There was a 1980s nostalgia feast in Marseille over the weekend. It was enough to bring teargas to the eyes.
It was all pretty shabby and Fifa (motto: “For the game. For the World”) has strongly condemned the scallywaggery. And when Fifa has managed to ensconce itself onto the moral high ground you know that something really nasty has occurred.
Hopefully those of you travelling to Russia for the 2018 World Cup will have a wonderful time. I’m afraid I won’t be joining you.Tony Gillan
Uefa (motto: “At least we’re not as bent as Fifa”) were still more judgmental and even suggested disqualification for countries with a certain percentage of nincompoops among their followers.
Who to blame? As always the greater portion goes to the slack-jawed yokels who apparently regard violence in the same way that the rest of us think of gardening or macramé. But it isn’t that simple and there’s plenty of blame to go round. So we may as well enjoy ourselves.
Uefa have so far blamed the Russians, but not the English. They may yet open investigations with the FA. But who will open investigations into Uefa? The chances of them inculpating themselves are zero, so perhaps they had nothing to do with the ticketing arrangements.
The segregation and ticketing appear to have been made in the blind and forlorn hope that people would refrain from being beastly to each other.
This is not wisdom after the event either. The violence in Marseille was sadly inevitable. Everyone knew that Russian gangs were organising trouble, as distinct from a routine drunken punch-up that can happen in any pub on earth.
What of policing and intelligence then?
I’m no surveillance expert, but my suspicions tend to be aroused when I see someone wearing a balaclava in June in the south of France.
It also seems, according to Jamie Vardy’s teargassed wife among others who have no reason to lie, that the police response was somewhat indiscriminate and did not necessarily target the right people.
The facts in their entirety are yet to be established, but at this stage it seems that the main crime of the England supporters is to allow themselves to be attacked.
But we should wait and see. Great progress has been made with hooliganism in this country. That does not mean that every numb-nut has been extricated permanently from England matches and their vicinity.
The response of the British tabloids has been relatively muted, so perhaps they have thrown off normal procedure by trying to ascertain some facts.
This brings us to the Russian media, which has frankly disgraced itself with some spectacularly one-eyed coverage. You probably don’t curl up of an evening with a copy of a Russian newspaper, so I shall give you a brief précis of their coverage.
It was all England’s fault.
Well almost. Moscow’s Sport Express also blamed “local Arabs,” without bothering to mention that there were any Russians there at all.
Gazetta.ru said the Russians were “provoked by English fans.” While national television station NTV reckoned it was “no accident that both ‘football’ and ‘hooligan’ are English words” (is it pedantic of me to point out that “hooligan” is actually an Irish word?).
Worse still was Life.ru, a Kremlin lapdog which was quite chuffed with the achievements of the Russian nutters in France and gave due praise.
They said that the day: “Began with many provocations by the English fans” and “ended with the latter making a cowardly retreat from the field of battle.”
Appalling. Short of offering to hold the coats and a rhythmic schoolyard chant of “fight, fight, fight” Life.ru could hardly have done more to encourage another round of bloodshed.
Hopefully those of you travelling to Russia for the 2018 World Cup will have a wonderful time. I’m afraid I won’t be joining you.
I’ll be off instead to the pub where I can clobber someone in the mush for deliberately being born in another country.
Luckily it won’t be my fault.