Jordan Henderson says he would think twice before attending a big football match as a fan after the “horrific” scenes in last season’s Champions League final in Paris and the European Championship final at Wembley last summer.
The Liverpool and England midfielder, who has played in both matches, has harrowing stories to tell about his family’s experiences in each. He says his father, Brian, decided after Paris that he would never travel again, which means he would not follow England at the World Cup in Qatar. Henderson has other family members who have similarly been put off.
It was marred by organizational chaos and dangerous scenes before, during and after the Champions League final in May. Thousands of fans missed the kick-off, which was delayed by 36 minutes due to congestion outside the Stade de France as Liverpool fans were trapped in a bottleneck. The police used tear gas indiscriminately and local youths attacked and robbed their supporters.
“It was pretty awful,” Henderson said. “When I talked to some of my friends and family and my dad, it was really bad. If the fans weren’t respectful there would have been a lot of problems. I think the fans were amazing.
“It was the authorities and the people around the stadium that were causing problems. I suppose as a fan, if you were to go into the game and not feel comfortable and feel threatened by any situation, you wouldn’t want to come back. It’s really that simple.
“My family and friends have had two experiences over the last couple of years that really shocked them and probably kept them from going to future games. When you see scenes like the European Championship final, the Champions League final, they don’t really want to go and put themselves in this situation again.
I don’t blame anyone who doesn’t want to put themselves in this position. There were two completely different reasons [for the problems] But again, if it was me, I wouldn’t want to put myself in this position.
“My dad said after the Champions League final that he did it. When the World Cup approaches… There are a lot of security elements and things going on in Qatar that I am sure will make people safer. But when you go through these experiences, sometimes you think: “ Is it worth it to risk it?” We will have to look closer to time.”
At the European Championship final in July last year, fans clashed with police and referees and stormed the turnstiles to force them into without tickets. Alan Maguire, father of England defender Harry, was run over in the stampede and suffered broken ribs. Many others were injured and shaken.
Henderson said, “My wife and children should enter through a side door [at Wembley] And they won’t let them in at first. They were trapped. She was trying to get the kids out of the middle of what was going on, and eventually, after about 15 or 20 minutes, someone recognized her and let them in. If that person doesn’t, that could be a problem.
“My dad was a little involved and Harry Maguire’s dad was badly injured. My kids were fine but they were lucky. I think the other kids and parents might not have been so lucky… It would have been awful. [for them]. We all know this has been a bad experience for a lot of people and then we have Paris, which is probably worse.”
Henderson was asked if the players were aware of what was happening before the matches. “Not to how bad they both are,” he said. “Paris was one a little different. Get out [for the warm-up] Then it is late. They just say: “Delayed in attracting fans.” And you don’t really know why.
“Then you go out again [to warm up] There are still a few fans [in the seats] And you start to wonder what’s really going on. At the same time you are trying to prepare for one of the biggest games of your life. It was the same for both sides.”