Saturday, 11 June 2016

Teargas and Tears.

The excitement surrounding the European Championships really came to a head last night, with a strange, but nonetheless spectacular opening ceremony followed by a highly competitive clash between hosts France and relatively ranked outsiders Romania. France took the game with a 2-1 victory, with their winner coming through a spectacular Dimitri Payet effort - which was clearly a emotional moment for him.
All eyes now all turn to England, who open their campaign against Russia this evening. With many other nations perceived to be in a transitional period, this could be the year that the 'golden generation' of England players could shine through and bring home the first major international trophy for half a century.
Much like the 1998 World Cup, England begin their quest for silverware in Marseille, and much like the team in 1998 - a team that featured the likes of Beckham, Scholes and Owen, there are high expectations that the team will perform.
This is where you'd expect the similarities to end, but unfortunately it seems that the grizzly scenes of violence and hooliganism that broke out between locals and travelling England fans around the streets of Marseille's Vieux Port have also made an unsavoury return. Back in 1998, the culture the England fans brought to France, such as binge drinking and ear splitting patriotic music didn't go down too well with locals in the area, leading to confrontation - punches thrown and missiles launched, culminating in riot police and tear gas. Fortunately, the troubles were short-lived and the rest of the tournament was conducted in good humour and high spirits, before England crashed out in a penalty shoot-out against Portugal - a game which saw David Beckham infamously see the red mist.
Now, two days into the tournament it is clear that violent clashes between England fans and locals, other fans and police have reignited. Personally, I find it extremely disappointing that what should be excitement has turned to fascist chanting and violence from a small minority of England fans. Now, as a football fan, I understand that supporter identity is important to Brits, whether this be on a domestic or national level - I am all for showing passion and loyalty and getting behind a team be this through chanting, donning the three lions shirt or symbolic banners and flags, however, travelling to France should be all about supporting the team, not what has been reported as unprovoked violence in some cases, and even if provoked we should be the bigger men and not rise to it. The Euros should be about football, not fights.

England fans confront Police and Russian supporters
Today's third wave of trouble has been blamed upon Russian fans who are vastly organised, however, whoever is to blame, it has left the quiet port of Marseille appearing more like a war zone, with litter and missiles strewn across the ground and crushed bottles underfoot. Accompanied by the smell of teargas in the air. More importantly, it has meant that emergency services are having to police the area on a major scale for mindless hooliganism that is completely unnecessary. With France on such high alert for terror following November's horrific bombings, resources are being stretched to the limit to deal with mindless thuggery that could be utilised in areas of high security risk i.e. Stadia and Fan Zones.
Yes, I agree that the excitement around the England team is high, and with starlets such as Dele Alli in the squad, alongside strikers in Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy in great form many fans can see England making great progress despite Roy Hodgson electing include a weathered and somewhat ineffective Wayne Rooney in his squad, but this doesn't permit hooliganism on any level.

High hopes for England's 'golden generation'
If the 1998 World Cup is anything to go by, any tournament that starts with teargas on the streets, will end in tears on the pitch.

England take on Russia tonight, 8pm, ITV.

Follow me on Twitter: @DLster

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