'˜We saw people bleeding and bruised' - Peterborough dad speaks of hooligans at Euro 2016
A Peterborough father has spoken of his terror after travelling to France to support England at Euro 2016.
Former Peterborough Telegraph features editor John Baker travelled to Marseille to watch the game last week, travelling with wife Emma and daughter Eliza.
He was in the city before, during and after the England vs Russia game, where there were a number of flash points as football fans clashed in the street and in the stadium.
He said: “We are actually staying in the Old Port in Marseille, about five minutes walk from the trouble. We’d seen how boisterous people were when we arrived on Friday afternoon and I took Em and El back home early. Lots of singing, messing around etc.
“By 8 or 9pm things were getting worse - police started moving in in riot gear. Bottles were thrown around us. We’ve got a selfie where there were literally two or three whistling overhead.
“We helped fish a guy out of the sea, he’d been thrown in by what appeared to be French youths who were then launching bottles at his head while he swam. He would have died right in front of us if he’d been hit.
“We saw people bleeding and bruised, and being helped by friends, and at the end of the France game the bar we were in locked the doors for about five minutes while tear gas and flares were used in a square nearby. Pretty scary and we decided to bail out at that point and go back, because you could just tell it was only going to get worse.
“We didn’t see many Russians, just plenty of general fights and chairs being thrown. It was almost like a video game, surreal.
“The game was an experience - we watched the Wales game and then headed to the ground nearby, but there was only one street you could go down to get there and the police in heavy gear were launching tear gas at people, which was dreadful experience. It sticks in your throat as much as your eyes and at times it was difficult to know where you were going.
“We were all being funnelled in one direction, Russian and English alike, and there were some pretty grizzled and tough creatures in that crowd. “Some were chanting the usual IRA and German bomber chants. At one point I tried to cross a road and a guy in riot gear grabbed me and threw me away, but I think it was for my own protection. Once in the ground, which was magnificent, everything was OK - we were on the other side to the main troubles.
“Overall, a pretty awful experience at times and I’ve never seen anything like it in domestic football. All the build up concentrated on fears of terrorism and it turns out to be hooligans who ruin it. Marseille itself is a splendid city and we’ve loved the days after the football - great food, friendly people etc.
“We’ve spent two years planning and we refuse to let idiots of any nationality ruin it. Now on to Lyon for NI vs Ukraine, and then St Etienne for England vs Slovakia, which we’re hoping will be slightly less stressful. Wanted to go to the World Cup in two years time - I think I’d be mad to even consider it now.”