This summer’s European Championships has been blighted by fan trouble in France.
Arrests, assaults and banning orders have been commonplace, but one group of English students have left a positive mark on Marseille, after building a five-a-side pitch for the local community.
The group, from Northumbria University, were so embarrassed and ashamed by the actions of some English and Russian fans, that they felt the need to restore faith in football fans.
Carl Barry and his gang went to France on June 24, the day of Brexit, to start work on an old piece of wasteland that was an eyesore in the French city.
The 18×25 metre plot, now surrounded by a protective fence, lies less than one km from the Stade Velodrome, Marseille’s brand spanking new 67,000 seater stadium.
After two weeks of work, Barry said:
They seem happy with what we came to do.
Fellow volunteer Marco Baldelli added:
We also conducted football training training in a central social club, gave English lessons to school children …
It was great
The trouble between English and Russian fans almost scuppered the whole project, but the students were determined to banish the negative feeling towards football fans from across the channel.
Project Manager Steve Ward summed it up:
We were ashamed of what has happened here with the English fans.
With this field they will have another memory of us
The materials for the rebuild were already provided by partners of the volunteer organisation, which would have cost an estimated €50,000 when you add man power into the equation.
Luckily though, the Northumbrians provided the people power, and Marseille now has a permanent reminder that not all English football fans are those to be avoided.