Sir: I was one of the people to whom Johan van der Lanotte [the Belgian Minister of Internal Affairs] was referring when he suggested that it was "bad luck" if innocent supporters were detained overnight and deported.
I have been a season-ticket holder for many years with the club and as such I was able to travel with the official transport organised by Chelsea. We were issued with our tickets on board the coach as we neared the ground. On leaving the coach, I headed for the ground and was 600 yards away when I had the "bad luck" to be stopped by the police, who asked to see my ticket. On showing my ticket, I was handcuffed, bundled into the back of a police van and taken to what appeared to be a cattle shed. Inside, there were about 200 people, who were surrounded by barbed wire, a water cannon and between 70 and 80 police in riot gear with batons.
I arrived at about 8.30pm, and for the next seven hours we were not told what was going to happen to us. There were no toilet facilities or anything to eat or drink. At about midnight, someone asked for some food and a policeman threw a loaf of bread into the crowd, whereupon it was thrown back and a scuffle ensued. The police answer to this was to fire the water cannon into the crowd.
So for the next four hours we were soaked. Around four o'clock, we were herded on to buses and taken to Ostend and placed on the ferry to Ramsgate. Many argued with the police, saying that they had made their own way out there and their passports and baggage were still in Bruges; some even produced hotel keys but this yet again fell on deaf ears. I spoke to a man who said that he had left his car at Heathrow but his keys were in a hotel in Bruges. Upon arriving at Ramsgate, we were placed on trains to Victoria.
I entirely agree with Steve Beauchamp's comment that the Belgian police failed to distinguish between hooligans and genuine fans.
From E A Keith
Yes, the Belgian police probably were heavy-handed - and so what? Jolly good for the Belgian police. No doubt they remembered not only Dublin a mere week before but also Sweden (when the Swedish police tried a laid- back approach) and the Heysel disaster, apart from all the other so-called sporting occasions when the loathsome, drunken hooligans who purport to be English football supporters make the rest of the country cringe with shame and make those of us who frequently travel to the Continent ashamed and disgusted.
It is about time that these so-called "supporter" groups were banned altogether, and anyone who has been on a ferry when they travel would support that.
E A KEITH
From J Powell
Sir: Having read your articles, and seen the television reports of old men, who could not cause trouble even if they wanted to, being handcuffed and bundled into the back of police wagons, I can only deduce that, yes, Chelsea fans were badly treated. More importantly, what about the rest of the British people, who were not even there for the football and the way in which they were treated, many of them being deported merely for being "British", some leaving trucks, passports and other personal belongings in Bruges? No person, whether a football fan or not, deserves to be treated in this way.
I would also like to ask what the situation will be when the second leg takes place. Are the British police going to indiscriminately round up hundreds of Belgian people (not necessarily football supporters), cuff them, throw them in a large shed, fire water cannons at them and then deport them? I would suggest that the outcry from the Belgians would be outrage and disgust at the way their citizens had been treated, no doubt taking the matter to the European court of human rights, or such like.
Can all British citizens now expect this sort of treatment when they go abroad and there just happens to be a football match taking place?
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