Euro 2016 violence: Marseille 'like a war zone' says fan who escaped thugs

A Kirkham man says he came face to face with supporters who seconds later launched a vicious attack on England fans ahead of last night's 1-1 Euro 2016 draw with Russia.

Sunday, 12th June 2016, 1:00 am
Updated Monday, 13th June 2016, 12:24 pm
A fan runs with a flare ahead of the England vs Russia France Euro 2016 match, in Marseille, France (Pic: Niall Carson/PA Wire)

Kane Lewis, 26, was walking through Marseille's Old Port with a group of pals when they were confronted by a group of men wearing black Lokomotiv Moscow t-shirts and gum shields, he said.

The friends, in town for a stag party and to see the game, managed to escape unharmed but watched on in horror as the gang of between 10 and 12 began fighting with England fans gathered in the French city on Saturday evening.

The fighting, which continued inside the Stade Velodrome following the full-time whistle, came on the third day of violence in the Mediterranean port city, which has left as many as 20 England fans injured, with reportedly several seriously hurt in bloody clashes between rival fans.

Uefa is understood to be launching an investigation into the fighting.

Kane, who works for car hire firm Enterprise, said: "It just went off. They were running up and down the street battering each other.

"There isn't an Englishman in this town now who is not wary.

"You feel like a mob of lads could turn the corner at any point."

Kane said he doesn't know why the thugs, who he described as being well-built and looking 'like they've just come out of a kick-boxing gym', didn't attack him and his friends, who were all in fancy dress.

He said they tried to steal his friend's hat, and aimed a kick at them, but then wandered off.

"I don't understand it because we were all dressed as England legends," he told The Gazette. "But 10 minutes later we were sat in the bar and we heard a commotion.

"We looked around and England fans and Russian fans were kicking the hell out of each other.

"It was like a war zone."

Earlier on Saturday, in south-west France, there were peaceful and joyous scenes at Wales marked their first European Championship appearance with a 2-1 win over Slovakia in Bordeaux.

But 315 miles to the south-east, it was a different story.

Hours before England's game started at 9pm local time, French police used water cannons and tear gas on rioters, after fist fights and bottle throwing broke out between England supporters and their Russian and French counterparts in the city's Old Port.

And, after England saw Eric Dier's sublime free-kick cancelled out by Vasili Berezutski in second half injury time, white flares were lit in the Russian end of the stadium, followed by a green rocket which went over England goalkeeper Joe Hart's goal.

This was followed by a bang, and then a red firework.

Russian supporters then began streaming towards England fans, causing some - including women and children - to leap barriers in order to escape, according to spectators.

Witnesses also reported seeing stewards in the ground at the end of the game, no police officers.

Rebekah Vardy, the new wife of former Fleetwood Town striker Jamie Vardy, tweeted after the match to say she was caught up in violence.

She wrote: "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!"

According to France's BFM TV, 31 people were injured, four seriously, with one fighting for his life. Three police officers were also hurt, and six people were arrested, the channel said.

The scenes from inside the stadium following the match have raised serious questions about French security, at a time when the country is on high alert after November's terrorist attacks on Paris.