“Marseilles a shit hole, I want to go home” sang the United fans as they were kept behind after the game on Wednesday night.
But anyone who had enjoyed the view across the Med, or enjoyed a pint in front of the hundreds of expensive boats on the marina couldn’t describe the city of Marseille as such. No, the unrest of the song was aimed at the French police. All 500+ of them there to ‘look after’ the United fans.
Whilst stood in the airport at half one in the morning, an hour and a half later than the allotted take off time, a lad said to me “It’s all part of the experience isn’t it”. Anyone who has been on these trips will know that yes, it is, but that doesn’t mean it should be.
I’m not stupid enough to think that 3000 United fans don’t need to be policed, but there has to be a limit. At Munich last year, United fans were dropped off and allowed to wander round the ground as they pleased, even the stairwell up to our section of the stand was shared and used by home supporters. As far as I am aware, the game went by without any trouble.
Contrast this with Wednesday night. 500+ police all dressed up with body armour and batons. Letting fans off only one coach at a time. Holding fans in the ‘cattle shed’ to perform individual searches (still missed a fair few flares though!), only allowing a handful of fans at a time through into the stand causing a number of fans to miss the first 20 minutes of the game.
After the match, being held back for an hour despite the fact the set up of the ground meant the two sets of fans couldn’t mix, lines of police in body armour and riot shields, only opening one door to the exit causing crushes, police using the batons on fans when being told about the crush. Being driven to the airport down the motorways at about 30 miles an hour and only being let off the coaches one coach at a time.
I’ve been treated to worse on Euro aways, but this one rankled for the pure ineptness of the French police. There was no sign at all that I saw of trouble from our fans, but we were treated like grade A criminals from the moment we landed until our delayed departure.
We will go again? Of course we will. Will UEFA act, of course they won’t.