West Ham fans came under attack from Fiorentina hooligans who stormed a city centre bar ahead of the Europa Conference League final in Prague. Czech Republic police, who patrolled the streets in heavy riot gear, detained 16 people after the suspected Italian ultras rat riot in the Rytířská Street drinking area.
Clashes came just three weeks after the semi-final victory over AZ Alkmaar was soured by hooded Dutch thugs attacking Hammers fans inside the stadium. Several videos appeared on social media of the clash in which police said three West Ham fans were injured. An officer was also attacked as the violence was broken up.
Prague: @skynews obtains video of fighting ahead of West Ham-Fiorentina #UECLfinal with eyewitnesses later saying a group of Italians with fireworks and weapons attacked West Ham fans leading to fighting and street covered in broken glass pic.twitter.com/7KKqWfv4VU
— Rob Harris (@RobHarris) June 7, 2023
“We have been repeatedly targeted throughout this tournament,” said one fan who witnessed the attack but refused to give his name. “They burst into the pub with flares before tearing into us.”
Prague police had been anticipating trouble and had a heavy presence throughout the main drinking spots, and there were no more reports of major brawls prior to kick off.
At least 15,000 West Ham fans descended on the city. Hundreds of ticketless supporters tried their luck around the stadium perimeter, but there were few local touts and most were diverted to the city’s fanzone.
Having learnt lessons from the chaos at the Champions League final in Paris last year, Uefa and local forces operated a slick operation immediately around the stadium.
Temporary metal fencing snaked along the main road. Among the crowds in Prague was Chris Knoll, 58, the fan praised by the players and fellow supporters for fending off AZ Alkmaar ultras.
He was rewarded by the club with a ticket for the game and was seen posing for photographs with supporters ahead of kick-off. West Ham fans, including the friends and families of players, had come under attack following the final whistle of their 1-0 victory at the AFAS Stadion in Alkmaar on May 18.
West Ham and Fiorentina were each allocated only 5,780 tickets for the match, due to Slavia Prague’s stadium having a capacity of only around 19,000. West Ham supporters on social media compared their fan zone area to Glastonbury after it was flooded by heavy rainfall in Prague on Tuesday.
V baru v Rytířské ulici napadli fanoušci Itálie fanoušky West Hamu a tři zranili. Napaden byl i jeden policista. Na osobní svobodě jsme omezili 16 osob a v tuto chvíli celou událost prověřujeme. #policiepha pic.twitter.com/ejirheyTsR
— Policie ČR (@PolicieCZ) June 7, 2023
Fiorentina ‘fans’ have turned up in Prague and are causing damage anywhere and everywhere they go.
I hope West Ham batter them tonight ⚽️ pic.twitter.com/Byy3I7kz2f
— Suzesport.com (@SuZeSport) June 7, 2023
Amon Singer Chesney Hawkes, who performed on the pitch at an England game during the World Club, was among entertainers keeping Hammers fans entertained at Letna Park. He described his performance ahead of kick off as “the best gig of my life”.
The pop star, whose song The One And Only was a number one hit in the UK for five weeks in 1991, is a lifelong West Ham United fan. “Just to be amongst these people, this is my family right here,” he said. “It was amazing, absolutely incredible, felt the love.
To have my whole family on-stage, my son, my brother, my best friend, it was just a dream come true. Speaking to the crowd while on stage, he said: “Cheers West Ham, let’s raise our glasses, we’ve made it to a f------ final,” he said. “I can not tell you how much this means to me, and I know how much it means to all of you lot.”