Belfast Telegraph

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

By Adrian Rutherford

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