Well-behaved Liverpool fans were locked out of the Champions League final and tear-gassed after ticketless thugs attempted to storm and jump over gates before Saturday night’s showpiece match.
Horrible scenes saw large numbers of ticketless men attempting to get through the stadium’s secure perimeter, including some who successfully did so before running into the stadium.
Others goaded baton-wielding police and missiles were thrown at lines of riot cops as violence and mayhem threatened to overshadow the showpiece event.
I left my seat inside the Stade de France at 7.25pm - 35 minutes before the planned kick-off time – after hearing there were huge queues outside and thugs had tried to storm gates.
Moving between gates X and Y at the Liverpool end of the stadium I witnessed dozens of men mobbing together on the other side of the metal fences before repeatedly attempting to climb over them and storm gates.
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Police officers were being ordered to run between different areas in a bid to quell trouble and one young steward told me Gate and had been closed minutes earlier after 40-50 thugs managed to force their way through that gate.
He said: “Some were caught by security, but others managed to get through. They had no tickets.
“I’ve been told there has been trouble at other gates too.”
France’s interior minister Gerald Darmanin blamed ticketless British fans for the problems, but none of those I saw causing trouble were wearing Liverpool colors and all appeared to be part of local gangs.
Meanwhile, thousands of men, women and children – almost all wearing Liverpool shirts, hats and scarves – were left in the middle of the chaos outside Gate Y while pleading for help.
Some were in tears and pain due to police officers repeatedly firing CS gas.
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And speaking to me through the security fences shortly after Kop legend Kenny Dalglish laid a wreath inside the stadium to mark the 37th anniversary of the Heysel Stadium disaster, which saw 39 deaths, others expressed their fear they were about to witness another horror.
Darren Nicholl, from Belfast, was in tears inside the gated perimeter after becoming separated from his 14-year-old son Reuben after one crowd surged by thugs led to him being pushed through the gates, while Reuben was left outside.
Darren, 40, said: “Local people started trying to charge.
“Reuben was shouting at me ‘daddy, daddy, help me’, but I couldn’t get him to help.
“It was terrible and then the next thing I didn’t know where he was.
“Some of them did get in, but I don’t know how many.”
Speaking through the fence, another man approached me believing I was an official due to my media lanyard and begged me to get on a walkie-talkie to stadium officials.
He pleaded: “People are going to get killed here.
“There are Algerians out here with knives and weapons and all kinds. This needs to be sorted now. We’re getting tear-gassed for no reason. It’s rank-incompetence.”
Another added: “Liverpool fans will get the blame for this, but we’re behaving and just waiting to get in.
“It’s not our fans causing trouble, it’s local gangs of lads causing trouble out here, not Liverpool fans.”
At 9.37pm local-time, seconds after the match finally kicked-off following two 15-minute delays, I watched on as scores of young men locked outside angrily tried to storm nearby gate X, while fans waving tickets begged to get in and pleaded for help.
Riot police were forced to move in, prompting some outside to begin throwing missiles over the fences at them.
There was anger and sadness from die-hard fans, including hundreds who didn’t make it into the stadium until half-time.
Liverpool fan Giles Green, 43, was among those locked outside after the scheduled kick-off time.
Criticizing the heavy-handed police response, he said: “Everyone was queuing up peacefully, but they wouldn’t let us in and then when some people started trying to get in through other means they started tear gassing us all.”
Jan Charlton, who has supported Liverpool for more than 50 years, approached me at the fences before asking that the Mirror tell the truth about what had happened.
She said: “This is shocking. It could be another Hillsborough. It’s the worst organization I’ve ever seen.
“We turned up two hours before the game, none of us are drunk, and we’re getting treated like this. We got to the turnstile and they wouldn’t let us in.
“Local lads are trying to pick people’s pockets and cause trouble so they can try and force their way in.
“We’ve done nothing wrong, but all the police have done is be aggressive with us.
“This shouldn’t be happening and there should be more security outside here to stop it. It’s disgusting.”
French police said 68 people were arrested and 174 people were injured, mainly from tear gas inhalation, during the chaotic scenes.
Liverpool officials, including manager Jurgen Klopp, have already called for UEFA to launch a full inquiry into what happened.
And Merseyside Police, who had officers at the match, vowed to assist with the probe.
A Merseyside Police spokesperson said on Twitter: “MERPOL was deployed to this evening’s match.
“Can only describe it as the worst European match I’ve ever worked or experienced.
“I thought the behavior of the fans at the turnstiles was exemplary in shocking circumstances. You were not late 100%.”
Assistant Chief Constable Chris Green later added: “We are aware of a number of reports relating to incidents both before and after last night’s Champions League Final at the Stade de France in Paris.
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“We will be linking in with both the club, UEFA and the UK Football Policing Unit to pass on the observations of our officers who attended the game and took part in the pre-match meetings with the relevant authorities.
“As with all European matches officers from Merseyside were deployed in France to work in an observatory and advisory capacity with the local officers, and they have reported the vast majority of fans behaved in an exemplary manner, arriving at turnstiles early and queuing as directed and their observations will be passed on to the relevant authorities as part of the debrief for the game.
“We know that people would have witnessed a lot of distressing scenes last night and we wish everyone returning home from Paris a safe journey.”
Northern Irishman Darren was eventually reunited with his son Reuben, who was crying and clearly traumatized by his experience.
Summing up the feelings of many around him shortly before half-time, Darren, who follows Liverpool home and away, added: “I don’t care about the game now. I don’t even want to watch it.
“I’m just glad Reuben is OK, I thought he was trampled.
“Whenever we come to play games in these foreign countries it’s always hassle.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.