355. EURO 2016 Football: Hooliganism & Violence in Marseille / England vs Russia

In this episode I talk about the EUROs including how it feels having the championship here in France, the violence in Marseille that occurred between English fans, Russian fans, local French fans and the French police this weekend, and the England vs Russia game that happened on Saturday. I welcome your comment on this subject so please share your thoughts under the page for this episode. A transcript is available for 95% of this episode.

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image: UEFA.com / background music: me!

Transcript (95% complete)

The EURO Football Championship has started and it’s happening in France! I’m going to do a few episodes about it as the competition progresses, a bit like I did for the World Cup two years ago. I love international football competitions but I’m not a huge expert on the subject of football, so please leave your comments with all your opinions, questions and points of view as we continue through the tournament. I can then read them out in future episodes. I’m sure a lot of you out there know more about this than me, so why don’t you contribute some content for my episodes? Just leave comments on the page for this episode at teacherluke.co.uk – not the main page, let’s keep the football chat on the EURO 2016 pages, which you will find in the Episode Archive or on the sidebar of every page on my site. I will mention a few questions for you later in this episode.

Regarding episodes in this series – essentially I’m going to record something when there are things to say, like before or after a big game (especially if it’s England – because I’m an England fan), when there are some big events to discuss or when there are some LEPster comments to share.

So, let’s talk about the EUROS.

I understand that you might not be a football fan, or that your country is not represented in this tournament (e.g. if you’re in Asia or South America). I hope you’ll keep listening anyway – because it’s not just about 22 guys kicking a ball around a green rectangle. There’s usually some drama and action involved, and the context of international relations being played out on a football field is usually pretty interesting, especially when there are also events off the pitch too, like the violence that’s been going on in Marseille this weekend. There’s more to talk about than just football. But, there’s football too! That means goals, upsets, victories, losses, penalty shootouts, surprises and the disappointment of being an England fan.

There’s a lot going on in France at the moment.

The weather – rain, thunderstorms and floods. Homes have been flooded and people have been stuck in their cars because of flooding and stuff. But it’s not that bad of course – the vast majority of people are unaffected by that, but certainly we’re all feeling a bit fed up with the incessant rain over here!

Also, the strikes – trains have been cancelled, journeys disrupted, and also rubbish collectors are on strike. There were piles of rubbish in the street, which was pretty smelly and disgusting.

Also, there has been a tense atmosphere here since the terrorist attacks that happened in Paris last year and in Belgium this year. There are soldiers on the streets and there’s a sense the people are expecting something bad to happen especially because there will be large crowds of people in public areas and lots of tourists in town because the Euro 2016 Championship and the eyes of the world, certainly the eyes of Europe, are now on France.

So, there has been a distinct lack of buzz about the football in Paris, but I think that now the competition has started people will get into the spirit of it and people will get excited, especially since France won the opening game and the competition is now underway.

I do love international football competitions.

I really hope that France do well this time. I think the country could really do with a lift.

The UK is well represented this year too, with England, Wales and Northern Ireland all qualifying.
Of course, I’m English born and bred, so I am an England fan, which is a slightly mixed blessing.

I’m also behind Wales and Northern Ireland. I would really like to see them do well because they rarely get a lot of success in international tournaments like this. They’re generally regarded as ‘minnows’ (small fish – small teams) but let’s see what they can do. Wales are not looking too bad this year and Northern Ireland haven’t qualified for an international tournament like this in 30 years so this is a good opportunity for them. Also, our neighbours the Republic of Ireland are in the tournament too.

Another ingredient in the mix here is the EU referendum which will arrive in week 2 of the tournament. I think that’s an important part of the wider context because there are British teams in the tournament and it will just add some significance to the events on and off the pitch, and could perhaps heighten the tension of the action.

Violence in Marseille

And talking about heightening the tension, there’s yet another factor in play now and that’s hooliganism. Just this weekend, English fans were involved in violent clashes with local French fans, Russian fans and the local French police on the streets of Marseille.

That’s really shameful. First of all I think that the violence is mostly instigated or carried out by a minority. There’s a small minority of English fans who are basically hooligans – people who are just up for a fight. Most people just want to come and enjoy the football and probably have a good time in France, but these hooligans will get drunk and lairy – they drink loads of beer, take their shirts off, start singing and probably act in a very aggressive and threatening manner, in public areas that are usually nice calm places where people are dining outside restaurants or enjoying a drink in the evening.

The thing is, this is a very tense time in France because of the terror attacks and the police have probably been prepared to react strongly to violence. They probably won’t tolerate a lot of public disturbance, and in fact have responded pretty strongly to what looks like just noisy singing and general public drunkenness that the English football fans are famous for. As a result the French police on Friday evening attempted to move in on the football fans and clear them away from a popular part of the city for tourists. The football fans responded by throwing bottles and then the police went into full crowd control mode and shot tear gas at the crowd, and then started beating up fans. Then on Saturday, England fans and Russian fans clashed a bit outside the stadium.

During the game things seemed to be peaceful in the crowd as the match went on, but at the end of the game some Russian fans launched one or two flares at England fans, and as the game ended Russian fans broke through some security guards and attacked the England fans, who tried to run away. There was also a loud bang in the stadium near the end of the game, you might have heard it. I think that was a firework that was set off inside the stadium by a Russian fan.

How on earth these fans managed to get flares and a firework into the stadium when France is on such a high terror alert, I don’t know. In fact all of this violence is particularly worrying and irresponsible because everyone is on edge because of the threat of another attack. Everyone needs to just chill out and bring down the tension.

