans have been passionate, they've had a really good time but there's no sign of any disorder.

"They've been a credit to our country," he said.

There was anger inside the stadium after the official England band - which had travelled 2,500 miles by road to get to Ukraine - were banned from using their instruments during the game by stadium officials.

Despite assurances from the Football Association and Uefa, the band could not play inside the Donbass Arena.

They have been a feature of England games for the past two decades and estimate they have been present at more than 300 consecutive matches.

John Hemmingham, leader of the band, said: "It's very disappointing. We've driven thousands of miles and we were looking forward to the game. We're upset.

"The supporters were asking us why there wasn't a band playing. But it was a great atmosphere and the fans were brilliant."

He said he hoped the situation would be resolved before Friday's game against Sweden in Kiev.

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