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Euro 2016 riots: 'I watched people flee, seemingly in fear of their lives'

By Adrian Rutherford

Published 13/06/2016

An man injured in clashes is assisted by the emergency services in downtown Marseille, France, Saturday, June 11, 2016. Riot police have thrown tear gas canisters at soccer fans Saturday in Marseille's Old Port in a third straight day of violence in the city. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)
An man injured in clashes is assisted by the emergency services in downtown Marseille, France, Saturday, June 11, 2016. Riot police have thrown tear gas canisters at soccer fans Saturday in Marseille's Old Port in a third straight day of violence in the city. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)
A fan runs with a flare ahead of the England vs Russia France Euro 2016 match, in Marseille, France.
A man is arrested by police officers in downtown Marseille, France, Saturday, June 11, 2016. Riot police have thrown tear gas canisters at soccer fans Saturday in Marseille's Old Port in a third straight day of violence in the city. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)
An man injured in clashes is assisted by police officers in downtown Marseille, France, Saturday, June 11, 2016. Riot police have thrown tear gas canisters at soccer fans Saturday in Marseille's Old Port in a third straight day of violence in the city. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)
Russian fans chant in the Old Port Square in Marseille, France ahead of the England vs Russia France Euro 2016 match.
Police fire water cannons to control the fighting after football fans clashed ahead of the England vs Russia France Euro 2016 match.
The scene at Old Port in Marseille, France after football fans clashed ahead of the England vs Russia France Euro 2016 match.
French riot police move in to arrest Russian fans after violence broke out between supporters ahead of the England vs Russia France Euro 2016 match, in Marseille, France. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday June 11, 2016. See PA story SPORT Euro2016. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
The scene of destruction after football fans clashed ahead of the England vs Russia France Euro 2016 match, in Marseille, France. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday June 11, 2016. See PA story SPORT Euro2016. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Teargas is fired at England supporters in downtown Marseille, France, Saturiday, June 11, 2016. Two nights of clashes between England supporters, French police and locals have marked the build up to Saturday's Euro 2016 soccer Championship match between England and Russia. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)
An England supporter runs past tear gas through the streets in downtown Marseille, France, Saturiday, June 11, 2016. Two nights of clashes between England supporters, French police and locals have marked the build up to Saturday's Euro 2016 soccer Championship match between England and Russia. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)
A man is taken away by emergency service workers after he was injured in clashes in downtown Marseille, France, Saturday, June 11, 2016. Riot police have thrown tear gas canisters at soccer fans Saturday in Marseille's Old Port in a third straight day of violence in the city. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)
A man is arrested by police officers in downtown Marseille, France, Saturday, June 11, 2016. Riot police have thrown tear gas canisters at soccer fans Saturday in Marseille's Old Port in a third straight day of violence in the city. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)
French riot police officers move along an England supporter in downtown Marseille, France, Saturday, June 11, 2016. Riot police have thrown tear gas canisters at soccer fans Saturday in Marseille's Old Port in a third straight day of violence in the city. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)
A man is taken away by emergency service workers after he was injured in clashes in downtown Marseille, France, Saturday, June 11, 2016. Riot police have thrown tear gas canisters at soccer fans Saturday in Marseille's Old Port in a third straight day of violence in the city. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)
An man injured in clashes is assisted by the emergency services in downtown Marseille, France, Saturday, June 11, 2016. Riot police have thrown tear gas canisters at soccer fans Saturday in Marseille's Old Port in a third straight day of violence in the city. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)
An English supporter injured after a street brawl is helped by a rescue squad ahead of the Euro 2016 football match England vs Russia, southern France, on June 11, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / JEAN CHRISTOPHE MAGNENETJEAN CHRISTOPHE MAGNENET/AFP/Getty Images
An English supporter injured after a street brawl is helped by a rescue squad ahead of the Euro 2016 football match England vs Russia, southern France, on June 11, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / JEAN CHRISTOPHE MAGNENETJEAN CHRISTOPHE MAGNENET/AFP/Getty Images
An English supporter injured after a street brawl is helped by a rescue squad ahead of the Euro 2016 football match England vs Russia, southern France, on June 11, 2016.
A man lays unconscious after fights between England, Russian and French groups in Marseille, on June 11, 2016, on the sideline of the Euro 2016 European football championships. / AFP PHOTO / LEON NEALLEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images
England fans gather in Marseille , on June 11, 2016, on the sideline of the Euro 2016 European football championships. / AFP PHOTO / LEON NEALLEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images
A police officer throws a George Flag back to an England fan during fights between England, Russian and French groups in Marseille, on June 11, 2016, on the sideline of the Euro 2016 European football championships. / AFP PHOTO / LEON NEALLEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images
MARSEILLE, FRANCE - JUNE 11: Rubbish lines the streets as England fans gather, cheer and clash with police ahead of the game against Russia later today on June 11, 2016 in Marseille, France. Football fans from around Europe have descended on France for the UEFA Euro 2016 football tournament. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
MARSEILLE, FRANCE - JUNE 11: England fans gather and cheer ahead of the game against Russia later today on June 11, 2016 in Marseille, France. Football fans from around Europe have descended on France for the UEFA Euro 2016 football tournament. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
MARSEILLE, FRANCE - JUNE 11: <> on June 11, 2016 in Marseille, France. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
MARSEILLE, FRANCE - JUNE 11: England fans gather and cheer ahead of the game against Russia later today on June 11, 2016 in Marseille, France. Football fans from around Europe have descended on France for the UEFA Euro 2016 football tournament. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
MARSEILLE, FRANCE - JUNE 11: A man sits on a street sign and cheers with England fans during as England fans gather and cheer ahead of the game against Russia later today on June 11, 2016 in Marseille, France. Football fans from around Europe have descended on France for the UEFA Euro 2016 football tournament. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
MARSEILLE, FRANCE - JUNE 11: Police clash with England fans ahead of the game against Russia later today on June 11, 2016 in Marseille, France. Football fans from around Europe have descended on France for the UEFA Euro 2016 football tournament. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

