Lens (France) (AFP) – French prosecutors have launched an attempted murder inquiry over attacks on two England football fans at Euro 2016 which left the victims gravely wounded, they said Thursday.
The announcement came as French and British authorities expressed relief that England’s victory over Wales in Lens passed without any serious spectator trouble.
The two England fans were among 35 people injured during three days of clashes in Marseille between England and Russia fans before their game last Saturday.
One of the badly hurt fans, in his 50s, is reported to have been hit on the head with an iron bar.
“We are still looking for those responsible for these events which are considered attempted murder,” Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin said.
Investigators are studying security camera footage to track the attackers.
Robin said the Marseille violence “was in large part provoked by particularly violent Russian supporters who wanted to show their supremacy over the English supporters.”
French riot police fired tear gas and baton charged beer-fuelled England fans in Lille on Wednesday night when they crossed with Russian, Wales and Slovak fans in the city. Thirty-six arrested were made and 16 people injured.
But England’s 2-1 victory over Wales in the nearby city of Lens on Thursday passed without serious incident.
Lens closed its schools and most shops followed in a near lockdown. The drink still flowed freely for the match however.
– Beer flows –
The first shower of beer in the Lens fan zone fell in the 56th minute, when England equalised in the nervy clash, prompting delirious fans to toss their plastic cups glasses into the air.
“It’s coming home, it’s coming home,” supporters in the packed fan zone chanted.
“That was one of the best wins I’ve ever experienced,” said 19-year-old Peter Skalecki, who was among thousands of people without tickets who travelled to Lens and nearby Lille to watch the match in pubs or on outdoor screens.
“I love Wales but it’s a home country so the fact that we came back from 1-0 down to beat them is out of this world,” he said, slurring his words with his jacket tied in a sash across his bare chest after a day’s drinking in the sun.
Before the game Lens had looked like a town under siege, with groups of riot police with batons and shields dotted throughout the town monitoring the boisterous British visitors.
At Le Corner bar, England and Wales fans who had been drinking together since morning said they felt safe in each other’s company after the violent brawls between English and Russian fans in Marseille.
Kevin English, a 53-year-old plumber from Durham, was on his second pint of the day at 11:00am.
His right eye was still bruised and he had a cut above his left eye after a beating by Russian supporters in Marseille.
“I was by myself having a drink when a group of Russians came out of nowhere and attacked me. They stamped on me. I have bruises all over my body,’ he said.
“England and Wales have been united by the Russian violence,” Jon Hebbes, who is half-English and half-Welsh but rooting for England, told AFP.
At least three England fans in their fifties were seen sporting black eyes suffered in Marseille.
“I’m 53, fat and slow and I’d had too much to drink, which is why they targeted me,” said one man with a tanned and lined face who gave his name only as Rob.
“But I got a few (punches) in myself,” he said proudly.
Steve, a former British Marine in his forties, who was also in Marseille where he got “a smack in the back of the head” was adamant that the Russians had come prepared for a fight.
“I’ve never seen anything like it. It was like a military operation,” he said.
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