Clashes erupt between football fans in Gelsenkirchen as England beat Serbia 1-0 in opening Euro 2024 game

16 June 2024, 17:36 | Updated: 17 June 2024, 00:28

Clashes erupt between football fans in Gelsenkirchen ahead of England and Serbia's first Euro 2024 match
Clashes erupt between football fans in Gelsenkirchen ahead of England and Serbia's first Euro 2024 match. Picture: Alamy

By Danielle de Wolfe

Violent clashes broke out between football fans on Sunday evening ahead of England's first match of the Euro 2024 tournament in Germany.

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Videos posted to social media hours before kick-off show German police officers, some dressed in riot gear, running towards an altercation on a street in Gelsenkirchen.

It comes as thousands of England fans descended on the city ahead of the national side's opening game against Serbia at on Sunday night.

Gareth Southgate's side beat Serbia 1-0 in England's opening match of the tournament, as Jude Bellingham's header marked the only goal of the match from the six yard line.

The goal was set up by a cross from Bukayo Saka from the right wing, with Saka finding the back of the net moments later.

Serbia came close to equalising a number of times, but it was cries of 'Hey Jude' that echoed around the stands of the Gelsenkirchen Stadium.

Footage shows chairs and tables being hurled into a mob of fans and glass can be heard smashing ahead of kick-off, with England and Serbian football shirts visible in the footage.

According to one eye witness, groups of England and Serbian fans were calmly drinking side-by-side at bars along one street when a "group of 20 or so athletic men" wearing "face coverings" ran around the corner.

The witness compared the group to "an organised gang" who were not wearing football kits, before hurling bottles at the Serbian group, who first ran for cover before retaliating.

It follows the news that a man has been shot by police after threatening officers and football supporters with an axe at a Euro 2024 fan zone in Germany.

Elsewhere clashes took place across Gelsenkirchen ahead of the game, with one England fan describing the violence as "a shame".

No England fans have been arrested according to England's Football Policing Unit.

The violence "escalated out of nothing" one fan told the LBC.

"Just arrived in centre of Gelsenkirchen and a large group of hooded face-covered locals attacked a load of Serbian fans outside a bar!" said bystander Simon Clare, who posted to Twitter.

He later clarified he did not know whether the group were locals, but that they were not wearing football shirts and had hoods up.

Earlier in the day, England fans were pictured drinking, chanting, arm-wrestling and having kickabouts in the centre of the west German city on Sunday.

England go into the tournament among the favourites, but lost their last warm-up game to Iceland on Friday.

Read more: England fans warned of 'violence-seeking Serbian hooligans' ahead of 'high-risk' Euros opener

Read more: England fans to be served low-alcohol beer at first Euros game against Serbia deemed 'high risk' due to 'hooligan fans'

England fans were not involved in the street altercation, according to reports, with only Serbian fans caught up in the violence.

Traditional heavyweights Germany, Italy and Spain have all made winning starts to the Euros, with the hosts thrashing Scotland 5-1 on Friday night in the tournament curtain-raiser.

Some 300,000 England fans are thought to have made the trip to Germany for the Euros, although only a minority of those will be in the stadium itself on Sunday night.

England fans were warned ahead of the Euros of 500 “violence-seeking Serbian hooligans” expected to attend the Sunday night game.

England fans in Heinrich-Konig-Platz in Gelsenkirchen ahead of the UEFA Euro 2024 Group C match at the Arena AufSchalke in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Picture date: Sunday June 16, 2024.
England fans in Heinrich-Konig-Platz in Gelsenkirchen ahead of the UEFA Euro 2024 Group C match at the Arena AufSchalke in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Picture date: Sunday June 16, 2024. Picture: Alamy
England fan Terry Rose (right) in Heinrich-Konig-Platz in Gelsenkirchen ahead of the UEFA Euro 2024 Group C match at the Arena AufSchalke in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Picture date: Sunday June 16, 2024.
England fan Terry Rose (right) in Heinrich-Konig-Platz in Gelsenkirchen ahead of the UEFA Euro 2024 Group C match at the Arena AufSchalke in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Picture date: Sunday June 16, 2024. Picture: Alamy
England fans in Heinrich-Konig-Platz in Gelsenkirchen ahead of the UEFA Euro 2024 Group C match at the Arena AufSchalke in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Picture date: Sunday June 16, 2024.
England fans in Heinrich-Konig-Platz in Gelsenkirchen ahead of the UEFA Euro 2024 Group C match at the Arena AufSchalke in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Picture date: Sunday June 16, 2024. Picture: Alamy

England’s recent Euros campaigns have been plagued with violence, most notably before their opening game in France in 2016 against Russia and ahead of the final of the last tournament

There appears to have been little trouble so far in the build-up, although one England fan was arrested and then released after a dispute with a fellow supporter.

Before the tournament there was some debate about the longstanding 'Ten German Bombers' song, with fans warned by German authorities that they faced arrest if they chanted it.

Serbian fans cheer ahead the Group C match between Serbia and England at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, Sunday, June 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
Serbian fans cheer ahead the Group C match between Serbia and England at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, Sunday, June 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber). Picture: Alamy

Despite this, fans have been seen singing the chant, and there were even reports some German locals saw the funny side and joined in.

Meanwhile Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer wished Gareth Southgate and his men good luck before the game.

England fans in Gelsenkirchen. England take on Serbia tomorrow in their UEFA Euro 2024 Group C match at the Arena AufSchalke in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Picture date: Saturday June 15, 2024.
England fans in Gelsenkirchen. England take on Serbia tomorrow in their UEFA Euro 2024 Group C match at the Arena AufSchalke in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Picture date: Saturday June 15, 2024. Picture: Alamy

Arsenal fan Sir Keir said: "There is no feeling like the build up to the first England game of an international tournament: the pubs filling up, the flags waving, the nerves and excitement building.

"As fans up and down the country get ready for kick off, I want to wish Gareth and the team all the best on behalf of the Labour Party.

"We will be with you for every twist, turn and VAR decision. England is behind you. Make it a summer to remember."

Elsewhere in Germany, a man was shot by police in Hamburg on Saturday after brandishing a knife and a molotov cocktail close to a fan zone for Dutch fans. He is being treated for his injuries.

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