The violence was committed by a small, toxic minority of English and Russian fans, but the authorities concerned in Marseille failed miserably with everything from the scheduling to the policing
When France pitched its glossily framed bid for this championship tournament the campaign slogan plastered across the posters and plinths was Le Foot comme on laime !. Football how you like it is a appropriately sunny and inane Big Sport tagline , not to mention for anyone trying to escape the wild, barking disintegration of Marseille city centre on Saturday night a source of some rather bitter laugh in the dark. On ne laime pa en effet ; On ne laime pa du tout .
Last week Michel Platini, for whom the next few weeks were intended as a kind of coronation, announced his intention to remain grandly absent from the matches. He might just have a phase. Bolt the doors, Michel. Judging by the evidence not just of Marseille but also the jumpy, stretched periphery of the opening game in Paris, it could be a long old four weeks.
Certainly the past three days have a genuinely grim start in the south. The weather has turned in the north, with rain falling in Paris, which continues to be seems a little ungripped by football mania. Une Ombre sur Marseille , a darknes on Marseille, was the morning headline in La Provence. And the cloud of Marseille will now linger as Uefa opens disciplinary proceedings, future schedules are checked, shivers of apprehension gulped back.
Marseille was a frantic, wild place in the wee hours of Sunday morning, with thousands of frightened fans and tourists wandering through a city that appeared to have given up on them. It seems a fair bet the 8th circle of hell, the one Dante considered vaguely but gave up on as a little too banal and pointless, has a section where you get to trudge through glass and puking at 1.30 am past bolted Mtro stations, while weeping children in replica shirts stumble about with their frightened parents go looking for nonexistent transport, peering down side streets, plotting escape routes from the sudden spurts and burps of violence that flared again through the night.
The Mtro was running, but not the stop near the stadium, and without any guidance on where to join it. Taxi drivers had understandably faded. No bus ran, or at the least none were to be seen. Sirens blared past the gaggles of temporarily dispossessed, heading for the violence in the port area.
Several British citizens are still in hospital. Social media paintings have flashed around of one human being kicked repeatedly in the head as he lay on the floor. Police had to resuscitate an unconscious 51 -year-old man who witnesses indicated had been attacked with a small axe. Straying through in the afternoon, it seemed bizarre a football match, of all things, complete with saccharine corporate staging, scrolled with adverts for financial services and brew and computer games, was about to actually take place.
What to attain of this? Some will say you reap what you sow and take a quietly censorious gratification in the sight of that tiny minority of England fans who enjoy intimidating the locals feeling a prickle at the back of their necks. Here Englands own regulars met an even more furious force in Russias massed and vicious rowdy gangs.
This, though, is to miss the point wholly. It is quite clear a group of violent Russian men came to Marseille with the idea of attacking English people. A few English people were already acting boorishly and violently. Local gangs enjoyed prodding the hive and taking a penance on their own streets. But all of these factions are a small, toxic minority, from whom local citizens and thousands of peaceable visitors need proper protection, just as they do from pickpockets, muggers and crooks of all types.
This is where the city, the police, Uefa and the stadium management failed miserably. Uefa has announced it will now probe the violence inside the stadium. First stop: its wretchedly negligent lack of segregation between the two main groups of fans. Russia fans didnt clamber across into the England section. They only ran through an empty space. These were two solid, packed-out resisting segments. Before kick-off jaws fell well, this jaw anyway at the sight of nothing but a walkway between them. Violence seemed inevitable.
Read more: www.theguardian.com