I went to watch a game of football and ended up in the middle of a riot.

A night that should have been about seeing England at a major tournament - a highlight of any sports fan's bucket list - instead ended in a poisonous atmosphere with bricks and bottles raining down on the streets of Marseilles.

I'd made my plans for the Euros some time ago.

The tournament schedule meant I would be based in Nice for the opening week.

With a free Saturday night, I got a press ticket for the England v Russia game in neighbouring Marseilles.

There had been warnings of trouble ahead of the game.

Hooliganism had marred England's last visit here during the 1998 World Cup, and the hardcore element of Russian fans added to the security fears.

Tension had been building throughout Saturday, fuelled by a perfect storm of hot weather, a sizeable number of tickets changing hands unofficially and a 9pm kick-off, which meant plenty of drinking time.

Ahead of the game, while sitting at a cafe with several England fans, a group of Russians appeared and started throwing bottles.

It was clear trouble was brewing around the Vieux Port, about five minutes away. Several fans appeared bloodied, and police were moving in. It was not the time to hang around.

Inside the stadium the game was incident-free until Russia scored a stoppage time equaliser. In the stand to my right, a group of Russian fans charged at the England support.

I saw fans flee, seemingly in fear of their lives. Some leapt over barriers to escape, and a small number who fell appeared to be trampled in the chaos.

Amid the pre-tournament focus on terror, it seemed the threat of hooliganism had almost been forgotten.

The segregation in the stand which held rival fans was woefully inadequate.

Questions must also be asked as to how Russian fans were able to bring the flares and a firework, set off after their equaliser, into the stadium.

In the streets outside after the match, tensions remained high. Sporadic trouble broke out and continued close to my hotel, with the sounds of smashing glass and police sirens continuing into the night.

Belfast Telegraph

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