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Violence erupts hours before England’s clash with Serbia: Three Lions fans left bloodied as they skirmish with hooligans in German city

Clashes break out between England and Serbia fans in Germany ahead of the opening match of the European Championship later today.

Riot police clashed with supporters outside a bar in Gelsenkirchen as the violence first boiled over this afternoon.

Officers were called in after trouble broke out between England and Serbian fans outside a restaurant just after 3.30pm.

The match is ahead of the teams’ match that starts tonight at 8 p.m. in the first match of the group stage of the European Championship.

Tables, chairs and bottles appeared to have been thrown between two groups of fans.

It was not immediately clear what caused the condition, but a man – believed to be English – was seen being led away with blood streaming down his face.

German police officers struggle with a fan after violence broke out ahead of a match between the Three Lions and Serbia

German police officers struggle with a fan after violence broke out ahead of a match between the Three Lions and Serbia

A football fan is seen covered in blood on Sunday after an altercation between England and Serbia fans

A football fan is seen covered in blood on Sunday after an altercation between England and Serbia fans

A football fan is seen covered in blood on Sunday after an altercation between England and Serbia fans

Fans were seen throwing furniture at each other, causing some to have blood streaming down their faces

Fans were seen throwing furniture at each other, causing some to have blood streaming down their faces

Fans were seen throwing furniture at each other, causing some to have blood streaming down their faces

Police officers broke up a fight in Gelsenkirchen earlier this afternoon after seeing a fan being knocked to the ground

Police officers broke up a fight in Gelsenkirchen earlier this afternoon after seeing a fan being knocked to the ground

Police officers broke up a fight in Gelsenkirchen earlier this afternoon after seeing a fan being knocked to the ground

Police officers in riot gear gathered as tensions increased between the English and Serbian fans

Police officers in riot gear gathered as tensions increased between the English and Serbian fans

Police officers in riot gear gathered as tensions increased between the English and Serbian fans

In the city of Gelsenkirchen, rival groups of fans were seen throwing chairs and tables at each other

In the city of Gelsenkirchen, rival groups of fans were seen throwing chairs and tables at each other

In the city of Gelsenkirchen, rival groups of fans were seen throwing chairs and tables at each other

Witnesses reported that a ‘masked’ group of men suddenly burst around the corner and started throwing bottles.

An eyewitness told MailOnline: ‘There was a sudden burst of violence. It came out of nowhere.

‘It was unclear who started what. But to me it looked like a group of English fans stormed into the bar where Serbs were drinking and it all started with throwing tables, chairs and bottles.

‘One man had blood pouring from a wound in the head – he was English, I believe.’

Videos on social media showed glass being smashed as police ran through a city center street.

One clip showed several dozen fans throwing restaurant chairs and tables at each other before one group fled while the other gave chase.

Police officers joined the chase and broke up fights, leaving several fans with blood pouring from their faces.

One fan could be seen curled up on the ground being kicked by rivals before police intervened.

Riot police arrived on the scene within minutes of the violence, forcing those still nearby into the steakhouse. Officers then quickly surrounded the terraced house with police vans positioned on either side of the street.

Riot police were ready for violence on Sunday after reports that several hundred 'Ultras' – Serbian fans known for their hooliganism – were planning to travel to the city

Riot police were ready for violence on Sunday after reports that several hundred 'Ultras' – Serbian fans known for their hooliganism – were planning to travel to the city

Riot police were ready for violence on Sunday after reports that several hundred ‘Ultras’ – Serbian fans known for their hooliganism – were planning to travel to the city

Tables and chairs were destroyed during the violent scenes, almost five hours before the match was due to start

Tables and chairs were destroyed during the violent scenes, almost five hours before the match was due to start

Tables and chairs were destroyed during the violent scenes, almost five hours before the match was due to start

Violence broke out outside a steakhouse, with witnesses claiming Albanian fans were involved

Violence broke out outside a steakhouse, with witnesses claiming Albanian fans were involved

Violence broke out outside a steakhouse, with witnesses claiming Albanian fans were involved

An Englishman, who would give only his first name, Larry, and who had been drinking with the Serbs when the attack was launched, said a group of men wearing balaclavas “ran around the corner and started throwing bottles.”

He added: “I ran away and the next thing I saw was the tables being smashed and the chairs being thrown.”

His friend, another Englishman living in Belgrade who did not want to be named, added: “It was premeditated. They were throwing bottles, I just ran away.”

A mother and son, enjoying their normal Sunday routine of coffee and cake at Café Pabot opposite the Hirt Steakhouse, said they were on the first floor when ‘suddenly bits of food and bottles were thrown.’

The son, Felix Wurmes, 35, added: ‘It happened so quickly. Then one group ran away, followed by the other.’

His mother, Beate Rafrlkski, 66, added: “They drank too much beer, I expect – there is too much emotion. We were afraid that the problems would spread inside the café.’

Café employee Petra Thiel said another person who was in the café at the time told her she heard the attackers shouting something in Serbian.

“A total of about 50 people were involved,” she added. “I didn’t see any masks.”

England fan Matthew Simpson was socializing with the Serbian group just before the trouble broke out. He said he was told the attackers were Albanians.

There have been concerted calls for peace amid fears clashes with hooligans could overshadow the match – as Serbian thugs appeared to display St George’s cross flags online that had been ‘stolen’ from English traveling groups.

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Football fans in Serbia have a track record of serious violence, with hooligan groups linked to organized crime groups accused of kidnapping, rape and even murder.

Red Star Belgrade’s ultras, known as the Delije or ‘Strong Boys’, are said to specialize in gang warfare, political violence, extortion and organized crime.

The Balkan country’s most notorious hooligan, Ivan Bogdanov, is a formidable figure known as ‘Ivan the Terrible’ who spent more than two years in Italian and Serbian prisons.

An estimated 40,000 England supporters descended on Gelsenkirchen and neighboring cities such as Düsseldorf and Cologne this weekend.

German police have been working with authorities from London and Belgrade to prevent ugly scenes in the areas around the stadium and during the match itself.

Tonight’s match marks a return to Gelsenkirchen, 18 years after Wayne Rooney saw red there as England crashed out of the World Cup again on penalties.

England manager Gareth Southgate has encouraged supporters to enjoy their time in Germany.

However, local police have labeled tonight’s match as ‘high risk’, following reports earlier last week that Serbian ultras were forcing their way into the region.

Serbian football fans are known for their hooliganism, with some groups having links to the far right.

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