Marseille calm ahead of expected storm
By Mitch Phillips
MARSEILLE, France (Reuters) - The Old Port of Marseille was calm on Saturday as thousands of fans descended ahead of the evening's Euro 2016 game between England and Russia, though evidence of the previous night's disorder was still visible.
Patches of broken glass were dotted around the road and walkways near the Queen Victoria pub, the centre point of clashes between English, Russian and French fans, as well as police, on Thursday and Friday, with two large cafe windows boarded up.
Liberal use of tear gas to break up the frequent flashpoints had helped produce images of unrest all to similar, though on a much smaller scale, to those in the city 18 years ago when violence flared for two days and nights around England's World Cup game against Tunisia.
On Friday there were nine arrests and a handful of minor injuries as riot police, out in huge numbers, seemed content to corral the various factions to areas where they could control them and rarely intervened even when large groups were chasing each other around the town in the early hours.
Pictures on an "ultras" website showed Russian fans proudly displaying England flags captured during violent exchanges on Friday while groups of locals also weighed in, particularly with the throwing of bottles.
The Queen Victoria and next-door Irish bar were forced to close their doors to England fans late last night, and several other bars in the Old Port area have said they will not be showing the England v Russia match on TV.
With up to 90,000 fans expected to fill the city and local "ultras" keen to join the fray again, authorities were endeavouring to keep some sort of control and the atmosphere around the stadium and on the route to the fan zones was convivial.
There are designated separate routes to approach the Stade Velodrome for the match while the massive beach-side fan zone has been split into two sections, each holding 40,000, in an attempt at rough segregation.
Despite the peaceful start to the day, the game's 9pm local (1900GMT) kickoff means there will be a formidable amount of beer drunk and the authorities are braced for more disorder.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)