Southampton student ‘caught by tear gas’ in Euro football violence

Fighting on the streets of Marseille lasted 3 days

Jackson Cole, a third year History student, was caught up in the violence that has tarnished the start of the EURO 2016 tournament after being tear gassed by French police.

The exact cause of the fighting is still unclear but those involved consisted mainly of Russian, English and local Marseille football fans.

The Russian team was given a suspended disqualification from the tournament over the violence.

Jackson Cole, a third year History student, was out in Marseille planning on enjoying a fun and exciting opener for England at the tournament. Whilst he was not directly involved in any of the violence, he was unable to  avoid the trouble. The Soton Tab caught up with Jackson upon his return to England to ask him about his experience in France, and get his thoughts on the violence that has ruined the start of EURO 2016.

“Calm before the storm”: The streets of Marseille before the violence erupted on Thursday

Jackson had not been staying in the Old Port area (where the clashes occurred) on the first night of violence, leaving him clueless as to what was happening just a few miles away.

‘I was surprised to wake up to the news that there were clashes. I didn’t realise the scale of the clashes at the time,’ he said. The following day was initially quite pleasant: Jackson was out in the Fan Zone with some friends, watching the tournament opener between hosts France and Romania.

Jackson and friends

However, after travelling from the Fan Zone to his friend’s accommodation, Jackson saw first-hand what was going on in Marseille.

“After the Payet winner…there was a really nice atmosphere. I went back to the apartment where my friends were staying in the Old Port area. When we came back we saw many police officers and a huge amount of smashed beer bottles and broken chairs on the floor.”

The most shocking part for Jackson and his friends was the sporadic but frequent outbreaks that continued throughout the night. The group stated they “saw a lot more violence in bursts” well into the early hours of Saturday morning.

England’s game against Russia took place at 9pm French time on Saturday 8 June. It was during the pre-match festivities Jackson was most caught up in the trouble. He and his friends found themselves in amongst the brawls prior to entering the stadium.

“The clashes appeared to come from nowhere and I found myself trapped in between the clashes and the police wall that was approaching and trying to contain the violence. Fortunately one police officer created a gap between the wall for me to escape through.”

“I heard another commotion and then caught a bit of tear gas, which was unpleasant. However, I only caught the back end of it and the gate leading to my stand had been unlocked at this point meaning I could get away from the gas.”

Good ol Uncle Woy: Most fans went to Marseille looking forward to a bit of fun and a good football game

Good ol Uncle Woy: Most fans went to Marseille looking forward to a bit of fun

Following the full time whistle in the 1-1 draw between England and Russia, there were further clashes inside the stadium. Russian fans rushed past stewards to continue fighting with England fans. Jackson witnessed the whole event unfold.

“I saw the Russians break through the stewards at the end of the game but was on the other side of the stadium. I know me and the people around me could not believe what we were seeing as there were several England fans risking severe personal injury to try and escape the advances of the Russian hooligans.”

UEFA have threatened to disqualify both England and Russia from Euro 2016 should the violence continue throughout the remainder of the tournament.

The reputation of English football and the fans has been brought under serious scrutiny as a consequence of the clashes in Marseille and when asked about this, Jackson said that he believes “it’s a big step back for the reputation of England fans considering how much progress there has been against hooliganism in English football since the 70s and 80s.

“For the tournament it’s a real shame as there have been some exciting matches but all we’re hearing about is the trouble caused by the England and Russia fans. Hopefully UEFA’s ultimatum threatening to disqualify England and Russia from Euro 2016 will see the violence end and everyone can start looking at what’s happening on the pitch.”

Russian Hooligans: England fans were charged at the full time whistle inside the Stade Veledrom on Saturday night

Russian Hooligans: England fans were charged at the full time whistle inside the stadium

England’s next match is against Wales on Thursday in Lens.

With many fans planning to stay in Lille, there are fears the violence could continue as Russia plays Slovakia in Lille on Wednesday afternoon.

For more on Jackson Cole’s personal experience of the events in Marseille, be sure to check out his post on Off The Post News.