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Monday, June 15, 1998 Published at 09:17 GMT 10:17 UK


Sport: Football

Booze to blame, says Marseille mayor

England fans clash with police

Morning news bulletins in France on Monday were dominated by the World Cup-related disturbances in Marseille and their aftermath.


Michel Sapin, the Mayor of Marseille (in French): 'Alcohol is to blame for everything'
Four hundred England followers fought pitched battles with Tunisian fans, local youths and police during seven hours of violence on Sunday which left at least 32 people injured.

Two Britons required operations for serious injuries, one for a slashed throat and the other for a knife wound to the stomach.

British Embassy officials said on Monday that 49 people had been arrested during Sunday's disturbances, among them 27 Britons.

Marseille's mayor, Michel Sapin, pinned the blame firmly on alcohol.

Authorities' 'impotence'

"Alcohol is to blame for everything," Mr Sapin said in an interview broadcast on Radio France Inter.

"It is true that a number of Marseille youngsters did not want to be pushed around. We are faced with so-called fans from England whose number one passion is beer and whose aim is just that.

"So I think all our preparations and our preventive measures seem impotent in the face of pints and pints of beer," he said.

Tighter security


[ image: A cafe owner surveys the damage]
A cafe owner surveys the damage
Mr Sapin regretted the fact that the Tunisia-England match, which was regarded as posing a high potential risk, had been scheduled on a Monday, thereby allowing fans a whole weekend of continuous drinking, but he said security would be tight.

"A maximum number of policemen and security forces will be present around the stadium and in the town.... We have obtained from the interior ministry the maximum possible number of security forces," Mr Sapin said.

"They don't deserve to live"

A Marseille restaurant owner, whose establishment in the city's Old Harbour was attacked expressed his disgust at the violence.

"Have you seen the window? There were children inside the restaurant. No one had provoked this, but these people went mad and wrecked everything. My reaction? Disgust. They do not even deserve to live," he told La Chaine Info TV.

Call in the army

"It is a scandal", a Marseille resident told the television.

"If we were in England, we would not do that, and I can't understand why the army was not called in when they knew perfectly well that the English are out of control, that they do not stop drinking."

"They have been out of control for two days now, they have not been able to calm them down for two days now," another woman said.

"I can't understand, I can't understand."





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