Euro Moments: England disappoint on the pitch and embarass off it
The violence in Charleroi which preceded Germany clash was the worst seen in years
England fans make their presence felt in Charleroi during Euro 2000. Ranks of riot police used water cannons in an effort to prevent fighting between England and German fans massed on opposite sides of the main Charles II square into side streets. Photo: Philip Huguen/Getty Images
The extent of the problems two years earlier in France where England fans had initially announced their arrival in Marseille by informing the locals in song that “if it wasn’t for the English you’d be krauts,” had suggested the Belgians might be in for trouble at Euro 2000.
And matters were not helped by the fact that Charleroi, where two of Kevin Keegan’s side’s games were to be played seemed like it had, with its narrow cobbled streets and squares, been designed for the type of urban warfare some fans seem to see as being part of an away trip.
In fact, things kicked off – as they say – as soon as the English arrived from Eindhoven where their team lost a game they had led 2-0 to a Portugal side inspired by Luis Figo.
In the main square of Brussels the lunatic fringe took up residence in an Irish bar and set about winding up a police force that may not actually have been entirely averse to a bit of a barney themselves. Certainly the tactics of the security forces were pretty crude and quite a few innocent fans were probably caught up in the display of “zero tolerance” that ended with many arrests and quite a few injuries.
On the day of the game against Germany, things were worse with the battles between the English and their heavily outnumbered rivals complicated by groups of locals, many of Turkish or other ethnic origins who didn’t have much time for either overseas contingent.
Again the police piled in and mayhem seemed to reign for several hours before the game. Around 500 were arrested and a Belgian military transport flew some of the worst offenders home to Britain that night.
England’s win raised the prospect of an extended stay but a late penalty conceded against Romania cost Keegan’s men the point they needed to progress to the quarter-finals. Tournament organisers, the Daily Telegraph acknowldged, might have been tempted to throw themselves into the city’s fountains in celebration although, the paper observed: “Inside the stadiums, England have added to the spectacle of Euro 2000.”
As it transpired, the tournament was to prove a low point in terms of the behaviour of those who supported the team on its travels.