The atmosphere was tense in Naples as English football fans clashed with Italian police ahead of the Euro 2024 Qualifier match between the two nations. Videos shared on social media showed riot police in full gear using batons and riot shields on supporters outside the Diego Maradona Stadium as crowds gathered to watch the game.
In an attempt to calm the situation and show they were not being aggressive, some fans raised their hands. Others argued with officers or filmed the beatings on their phones. One fan was injured after being shoved by a riot shield and falling backwards. A video posted by BBC journalist David Cheeseman showed a group of people, including British police officers present at the scene, tending to the injured fan on the floor while others tried to warn Italian officers of their condition.
Amidst the chaos, one man was spotted escorting a young boy through the crowd, shielding him with his arm and seeming to shout at anyone who came near them. Other young people were visible in the crowd as the heavy police presence surged into groups of fans. Stewards in high-vis jackets watched on as the clashes unfolded before a couple moved in to try and restore order.
It is unclear what sparked the brawl, but sports broadcaster Faye Carruthers reported on Twitter that England fans had told her it had been “farcical” trying to get into the stadium. Some were reportedly “crammed” into a bus for 90 minutes, which then went in the opposite direction from the stadium. This caused a number of passengers to miss kick-off, and crowds were still waiting to get into the stadium 50 minutes into the match.
Despite the chaotic scenes outside the stadium, Gareth Southgate’s men were seeking to start their Euros campaign strongly after the devastating loss to France in the World Cup quarterfinal last year. On the pitch, Harry Kane overtook Wayne Rooney as England’s all-time goal-scorer, slotting a penalty to take his team to a 2-0 lead. Italy clawed a goal back before the clash ended 2-1.
The incident highlights the ongoing issue of football-related violence and the need for increased security measures at matches. It is essential that fans are able to enjoy the sport without fear of violence or intimidation, and that authorities take appropriate action to prevent such incidents from occurring in the future.