What’s the price of an England shirt? Every parent knows it’s too much, but you buy them anyway because your kids love football as much as you love them. When they get a bit older they buy their own tops, and go to matches on their own and even travel abroad. They’re grown up, after all. Then, in Marseille last weekend—when England played their first match of the 2016 UEFA European Championship, against Russia—they find out there’s a blood price to be paid too.
My son, his girlfriend and eight of their mates were walking down a quiet street in Marseille on Saturday. Walking and talking, not running and shouting. Wearing England shirts, drinking from bottles of water not chugging beers.
Then six Russians in their late thirties overtook them. They stopped by my son’s friend Josh, who was at the head of the group, and they punched him hard in the head. He was knocked out. Another of my son’s friends, Jack, tried to cradle Josh’s head as he lay on the cobbles. But they were intent on doing real damage. They tried to kick and stamp on Josh’s head and when thwarted by Jack they settled for kicking him in the head instead. They worked their way through the group. A volley of punches from the Russians and another one was unconscious too, his mouth welling with blood. Virtually all of the group were battered and, as my son says, they were lucky that the Russians weren’t armed with bottles or weapons.
But they were unlucky too. Unlucky to be in a country that doesn’t regard football fans from England as citizens worthy and deserving of protection. The EU passports that they were all carrying were…