For weeks, outlets in France and elsewhere have been warning that there might be a terror attack during the Euro 2016 football tournament. And sure enough, it happened within just one day of the competition starting. Except no one’s calling it a terror attack.
In fact, there seems to be confusion over what to call it, and even over what has actually happened.
But gangs of knife-wielding men in balaclavas have been on the attack in Marseilles; and it’s not ‘ISIS’. Nope, it was a bunch of Nazi, white supremacist thugs – who, despite wearing balaclavas, and despite this being a pre-planned attack and by a well-organised group, are apparently *not* terrorists. The latest I have heard is that there were around 150 of them who attacked on Saturday.
I’ve been baffled listening to some (though not all) news outlets continuing to report on these events as if it has all been the fault of English fans. I make no defense for English football hooligans, whose past reputation speaks for itself. But as far as what has happened in Marseilles in the last few days is concerned, it appears very much that the England fans weren’t instigators.
As far as Saturday’s horrible events are concerned, all accounts have it that a gang of knife-wielding Russian fans clad in black have been hunting down English supporters. Reports on the ground, from all sources, indicate the violence has been started by ‘organised Russian hooligans.’
There have been people beaten and kicked to the ground. There are images showing an English supporter having his head stamped on. Police have said the worst hit victim was a 51-year-old England fan who suffered ‘horrific’ head injuries, allegedly from Russian ‘ultras’, armed with knives and metal poles. “We watched the Russians pour in and go hell for leather for 25 minutes at the English,” one eyewitness has said. “The police just stood their and watched. They’ve lost total control. It’s inexcusable.”
There were claims also in French newspapers that about a dozen hooligans from Paris had actually joined forces with Russian ‘ultras’ in order to launch a surprise attack on English fans.
This wasn’t the only instance of French ‘ultras’ attacking foreign visitors. In Nice, both Irish and Polish fans were attacked by the French ‘ultras’. According to those on the ground, prior to this the Irish and Polish fans had been getting along fine, taking selfies together and singing songs together.
This is a coordinated assault by neo-nazis; and the first two days of Euro 2016 have been mired in violence and chaos.
In terms of the earlier incidents on Friday, most media – including British press – laid all of the blame on English fans. But this has been refuted too.
Not that some groups of English fans haven’t also been acting like arses – but that’s normal. On Friday afternoon, people watched in bewilderment as some England fans made a public spectacle, and chanted “F**k off Europe, we’re all voting out.”
They also, according to reports, sang anti-IRA and anti-German songs before singing “Sit down if you hate the French.” There is no indication that those English fans necessarily engaged in any violence – merely that they were behaving in their usual drunken, provocative and dumb-as-fuck manner. But that’s still something very different to what the Russian hooligans got up to.
And it appears, from eyewitness reports, that Russian thugs weren’t alone in targeting English supporters.
In one incident, it is reported that a group of England fans sitting quietly and enjoying a beer were ambushed by a small group of local Marseilles hooligans (possibly North-African or Muslim residents, according to one suggestion – but unconfirmed). Those England fans responded angrily, but the French riot police singled out the English visitors for tear-gas.
French youths were seen launching ‘guerilla attacks’ on England fans who had taken over a high profile restaurant in the area. A witness told the Mail Online: ‘The England fans were acting very arrogantly in the Entrecote [restaurant]. Some local boys did not like this. This was not right, it was real arrogance.’
That might be true and probably was – there’s nothing new in that particular breed of English football fans when they go abroad and act like absolute dicks. Local French hooligans kicked one Englishman (who may or may not have been involved in violence himself) on the floor before throwing him over the harbour wall and into the sea. The fan, with a black eye, was later seen struggling to get back to shore. A witness told Mail Online: ‘He was helped out by an Algerian family who had set up their market stall.’
There were also reports of French North African gangs taking on groups of English supporters as well as hooligans connected with Olympique de Marseille, the city’s top flight football team, waiting for supporters outside bars.
It was on Saturday, at the conclusion of the England Vs Russia game, when Russian thugs in balaclavas attacked England fans in the stadium.
It was clearly planned ahead of time, as the attack began as soon as the final whistle was blown and a firework was let off to signal the attack should begin.
Women and children were apparently trampled by Russian supporters as they pushed across into the England section of the Stade Velodrome in Marseille. Many also reported that there were no police to be seen in the stands and no one to break up the violence or stop the Russian hooligans: despite all the statements prior to the tournament that French security and law-enforcement were on alert.
How did those gangs manage to get knives and a firework into the stadium, particularly when France has already had a supposed terrorist attack in a football stadium several months ago? Some witnesses have claimed in the papers that the attack was carried out with ‘military style precision’.
Was some of this being *allowed* to happen?
In Nice, for example, an Irish fan criticised French police for allegedly ‘allowing the hooligans to spark the riot.’ He tweeted: “Terrible scenes in #Nice. French security allow #Nice ultras to walk into crowd & initiate riot.’
Or is it just the sheer distraction of worrying about supposed ISIS attacks?
Yet what we should be curious about is the advance knowledge authorities should’ve had about what sort of thing was coming: particularly as open threats were made well in advance.
