The English were fighting a battle on two fronts at this World Cup. One, as a team, and the other, as fans.
The latter ended tonight as the riot police charged on English fans in the Aldstadt part of Cologne.
I left my flat after the Spanish game and made my way to the the Heumarkt FanFest, where there were two big groups of fans in good song. All of a sudden, riot police brushed past all of us and toward the area outside Peter´s Brauhaus.
They formed a cordon around I´m not sure what, but in the corner close to one of the Irish bars, a lot of running was occurring.
I went towards the scene, where conversation between English fans was happening. “I can´t believe they kicked off” said one, “They started it and we´ll finish it said another”. “Spread the word” could be heard filtering through. One by one some English fans removed their shirts.
All of a sudden, game to the baiting, the riot police ran towards me and the English fans.
I ran to the side, but could not believe what I saw before me. The riot police ran 20 yards towards the English and were relentless in their clubbing. As I ran out of the way the cover to my phone fell off. After only perhaps 30 seconds of chasing that wave finished.
I was recording the events on my phone alongside a Croation news team. Then the police came back in a wave and a riot policeman knocked my to the floor as I searched for my mobile phone cover. I was wearing just a striped Puma t-shirt and jeans, nothing overtly English.
This was definitely a 2-way link. The atmosphere was noticeably worse than other matches I have witnessed. I spoke in German to a few police officers who said there had been no trouble but it could turn in an instant.
That instant happened and all of a sudden I raced to the scene. Every English person on the fringes who weren´t involved in the goading said that it happened out of nothing. The riot police appeared out of nowhere for the same minor glash-smashing-on-the-ground offences of the fans, nothing more than had happened all night.
But the sight of the riot police excited a few fans, who took of the tops and told everyone around them to “Stand your ground”.
They shouting for the riot police to run towards them which they duly did, and the rest will be tomorrow mornings headlines.
A peaceful night, turned upside down by drunk fans and over-eager policemen,.