Rebekah Vardy, the wife of England and Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy, has revealed she feared for her safety and her life while she was trapped and menaced with teargas outside the Stade Velodrome in Marseilles, France, on Saturday.
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A day later, Mrs. Vardy, who was in the southern port city ahead of England’s EURO 2016 opener against Russia, spoke publicly of how quickly the scene went from joyous to dangerous as police wrongly and unnecessarily, in her opinion, escalated their crowd-control tactics — quotes from the Guardian:
“In the vicinity where we were there were plenty of England fans singing but there was no problem. Then all of a sudden there was this big explosion of teargas, people were running and screaming – it was sheer panic. So some photographers that were there suggested we follow them to take us back the way we came in when we parked the car.
“But when we got back to where we’d come from at the stadium, they’d shut all the gates, which were the main access points for all the fans coming up from the town. People were shaking those gates, trying to climb over them, women were screaming, kids had climbed up trees – it was like a scene from a movie.
“If you turned back the other way you were running into teargas, if you went towards the gates people were pushing and climbing all over you to try and get out. The police had herded everyone into this area and were throwing teargas into the crowds, and people were panicking and had nowhere to go unless they could climb over the fences. People were trying to do that but they were falling over on to concrete, cutting their faces, blood everywhere. I was scared, petrified, and there was a split-second when I thought: ‘I’m not getting out of here.'”
“Obviously I didn’t tell Jamie what had happened to me before the game. But I told him afterwards and he said that he didn’t think I should come to any more of the games. I’m still going to go but I’ll go straight to the stadium in future.”
A number of questions have been raised — most notably in this thoughtful, first-hand piece by ESPN FC’s Iain Macintosh — regarding the manner in which French authorities have policed the unsavory scenes these first three days of EURO 2016.
Mrs. Vardy went on to explain how the scenes inside the stadium, before, during and after the game, weren’t much better — quotes once again from the Guardian:
“My heart was pounding all of the game. There was a humongous bang. Some people thought it was a bomb. The Russians started letting flares off. The security was shocking. They didn’t have enough manpower – nobody checked my bag when I went through. I can’t believe that a nation that has recently had terrorist attacks isn’t more prepared. They just couldn’t cope. When you tried to ask the police for advice they wouldn’t even speak to you; it was like you didn’t exist.”