Fans of the English Premier League soccer club Tottenham Hotspur were the target of an anti-Semitic attack in France Wednesday night ahead of the club’s Thursday match in the country.
A gang of thugs chanting Nazi slogans descended upon the Smoking Dog pub in Lyon in what police believe was an incident “of an anti-Semitic” nature and was “well-coordinated.”
“The attackers wore balaclavas and other face masks, and were chanting as they carried out the attack,” a police source told the UK’s Daily Mail. Their chants were of an anti-Semitic nature.
“They caused as much damage as possible, ran off, and then came back again a few minutes later. Three English fans were seriously injured and taken to hospital.”
Tottenham is located in a historically Jewish section of London and the club’s fans are often associated with the strong Jewish heritage of the neighborhood.
In November several Tottenham fans were attacked in Rome by assailants who also reportedly spewed anti-Semitic insults. That incident left one man injured from a stab wound.
Several witnesses described the scene of Wednesday night’s attack to the Daily Mail, depicting the horror and malicious intent of the attackers.
“They came in at around half past 10. There were lots of Spurs fans in the pub. It was fit to burst,” Christian Radnedge told the paper.
“Then around 20 masked men came towards the pub. The glass was smashed, missiles were thrown into the pub.The owner of the pub said there were 25 of them. They came in making Nazi salutes. It was frightening.
“They left and then we thought that was it, but five minutes later it started again. More stuff was thrown in through the windows and then they left.”
Dave Eales, 42, the landlord and owner of the Smoking Dog pub, said he had warned police Tottenham fans could be targeted by right-wing groups because of the club’s rich Jewish heritage.
“The most disappointing thing is that I spoke to the police a couple of days ago about the potential for trouble because of what people associate Tottenham being. There will be a big presence on the match day, but tonight it didn’t happen,” he was quoted by the Daily Mail as saying.
Eales described the horrifying scene: “At 10.18 the pub was rammed with Tottenham fans watching the Champions League. The front of the pub, which is made up of reinforced glass, was attacked by 20 to 25 people. They threw projectiles through the windows. They threw terrace chairs, objects… anything they could have got their hands on.
“There was a stand off. Then they came back a second time and it all started again.”
Spurs fan James Taylor, said he’s been following the club through Europe and had never experienced anything like what happened Wednesday.”We were in the pub having a few drinks at about 10 o’clock at night. There were about 150 Spurs fans singing. It was all in good nature.
“Then there was a bang. We ignored the first one and there was a second one, suddenly. The windows were smashed and stool were thrown into the pub. We ran back to hide.We were stuck in the back of the pub for about half an hour. We were worried. No Spurs fans were violent or too drunk.
“The French police weren’t co-operative or helpful whatsoever. This was my 15th European game and I’ve never seen anything like this. It was premeditated, pre-arranged. It was nothing to do with Spurs fans.”
It is thus far thought that those responsible for the attack were a far right group, rather than Lyon football fans