A Liverpool fan has described chaotic and frightening scenes after the UEFA Champions League final near Paris (Picture: Getty/AP/PA)
A Liverpool fan has described being ‘thrown to the wolves’ by French police as they walked into an ambush by more than 200 local youths.
Stephanie Zinser told Metro.co.uk she feared she would witness a murder as supporters, including a young man in her group, were set upon after they left the Champions League final amid chaotic scenes.
The golf business owner told how she witnessed three to four people being mugged around her as her party left the Stade de France in the dark as police fired tear gas. One Liverpool fan was almost pushed backwards over the side of an overpass, she told Metro.co.uk.
Stephanie, from Cobham, Surrey, spoke after Reds were targeted with tear gas, pepper spray and attacked with batons by police on the night of the final against Real Madrid at the national stadium near Paris.
The ugly scenes have led to calls on the English side of the Channel for an official inquiry and to parallels with the combination of factors that led to the Hillsborough football disaster of April 1989.
Stephanie had been with former Liverpool player Jim Beglin and his son James and her husband Steve Elford and his son Jack.
As they left the stadium, they heard three shots and saw gas, for no immediately discernible reason, which forced them to head towards an overpass in order to avoid the commotion.
Liverpool fans caught up in the tear gas as they queue to access the Stade de France before the Champions League final (Picture: Reuters/Fernando Kallas)
Stephanie said: ‘As we were getting to the corner where we would turn right to walk over the bridge, we started being charged by literally hordes of young, clearly locals, who weren’t wearing any football gear.
‘They were running towards the stadium where people were piling out.
‘They were charging, there were a couple of girls amongst them, it was mostly young, really skinny men in their late teens and 20s.
‘We were wondering what was going on and then we started seeing people being mugged, literally to the front, left and right of us.
‘I’m a woman in my 50s and Jack is a young 16, he started to panic and I didn’t want him to get lost so I was grabbing on to him.
‘I had a handbag on me and I was thinking I was a target. We saw one man’s watch fly off and he went racing after the guy.
‘We saw another guy being pushed so that his back was leaning over the wall of this bridge, with a 20ft or 30ft drop and traffic underneath.
‘I was thinking, “I’m about to witness a murder” before a Liverpool fan pulled the man who was pushing him away. It was dark and there was broken glass everywhere, it was chaos.
‘These guys were lining up and chanting something at us, they were clearly picking off fans one by one.
‘There were no stewards or cops in sight.’
Police spray tear gas at Liverpool fans outside the stadium as fans struggle to enter the Champions League final (Picture: Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
The group walked down from the overpass into a Metro station where their ordeal continued as James was mugged by thieves who stole his phone.
Stephanie, who runs Lynx Golf alongside her husband, said: ‘We felt like we were running the gauntlet, being fed to the wolves.
‘Jack was shaking and we were half relieved when we got to the Metro station shortly before our tickets expired at midnight. We got down to the platform and there was a kerfuffle, we didn’t see what was going on.
‘Then we realised that James had had his phone stolen on the platform.
‘Two guys had cornered him and someone had taken his phone and given it to a girl who ran off who obviously passed it on.
‘They obviously knew what they were doing, it was a co-ordinated attack. I am not exaggerating if I say there were probably at least 200 of them.’
Riot police watch over Liverpool fans at the UEFA Champions League final (Picture: Javier Garcia/REX/Shutterstock)
The entrepreneur’s account echoes that of other fans, including Real Madrid supporter Antonio Castaño, who told the BBC of ‘organised groups robbing people’ after the game, which Liverpool lost 1-0.
UEFA has announced an independent review into the events surrounding the final, during which Liverpool fans including children and pregnant women were tear-gassed and pepper-sprayed as they waited for hours outside the gates before the match.
European football’s governing body has appointed Dr Tiago Brandão Rodrigues, a former member of the World Anti-Doping Agency Foundation board, to ‘examine decision-making, responsibility and behaviours of all entities involved in the final’.
The scheduled 8pm kick-off was delayed for 36 minutes as the police used the heavy-handed crowd control measures as thousands of supporters waited to enter the stadium, which lies just north of Paris.
Stephanie and her family, who booked tickets via the Liverpool FC website, had arrived early and were inside the arena as a big screen announced the kick-off had been postponed.
Stephanie Zinser and her husband Steve Elford were among fans who travelled to Paris hoping to enjoy the game (Picture: Stephanie ZInser/@ubiquitouswoman)
Although there have been reports and images of people scaling fences outside the ground amid a lack of security, they saw no provocation or crowd trouble as turnstiles were shut near their gates, A, B and C.
‘We couldn’t figure it out,’ Stephanie said. ‘There were riot police, hardly any stewards, I saw maybe two, and a group of people, no one causing mayhem, just standing there waiting to be let in.’
French sports minister Amelie Oudea-Castera contradicted Liverpool fans’ accounts when she said yesterday: ‘What happened, first of all, was this mass gathering of the British supporters of the Liverpool club, without tickets, or with fake tickets.’
However Mathieu Valet, a spokesman for France’s independent police commissioner’s union, later told the BBC that fans without valid tickets ‘were not the main problem’ and ‘it’s clear that we needed more police’.
Stephanie now feels supporters leaving the stadium were intentionally funnelled into the path of the waiting mob in the high-crime Saint-Denis commune late on Saturday night.
‘There was nowhere else for people to go and it just felt like they did it on purpose,’ she said. ‘It was as if they had sent us that way to punish us or to throw us to the wolves or whatever.
‘Some of the Liverpool fans may have got trolleyed the night before but I didn’t see any outrageous behaviour from them at all, nothing.
‘They were excited for the match and worried they would miss it when they shut the gates at the stadium.
‘They shut the gates at 6.30pm and the match wasn’t scheduled to start until 9pm. What the hell were they playing at? The game and result became irrelevant because our treatment was so outrageous.’
Liverpool chairman Tom Werne has written to the French government demanding an apology for the way supporters were treated, which followed the club calling for an official inquiry.
Merseyside Police, which deployed officers to work with their French counterparts, said the ‘vast majority’ of Liverpool fans had ‘behaved in an exemplary manner’.
Metro.co.uk has attempted to reach the French authorities for comment.
Do you have a story you would like to share? Contact [email protected]
For more stories like this, check our news page.