Less than 24 hours after the worst incident involving English fans and Italian police during the World Cup, many of the 246 people sent home were claiming they were treated cruelly.
One English fan, Bub Foreman, 27, said after arriving at Gatwick Airport on an airliner chartered by the Italian government to bring the expelled fans back to London that, “Three-quarters of the people on the plane were innocent and had nothing to do with any fighting.
“I was just sitting in a bar when the trouble started and police piled in. They arrested anyone who spoke English, whether they had anything to do with the trouble or not. The police pushed us around and were very aggressive for no reason.”
The fans arrived late Tuesday night and were rushed onto a train to London without incident. A few had strong words about the way they were dealt with by the police in Rimini, where fighting between several hundred English and Italian fans led to rioting Monday night.
“The people who started the fighting just disappeared before the police arrived and they rushed in and arrested anybody who was standing there,” said Darren Gambia, another fan expelled from Italy.
Added another fan, Michael Vincent, “When we were arrested we were held in a garage and treated very roughly. . . . We were punched and kicked by the police for no reason. I have never known anything like it and will never go back to Italy again.
“Even on the plane (to Gatwick) they treated us like animals. We got one glass of water and were told to keep looking ahead and not to turn around to talk to anybody. Otherwise, you would get a smack across the head.”
Many of the fans came out of the airport terminal hiding their faces with shirts, soccer programs and even deportation papers as journalists and TV camera crews approached.
Andy Taylor, who said he was among a group of English supporters who remained in a bar until 3 a.m. Tuesday after hearing that mobs of Italian supporters were on the streets looking for England fans, said Italian police grabbed English fans as they emerged from the bar.
“The police came out of two cars with baseball bats and started knocking us around,” he said. “It was quite frightening.”
The clashes were the worst involving English fans, who have a bad reputation for violence, since the World Cup in Italy began June 8. Riot police were called in to break up the violence. Shop windows were smashed and parked cars damaged.
Some fans said England supporters in hotels where the British flag was on display were singled out for attack by Italians.