Read this article from as far back as 23rd February 2016; it begins with the warning ‘GANGS of Hitler-loving Russian football hooligans have vowed to join forces to turn England’s Euro 2016 campaign into a bloodbath.’
‘Hordes of thugs from Spartak and CSKA will become allies to launch terrifying assaults on fans attending the group game against Russia in France,’ it continued. ‘Black and Asian fans attending the match in Marseille in June also face being targeted by the racist yobs hell-bent on trouble.’
The article, from February, also claimed to have had contact with a Russian thug named ‘Yuri’, who indicated that the Russian hooligans worked out in special training camps to hone their fighting skills. He was reported to have said, “We are hard men, many from the army and police. Not soft English men in their Lacoste clothes and girls’ shoes. Fans from all clubs, Moscow, St Petersburg, anywhere, will all be on same side. We fight in the woods and train and fight at matches. England fans will have no chance. Russia is number one.”
This next article is even more curious.
Vice reported weeks ago on an infamous English football hooligan who the French media once dubbed “The Pig of Marseilles”. According to the article, he had declared his intention to ‘attack Muslims at Euro 2016.’
It elaborates further. ‘James Shayler – who was jailed for two months after leading an attack on police officers at World Cup ’98 – claims he’s ready to co-ordinate attacks alongside far-right Russian hooligans during the Group B match between England and Russia on 11 June. The game takes place at the Stade Vélodrome, the scene of Shayler’s arrest 18 years ago. Shayler, now 50, said: “The Russians hate them [Muslims], don’t they? England will be with Russia against the Muslims.”
According to the report, Shayler claimed ‘to have been in touch with the leader of the ‘Landscrona’, the Zenit St. Petersburg fan group who once demanded the club field only white and heterosexual players. “The Russians are getting me the tickets for Marseilles, for the Russia game, so more than likely I’ll be watching at their end,” Shayler said. “That won’t be a problem.”
Whether this Shayler figure is actually in Marseilles or not, I couldn’t say.
But it speaks vividly of the growing danger of neo-nazi and white supremacist groups all over Europe joining up with each other.
Here, we have an English Nazi trying to meet up with Russian Nazis to carry out violent attacks; and elsewhere, as previously mentioned, there are reports that French ‘ultra’ hooligans have also teamed up with the Russian fascist thugs to attack England fans.
That these groups – who I’ve written about before – are trying to spark off a larger race war (which has been a stated objective for some of them), means something like the Euros in France are a great setting to go about it. France – particularly Marseilles – is very culturally and ethnically diverse. French authorities have claimed to be on high alert for ISIS-related attacks during this tournament – throwing ultra-violent white Nazi gangs into the mix is the last thing the French police needs.
What concerns me is how much the media seems to be omitting or ignoring the seriousness of the Neo-Nazi ideologies. Belatedly, most media has acknowledged that Russian ‘ultras’ were the main offenders on Saturday – but they’re not referring to how far back this was planned or the fact that some newspapers knew about it in advance.
It was also stated, months ago, that Polish and Ukrainian fans would pose a serious threat in France too; both countries with massive racism and Far-Right movements. Ukrainian football fans have been known to unfurl giant Nazi swastikas at matches – and, like much of the Ukrainian militias, are often seen giving Nazi salutes.
In the previous European Championship – inexplicably held in Ukraine, one of the most racist countries on earth – the British authorities actually had to issue warnings to Black football fans and ethnic minorities, advising them not to go to the tournament. There’s nothing new in this problem. Six years ago a football fan was stabbed to death by Dynamo Kiev extremists, surrounded by a crowd chanting ‘Heil Hitler’. In Lviv, one of the biggest cities in Ukraine, fans have proudly showed off SS banners and have been shown calling for “a white Europe”.
Vicious Nazism and ultra-violence are an inescapable reality in Russian and Eastern European football. If FIFA and the governing bodies of the sport are serious about fighting racism and keeping football as the ‘Beautiful Game’, Russia, Ukraine and perhaps one or two other nations should simply be expelled from the international game until further notice. FIFA can’t do the whole ‘kick racism out of football’ thing if, at the same time, it continues to tolerate what goes on in these countries and stadiums.
On Twitter, a number of football fans have called for Russia to be stripped of hosting the 2018 World Cup. That seems like an obvious route for FIFA: Russia has no business hosting a World Cup when it has ultra-violent fans going around carrying out planned attacks with knives and balaclavas.
If English football fans aren’t safe from Russian Nazis/terrorists in France, how much safer are they going to be in Russia? How much safer, for that matter, will non-white fans and players be when they come to Russia from Africa, Asia, Latin America or the Middle East?
FIFA should probably go further and either ban Russian fans from travelling to international fixtures for a few years or even just disqualify the Russian team form all international competitions for the foreseeable future. Similarly severe punishment was placed on English fans back in the eighties. Judging by the Russian team’s performance against England on Saturday, they are fucking AWFUL at football anyway and their absence would be no big loss to the game.
I’ll tell you all one thing; it’s this stuff that pushes me firmly into the pro European Union camp. Because all this nonsense is a perfect depiction of the dark side of what happens when societies regress to nationalism and tribalism instead of seeking a progressive path. I’ve said it before: Neo-Nazis and Far-Right groups are a bigger long-term threat in Europe than most people seem to realise.