Trouble flares up in Lille ahead of Everton match
LILLE, France (AP) — French riot police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse large groups of Everton fans gathered on Lille’s main square on Thursday afternoon, hours before a Europa League match.
Everton fans ignored the club’s requests to avoid gathering in the main square, a night after Everton fans drinking outside a bar were attacked.
Trouble flared late Wednesday when around 50 Lille supporters charged into a group of Everton fans, with two of them requiring hospital treatment.
“The club understands that two Everton fans suffered minor facial injuries and were taken to the local hospital,” the English Premier League club said on its website.
With up to 6,000 Everton fans expected to attend the match, tensions could spill over further.
“We advise Everton fans in Lille to avoid the main square in the city center,” the Premier League club tweeted.
A video uploaded on the website of local newspaper La Voix Du Nord showed some of the trouble, as riot police formed a tight unit on the main square and a handful of Everton fans threw bottles in their direction. Some them moved over to riot police officers and remonstrated angrily before being dragged away by fellow fans.
A mass of Everton fans appeared to have taken over one side of the square, with blue flags and scarves draped from buildings.
Heartily chanting their team songs and drinking beers, they were seemingly caught by surprise when French police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at them.
“I have been following Everton in many countries, many cities in the U.K.,” Everton fan Craig Jones said. “The police here have caused all the trouble. That is all I am willing to say.”
A report in the Liverpool Echo newspaper, which follows Liverpool and Everton’s teams closely, detailed Wednesday night’s incident, describing how the group of Lille hooligans attacked from a side street and ran into people outside the bar, while others tried to smash windows to come inside. The riot police then intervened to maintain order.
In February of last year, fans of Premier League side Tottenham were violently attacked in a similar ambush the night before a Europa League game away to Lyon.
Football violence in France is not uncommon, but normally centers around matches involving Paris Saint-Germain. There were violent clashes in the city center before home games against Chelsea and Bayer Leverkusen last season.