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France faces hooligans, more strikes at Euro 2016

Police fired tear gas and ordered bars and restaurants on the quay to close, after the violence, which also involved French locals.

Published: 11th June 2016 07:44 PM  |   Last Updated: 12th June 2016 11:40 AM   |  A+A-

By AFP

PARIS: After a triumphant start to Euro 2016, France braced for more hooligan violence as England face Russia today, while a pilots' strike threatened fans' travel plans.

A tense France was finally able to party after winning the opening match against Romania and avoiding major hiccups as ongoing industrial unrest failed to disrupt transport to the Stade de France.

However a strike by a quarter of Air France's pilots meant travellers risked delays and cancellations, and train services continued to be disrupted on the 11th day of a rail strike.

While France is on high alert for terror attacks it is old-fashioned hooligans who have proved the first test for security forces, with two nights of clashes in Marseille.

Even before England and Russia hit the field, hundreds of drunk and bare-chested supporters clashed with each other and police, hurling bottles and insults outside bars in the Vieux Port district.

Police fired tear gas and ordered bars and restaurants on the quay to close, after the violence, which also involved French locals. Seven fans were arrested.

Marseille is determined to avoid a repeat of the violence during the 1998 World Cup when English hooligans clashed with Tunisia supporters in the Mediterranean city.

The European football championship arrived in a glum France desperate for some good news after last year's terror attacks were followed by months of industrial unrest, political turmoil and floods.

A much-needed 2-1 win against Romania, which came when Dimitri Payet fired in a long-range effort in the final minutes of the match, broke the tension with supporters in the stadium and bars around the city erupting into cheers.

Le Parisien newspaper said more success for the French team could brighten the country's mood.

"Even if France is breathing easier this morning, it is still holding its breath, hoping for victory in this Euro, to ward off the threat of attacks, for a stop to the social conflicts. Finally," it said in an editorial.

Euro 2016 comes seven months after November attacks by Islamic State jihadists and suicide bombers in Paris left 130 people dead.

While 80,000 football fans cheerfully submitted to heavy security to enter the Stade de France, fears of an attack have dampened enthusiasm and a massive Paris fan zone under the Eiffel Tower was only half-full, according to police.

Those who did go out were unperturbed.

"There is a lot of security here, but it's OK," said 20-year-old Ruairi Scott from Belfast, as he downed pints of beer.

"I was a little worried before we came here, but not anymore. I feel safe."

But German student Julia Settgast, 28, said she was too jittery to go out and watch the match.

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