Marseille: An England football supporter was fighting for his life today after pitched street battles in the French city of Marseille, bringing new shame on football.
French riot police used tear gas and water cannon to try to restore order as English and Russian fans brawled in a series of clashes ahead of their teams’ Euro 2016 opener, leaving at least 19 injured.
Bare-chested supporters hurled bistro chairs and bottles in the Vieux-Port area, where the cobbled streets were left littered with broken glass and debris, in a third consecutive day of violence.
Hundreds of fans poured down stone steps in the streets of the Mediterranean port city, many carrying chairs.
The trouble erupted after massed ranks of fans had been drinking for hours.
One English fan was left in a critical condition, the regional police prefect Laurent Nunez said.
A police source said the man had been beaten with an iron bar “apparently around the head” and was rushed to hospital after emergency first-aid at the scene.
AFP journalists saw the man, with a heavily bloodied face, receiving treatment after apparently suffering a cardiac arrest.
At least three other people received serious injuries but their lives were not in danger, officials said.
Nunez said officers had moved in to separate groups of English and Russian fans before they were “set upon” by both sets of fans.
Before the tournament French police were on high alert for potential terror threats after the jihadist attacks in Paris in 2015, but so far it has been the old plague of hooliganism that has marred the Euros.
European football’s governing body UEFA slammed the violence, which recalled notorious clashes between England and Tunisia fans in Marseille during the 1998 World Cup.
“UEFA firmly condemns the incidents in Marseille,” said a UEFA spokesman. “People engaging in such violent acts have no place in football.”
Fans marauded through streets throwing chairs and taunting each other, as police fired volleys of tear gas to disperse them — as well as local youths who became involved.
Six people were arrested today, adding to seven held in the district yesterday night in similar disturbances. Police also broke up fighting involving England fans on Thursday.
England fans said the latest clashes were caused by Russians who charged at them.
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