- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 15, 2016

MARSEILLE, France (AP) - After the screeching sounds of sirens last weekend, there was a party atmosphere in Marseille on Wednesday as fans from France and Albania shared drinks and songs before their European Championship match.

In contrast to the scenes of football violence that ravaged Marseille’s Old Port before and after England’s match against Russia last Saturday, French and Albanians strolled in their national team shirts, sat at restaurants or watched the Slovakia-Russia game together at various bars dotted around the port.

Marseille is hosting a Euro 2016 match for the first time since the last week’s violence threw the showcase tournament into turmoil, and left one English man in a critical condition after being beaten around the head with iron bars. Dozens were injured in three days of extreme fighting, first between English fans and locals late on Thursday night, and then all day on Friday and Saturday when rampaging Russians arrived at the southern seaport and quickly confronted English fans.

The only disturbing of the peace on Wednesday was some hearty singing.

Outside O’Malley’s Irish bar, near where much of the worst fighting took place, one group of fans from Albania and France stood side by side enjoying a pre-match drink.

Holding aloft a flag featuring both the red-white-and blue tricolor of France and Albania’s double-headed black eagle against a red backdrop, they then broke into song.

“On the left, The Reds, on the right, the Blues,” red-shirted Albanians and blue-shirted French fans sang together, as they jumped and down with arms linked.

It was a welcome sight of joviality for the riot police and weary locals, and some police officers mingled with fans as they walked around, hands behind their backs, with little apparent threat to worry about. Others relaxed in their riot vans, slumped against seats, riot batons by their feet.

After Wednesday’s game, the next match to be held in Marseille will be between Hungary and Iceland on Saturday.

Three days later is the match between Ukraine and Poland - which along with Russia has a prominent hooligan element among its supporters.

Before the tournament started it was classified as one of the five high-risk matches.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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