On the streets of Marseille after the game some violence continued between these different factions, and apparently the metro in Marseille was closed, taxis and busses stopped running. The city centre sounds it was a bit like a war-zone. It’s ugly and disappointing and makes me feel ashamed.

Certainly the media in England and lots of public figures are condemning the violence and strongly criticising this violent element we have in our fans, and I agree – it’s shameful that a few idiots give us all a bad name. But, there are also lots of reports coming in from eyewitnesses who say that it’s not just English fans acting like hooligans. Apparently there are other elements at work too, including local French fans and the Russians.

According to these reports from people on the street, via Twitter and Periscope and other platforms, the English fans were getting drunk in the street in the main tourist area near the port in Marseille, singing and acting aggressively, when they were attacked in coordinated movements by groups of local French fans, who apparently arrived quickly and started throwing bottles at the England fans, who responded in the same way.

Similar things happened with the Russian fans who it is reported started fights with the English. This is what I’ve read and seen on Twitter and on bits of video taken on the streets. Apparently the streets were covered in broken glass and about 30 people were injured. Two English fans are seriously hurt and may be in critical condition – one was kicked in the head a number of times and another one had a heart attack. The French police fired tear gas into the crowds to keep them back. Any fans that got close to the police were hit with batons. They also used water canons to keep the crowd at bay. The English fans responded by going berserk and throwing bottles, chairs and even tables in response.

Apparently UEFA are investigating the violence in the stadium, which appears to have been started by the Russian. I expect there will be some form of punishment given out to both sets of fans. In fact, I’ve just heard that UEFA have opened up a disciplinary procedure against the Russian Federation because of the conduct of their fans in the stadium. I just hope that all the peaceful fans aren’t affected by this, like if there is a general audience ban or something. I’m not sure what the disciplinary procedure will be exactly.

Now, it’s difficult to have complete faith in the media because you don’t know if they’re being completely impartial. I wonder what the media is saying about this in your country. They might be a bit biased, and that includes media in England and in other countries. For example, some English papers might suggest that the Russians started the fighting, or that the French police completely over-reacted and were unnecessarily brutal with the English fans. Perhaps the Russian media might emphasise the hooliganism of the English. I am interested to know how this story is being treated in your countries, so let us know in the comment section. I’m sure it’s a very complex issue and that all sides have some responsibility.

I think this has been a four-way problem – English fans, Russian fans, local French fans and the police. Let’s hope it doesn’t get more out of hand, and I really hope the hooligans just tone it down and focus on enjoying the football rather than causing so much unnecessary damage, trouble and negativity in the press.

I feel like there’s not that much goodwill towards the English at the moment anyway because of the whole Brexit situation. It just makes us look bad, and again it’s to a minority of people who are putting all this stuff on the agenda and in the media.

Also, I feel for the residents of Marseille. I was there just last week, in the area where the violence occurred. It’s a beautiful spot and I expect this has been very disruptive and quite traumatic for local who are just trying to go about their business.

Even though the specifics of what happened are not clear, I am sickened by the actions of some of our fans who act so badly when they’re abroad. It’s appalling really and it’s been like this for years. I don’t really understand it, but I hate these people. It’s tribalism at its worst. Whenever I come across these types of violent football fans at home, I can’t stand it. They’re the worst people to run into, and I’ve always hated that kind of element. I’m not proud of it.

Anyway, this is supposed to be about football, isn’t it! What a pity to start this competition with violence! I wonder how everything will continue both on and off the pitch.

Overview of the EUROS

24 teams this time – www.uefa.com/uefaeuro/season=2016/teams/
Facts – www.worldfootballguide.com/europe/euro-2016-facts/
Favourites – France, Spain, Germany, England, others… Nobody is the obvious choice.

So far, France won the opening game against Romania.
Wales beat Slovakia quite convincingly.
Switzerland beat Albania.
England drew with Russia.

England vs Russia

I thought England played well in the first half but just couldn’t ‘find the net’ (score). There were some good moments of play between our attacking players, but we really should have scored. Russia improved in the second half but England still had a few chances. There was an amazing save by Russian goalkeeper Akinfeev. Then England won a free kick just outside the penalty box. Some people say it wasn’t a foul. There’s no comment about it in any of the English press I’ve checked online. We scored from the free kick – taken by Dier, with some help from an England player in the wall who blocked the view of the goalkeeper by ducking out of the way of the ball at the last moment. Finally we got the goal we’d been looking for and there was a big celebration but then, our mistake was that we ‘sat back’ (relaxed and stopped attacking) after our goal and Russia took advantage and scored a great header in additional time. Gutted. All the English fans then felt a very familiar feeling – disappointment because we didn’t win. In fact we have still never won our opening game in a EURO championship. So, we’re generally disappointed, even though we played quite well. 1-1 is not too bad really, but we had opportunities and we should have scored more!

The main questions people are asking now are about the usefulness of Stirling, who is quick by lacks ‘end product’, why Vardy was left on the bench for the whole game (he’s a goal scorer), why our tallest striker, Kane, was taking corners, and the usual mickey-taking of Wayne Rooney.

Someone on Facebook:
“Stirling is a useless twat.
Why is Vardy on the bench?
Why is Kane taking corners?
Why does Rooney’s head look like a turnip?
These are the big questions.”

Now, I want to know your comments. Here are some questions.

1. Which team is your favourite? Which team do you predict to be the winner?
2. Which players do you think are worth watching?
3. What did you think of the England vs Russia game?
4. What’s your opinion about the violence this weekend in Marseille? I’ve heard there have been some outbreaks of violence between Polish and French fans in Nice too. What’s the media saying about this in your country?

Let us know your thoughts and opinions! And let’s hope that the drama is played out on the pitch, not in the streets!

Luke