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PARIS (AP) — Riot police fired tear gas and pepper spray at supporters waiting in long lines to get into the Champions League final which was delayed for 37 minutes as security struggled with desperate fans at the Stade de France on Saturday.
Angry Liverpool fans held in the lines were seen hanging onto railings and heard shouting: “Let us in. We’ve got tickets.”
There were many instances of fans breaking through security and attempting to get into the stadium. The Associated Press saw two fans — one was wearing Liverpool attire — wrestled to the ground by stewards and bundled out of the gates.
Three more fans were seen evading stewards and sprinting through the concourse and into the bottom level of the stadium. Other people, wearing no obvious club attire, climbed the fences instead as Liverpool fans shouted at them to get down.
The showpiece game of the European club season kicked off despite fans still trying to get inside. Fresh rounds of tear gas were fired by riot police from inside the security perimeter at people outside the fences. Police and stewards were seen falling to the ground, impacted by the eye-irritating substances.
Supporter Colm Lacey saw “children crying, people trapped” outside the entrances. “People started jumping the queue, then they ripped the gate open and then there was a push,” Lacey said. About 15 minutes before the scheduled kickoff of 9 p.m. local time (1900 GMT), an announcement was made that there would be a delay, blaming the late arrival of fans to the stadium. It was greeted by jeers inside the stadium, given those fans had already endured long queues. The game eventually started at 9.37 p.m. local time.
“We’ve been stood at this gate since 6:15,” Liverpool fan Angela Murphy told the AP through a fence. “I’ve got really bad asthma and I’ve been tear gassed twice. I’m really struggling.”
Asked what provoked the tear gassing, Murphy replied: “Nothing, we’re stood here. There was nothing. It’s just been horrendous. We have been well behaved.” Police officers with batons and riot shields ran from gate to gate to prevent pockets of fans forcing their way into the stadium without showing tickets. One policeman collapsed to the ground and had to be helped by other officers. Officers used tear gas on Liverpool fans on repeated occasions. One Liverpool fan kissed his ticket and looked to the sky after finally getting through security.
UEFA blamed people trying to get into the stadium without legitimate tickets, without providing details on where they could be from.
“In the lead-up to the game, the turnstiles at the Liverpool end became blocked by thousands of fans who purchased fake tickets which did not work in the turnstiles,” UEFA said in a statement.
“This created a buildup of fans trying to get in. As a result, the kickoff was delayed by 35 minutes to allow as many fans as possible with genuine tickets to gain access. As numbers outside the stadium continued to build up after kickoff, the police dispersed them with tear gas and forced them away from the stadium.” The scenes were reminiscent of the chaos outside Wembley Stadium before the European Championship final last year. That was largely due to England fans aggressively trying to get into their home stadium for the game that Italy won.