An England football fan who travelled to France to watch his first international match has described how he was forced to flee as violence erupted in the stadium.
Adam Joselyn was just yards away from where fighting broke out inside Marseille’s Stade Velodrome, at the end of England’s Euro 2016 game against Russia on Saturday.
Russian fans appeared to rush at England supporters just moments before the final whistle at the end of the 1-1 draw.
About 35 people, mostly England fans, were injured in the violence. Four of these were serious and one man is in a coma with severe brain injuries.
Mr Joselyn, who travelled out to France with seven friends, was sitting in the enclosure charged by the hooligans with three others from his party.
The 28-year-old, who lives in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, told the JC: “The section we were in was neutral. There were a lot of English fans, but there were also lots of French families, including women and children.
“At first there was just a bit of shouting and hand gestures. It didn’t really get aggressive until we scored our goal, then some of the England fans got on their chairs and shouted obscenities. When the Russians equalised they retaliated by throwing their cups over into our section and that’s when it got heated.”
He said: “The only thing separating our section and the section where the Russians were sitting was a walkway, manned by just five or six stewards. A few seconds before the final whistle the Russians suddenly charged across.
“At first I wasn’t sure if they were going to break through the flimsy barrier, but then I saw people around me running the other way. The atmosphere was intense and our hearts were going. We retreated towards a fence which people had started to climb over to try and get away.”
Mr Joselyn said the mob of angry Russians “looked like they were there to fight”.
By the time he reached the fence, the clashes appeared to be dying down, so Mr Joselyn and his friends made for an exit – only to be confronted by more thugs.
“It took the police a few minutes to turn up,” said Mr Joselyn, who plays in the Maccabi GB Southern Football League (MGBSFL).
“I never really realised at the time just how close I was to being hit – they were only three or four rows away from us. Everyone was quite shaken up.”
Once the trouble calmed, police escorted thousands of people out of the stadium.
“And that’s when our ordeal began,” said Mr Joselyn, a Manchester United supporter.
“Once we were outside the stadium we were on our own. There were no taxis and nobody showing fans where to go.”
A group of French locals drove past and screamed abuse at Mr Joselyn and his friends, who were all wearing England shirts. Eventually, they were picked up by a bus carrying other England fans and transported back to the city’s port.
Once there, however, they were met by a “wall” of rowdy French locals.
“We walked through as quickly as we could. It was very intimidating,” said Mr Joselyn.
Back at their apartment, the men contacted relatives to let them know they were safe.
“We spent Friday night in the port, which is full of English and Irish pubs. Scuffles broke out every so often. About three to four times during the evening a tear gas grenade was thrown and people dispersed.”
Mr Joselyn and his friends suffered stinging eyes, throats and nostrils as a result of the tear gas.
“It definitely ruined the trip for us. We didn’t feel it at the time, but looking back on it we were probably in danger for most of the weekend,” said Mr Joselyn.
“It was my first time seeing England abroad and probably my last. I definitely won’t be going to the Russia World Cup in two years.”